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Vol 8 No 2: Medical Testing, Diagnosis and Value

‘In the Meantime’: Ordinary Life in Continuous Medical Testing for Lung Cancer

August 17, 2020
June 18, 2021


Based on ethnographic fieldwork among Danes undergoing CT scans as part of follow-up testing for potential lung cancer, we explore how access to technologies generates diagnostic uncertainty and trends of continuous testing. Our research is set in the context of a welfare state that has cultivated forms of government whose public health branches focus on early diagnosis and cancer control. Many studies on biotechnologies emphasise subject-making and power relations. Inspired by the work of Veena Das, we adopt an approach that focuses on the entanglement of diagnostic investigations with everyday life. We argue that being followed establishes a mode of being which we call ‘in the meantime’. Life in the meantime is equally characterised by a dramatic mode of being—that is, waiting for death—and an ambiguous mode of being: feeling quite well. As with any life crisis, it involves some sense of agency. We show in this paper how life in the meantime informs an ordinary ethics that encourages three ethical concerns in everyday life: firstly, how to inhabit life in the meantime? Secondly, what good is the testing for? And finally, what is a good death?