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By Peter Steggals

Making feel of Self-Harm offers another method of figuring out nonsuicidal self-injury; utilizing Cultural Sociology to examine it extra as a tradition than an sickness and exploring it as a robust cultural idiom of private misery and social estrangement that's exceptionally resonant with the symbolic lifetime of late-modern society.

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Additional resources for Making Sense of Self-harm: The Cultural Meaning and Social Context of Nonsuicidal Self-injury

Sample text

Culture and understanding then are indeed interesting for Favazza but not really consequential, diverting but not truly significant, and the contradictions that are built-in to this position go unremarked upon because they don’t seem to occur to him. Perhaps the biggest of these contradictions, however, is the way that, having argued that deviant or pathological self-harm is just a culturally local expression of a more basic impulse to self-mutilate, Favazza nonetheless reverses this hierarchy and understands the broader and more universal category through the lens of the more specific category, casting it in explicitly medical and objectivist terms.

A basically shamanic ritual that climaxes with its participants being suspended from wooden skewers that are dug deeply into their muscles. The expectation of such a public, religious ritual is a vision experience and while, as Favazza explains, the ‘participants volunteer out of personal initiative, the entire tribe cooperates in its performance, for it is the entire tribe that benefits from the suffering and self-mutilation of the dancers’ (1996: 12). 2 Indeed, if Favazza’s crowded miscellany of rituals, practices, rites and behavioural outbursts is a testament to anything it is human diversity.

Such stereotypes are, of course, more than just abstract descriptions, they are the very means by which real people are interpellated and fixed into particular social roles or positions (Althusser, 1971), and the very conditions under which their lives are inscribed with a certain kind of identity—in this case an identity that seems to have used diagnoses of deviance and even madness to drag at the process of changing gender roles. One person who was interpellated, fixed and positioned in this way was Susanna Kaysen, an intelligent and precocious teenager who, in 1967, found herself referred to a psychiatric hospital following a 15-minute assessment with a doctor partly because, as he put it in his referral, she lived a ‘chaotic unplanned life’ (Kaysen, 2000: 13).

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