Trafficking in Cure and Harm: Placebos, Nocebos and the Curative Imaginary

Suze G. Berkhout, Ada S. Jaarsma


This article tracks the traffic of placebos, nocebos and the effects or meaning-responses that they solicit in order to contribute to wide-ranging critiques of the curative imaginary. Moving through three realms of biomedicine (the clinic, the lab and the market), the article explores key contradictions at play within biomedicine that become more recognizable through attentiveness to placebos and nocebos. In order to make this case, the article forges a conversation between Feminist Science Studies, Disability Studies and a counter-strand in Placebo Studies. What emerges is an understanding of placebos and nocebos that foregrounds the biosocial dynamics and always-entwined relations between cures and harm.


placebos; nocebos; feminist science studies; biomedicine; Isabelle Stengers; curative imaginary

Full Text:



Copyright (c) 2018 Suze G. Berkhout, Ada S. Jaarsma

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Volume 1 through Volume 20, no. 3 of Disability Studies Quarterly is archived on the Knowledge Bank site; Volume 20, no. 4 through the present can be found on this site under Archives.

Beginning with Volume 36, Issue No. 4 (2016), Disability Studies Quarterly is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license unless otherwise indicated. 

Disability Studies Quarterly is published by The Ohio State University Libraries in partnership with the Society for Disability Studies.

If you encounter problems with the site or have comments to offer, including any access difficulty due to incompatibility with adaptive technology, please contact

ISSN: 2159-8371 (Online); 1041-5718 (Print)