chapter  2
20 Pages

‘I have depression, don’t I?’: Discourses of help and self-help books

Foucault’s (1961) investigation of the social construction of madness highlights the mutability and variety of cultural understandings of ‘mental illness’. But how does one generate a concept of, for example, ‘depression’? The first step is to translate experiences grounded in the unique and particular circumstances of someone’s life by giving those experiences a name. Butler (1993b) calls this practice performativity: ‘that aspect of discourse that has the capacity to produce what it names’ (p. 33). Alternatively, in Fromm’s (1979) terms, this ‘sleight of mind’ reifies a way of being into a way of having: I am depressed becomes I have depression.