Sites of somatic subjectivity: E-scaped mental health promotion and the biopolitics of depression

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Title Sites of somatic subjectivity: E-scaped mental health promotion and the biopolitics of depression
Author Fullagar, Simone Patricia
Journal Name Social Theory & Health
Editor G Scrambler, P Higgs, R Levinson
Year Published 2008
Place of publication United Kingdom
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan
Abstract The identification of depression as a global health problem has lead to the proliferation of websites providing information, advice and treatment pathways. As a form of e-scaped mental health promotion (Nettleton, 2004) these sites mobilise different discourses of depression to improve mental health literacy, help seeking and support. This article draws upon insights from governmentality and feminist theorists to examine how a high profile, publicly funded Australian website, Beyondblue ( discursively constitutes depression as a problem for individuals and populations, such as women. Through a discursive analysis I considered how the website mobilised different forms of expertise as sources authority about depression and recovery. Although gender differences and social factors were acknowledged in relation to depressive experience, the self-certainty of biomedical language prevailed. Web users were urged to think about themselves primarily as somatic subjects with chemical deficits that required pharmacological or psychotherapeutic treatment (Novas and Rose, 2000). Although there were some discursive tensions arising from the representation of gender and depression, the website contained little critical engagement with different notions of mental health literacy. While acknowledging their partiality, feminist and governmentality perspectives can enable a more critical examination of how e-scaped mental health promotion initiatives actively participate in the formation of new kinds of somatic subjectivities
Peer Reviewed Yes
Published Yes
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Copyright Statement Copyright 2008 Palgrave Macmillan. This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Social Theory & Health. The definitive publisher-authenticated version Social Theory & Health Volume 6, Pages 323-341 is available online at:
Volume 6
Issue Number 4
Page from 323
Page to 341
ISSN 1477-8211
Date Accessioned 2008-10-22
Language en_AU
Faculty Griffith Business School
Subject PRE2009-Mental Health; PRE2009-Sociology
Publication Type Journal Articles (Refereed Article)
Publication Type Code c1

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