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

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Fullagar, S
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G Scrambler, P Higgs, R Levinson

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2008
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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 (www.beyondblue.or.au) 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

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Social Theory & Health

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6

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4

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© 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: http://dx.doi.org/10.1057/sth.2008.7

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Anthropology

Sociology

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