Risky women: The everyday life of an allergic woman

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Assata Zerai


Women, Allergies, Chronic illness

Subject Categories

Medicine and Health | Sociology | Women's Studies


There has been little sociological consideration or even public discussion about the realities of women who live with allergies. In this study, I demonstrate how women with a chronic illness negotiate an "at-risk society." It is a society that deems these women's own health as constantly "at risk" of sickness and therefore places them "responsible" for not only recognizing the risk, but maintaining their health in light of this risk. This research examines how women with diagnosed allergies learn about, construct, and live in a society that is often, if not always, potentially a risk for their health. This is a story about how women "fit" and "fashion" allergies and necessary treatment into their everyday lives. It is also a story of how these women construct allergic identities. These women artfully and skillfully "create" and "re-create" strategies for managing their desired health status within a society that often contests their own perceptions and experiences with illness such that they "emerge" successfully as "healthy" women, regardless of the public's perceptions of illness. Complex understandings of both themselves and their social worlds influence and help them to constitute interactions in, and with, a world that potentially could make them ill. These women are not only bodies who "experience" illness, but women who have lived and chosen "health" on a daily basis.


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