Re-visiting the Nocebo Effect

An older article, but nonetheless a good discussion of nocebo effects, sometimes thought of as the “evil twin” of placebo. Notice how the article plays with the idea of what is “real” vs. suggestion/sham/imagined. This real/not real distinction is at the heart of the curative imaginary and one of the interventions we aim make in exploring placebo and nocebo through a feminist/queer/disability lens.

Call for Submissions!


banner_25We’re excited to announce a special placebo/nocebo issue of Ars Medica – a literary journal that explores the interfaces between arts and healing (   Ada and I are co-editing the special issue and invite those with an interest in placebo/nocebo and medical arts and humanities to submit your work! Ars Medica publishes poetry, narrative, creative non-fiction, fiction, and visual and other digital media arts and in the fall of 2017 it will be all about placebo and nocebo. Explore with us issues of embodiment, the “cut” of what harm vs. what heals, ritual, meaning responses, and the cultural situatedness of health, healing (and harming!). Call is attached!

“The term ‘placebo’ names a social situation not a substance”

Laurence Kirmayer describes the difficulties that placebos raise for biomedicine, where explanatory narratives are mechanistic in such as way as to demand direct chemical or physical impact to be seen as causal. Thinking through placebo and healing rituals he comes to the conclusion that “The term ‘placebo’ names a social situation not a substance.”

We agree! Here is another place where our concept of placebos as verbs gets further traction.

For more on Kirmayer’s work, see “Unpacking the placebo response: insights from ethnographic studies of healing” in Placebo Talks (eds. Raz & Harris), Oxford University Press. 2016.