Breast-Cancer-Cut: Medial Stagings of Angelina Jolie's Prophylactic Mastectomy

Since 2014 / Project Head: Prof. Dr. Insa Härtel

Project Descripton

Commencing with the article entitled "My Medical Choice" by Angelina Jolie in the NYT (May 2013), media reports on her prophylactic mastectomy are subjected to a close reading in this project. The focus is not on the "subject of Jolie" or her motivations. Instead, cultural promises, ambivalences and conflicts are analysed in the way they are shown in the medial stagings.

In Jolie's media-attracting decision, it seems that promises of predictive genetic diagnostics are becoming merged with speaking openly about cancer. Interlocked with the prominence status of the Jolie figure, questions arise from the material such as, e.g. those about the "healing" of the suffering for the family. Especially by "sacrificing" your breasts can you not become a victim? How is sexuality debated in this context? Are the preventative measures published regarded as a sign of the non-do-ability of human feasibility anymore and/or of human vulnerability especially? In this way, the project is targeted at the interpretation of the reception of My Medical Choice as a venue of current cultural dynamics.

"Promise of Wellbeing: Cultural Fabrics, Wishes, Phantasms"
The project presented here is occurring in the context of an interdisciplinary research network founded in 2015: "Promise of Wellbeing: Cultural Fabrics, Wishes, Phantasms". It is concerned with ideas of wellbeing and healing and how they reveal themselves through highly different cultural phenomena. What is being considered here are for instance images, objects and ideas which e.g. circulate in everyday practices and the media, as well as in medical, religious, scientific, artistic technological, political or economic discourses.  The desires for wellbeing and healing have also always concerned the prevention of the harmful (i.e. non-healing) in an historically alterable and culturally specific manner. Especially in the heterogeneity of their appearances, the stagings of the "healing" can be regarded as a venue of cultural antagonism. Which kind of social dynamics do they offer a setting for – and with which political consequences?

Project Head

Prof. Dr. Insa Härtel
IPU Berlin
Stromstr. 3b
10555 Berlin
E-Mail: insa.haertel(at)