Plastic Bodies: Sex Hormones and Menstrual Suppression in Brazil
Sex Hormones: Making Drugs, Forging Efficacies
Sex hormones are particularly propitious to processes of translation given that, as pharmaceutical drugs, they are able to enter a range of cultural, political, and social domains. The production of sex hormones into drugs stabilized these complex objects, giving substance and a particular efficacy to a set of medical ideas. In this process, the uses and culturally defined benefits to be drawn from their side-effects perpetually evolves and changes as they travel. This chapter examines the relationship between the form given to a drug and its effect in the body. It attends to the interplay of material and semiotic elements in the construction of pharmaceutical efficacy and suggests that we attend to the “thingyness” of drugs, beyond their pharmaceutical composition, when considering pharmaceutical effects. The various attributes of drugs, such as their mode of administration, dosage, active principles, packaging, shape, color or branding bleed into each other as semiotic elements become embedded in the thing itself. The ethnography of hormone-use discussed here reveals how different the same thing, repackaged, can look and feel. It points to what can be gained by considering pharmaceutical efficacy as the cumulative effect of the reputation, appearance or subjective attachments to specific drugs, to their brands, pharmaceutical formulations and modes of administration, as well as to the social contexts within which drugs are used.