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Donavan Rocher
'Serving' the Self-Actualizing Subject in Global Culture


Antidepressants and their lack of efficacy in regards to mild to moderate depression has garnered much media attention in recent months. These studies have shown that antidepressants demonstrate the same level of improvement with treatment as placebos for individuals in forty-seven controlled trials. This is the most recent scandal about serotonin selective reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and their prescribed use for mild to moderate depression. In 2005, media attention focused upon how SSRIs were likely to increase suicidal ideation in individuals after they have commenced treatment with these psychotropic prescriptions. Although these scandals did receive a large amount of media fanfare, the popularized understandings that SSRIs offer pharmaceutical correction for chemical imbalances, which are involved in mood disorders and compulsive behaviour, has not been challenged. Neuroscientific theorizations for behaviour remain prevalent in popular culture even though there is no scientific evidence for the serotonin hypothesis of depression. Moreover, popularized scientific descriptions of how the neurotransmitter system operates within the brain are being capitalized on by the pharmaceutical companies for an increasing array of disorders.

This presentation addresses the emergence of neuroscientific discourses concerning 'disorders of desire,' which include alcoholism, obesity and depression and their bio-medicalization in global biopolitics. Many scientific studies tend to frame all three conditions as stemming from the same set of genes, and it is the actual variations in gene sequencing that causes the resulting different forms of expression. Historically speaking, these conditions have been contemplated in conjunction as described in the archival research by Marianna Valverde. Valverde describes how previous theories depicted the connections between melancholia and inebriety and argued that the biological bases for both of these conditions were similar. Specifically, Valverde outlines how in both British and French medical practices in the early 1900s there were similar approaches taken that included nutritional therapies combined with fresh air and rest, which were supposedly useful for the restoration of equilibrium in the nervous system. Moreover, all three conditions receive extensive media coverage. In particular, depression and obesity are considered major epidemics in post-industrialized countries as described in the World Health Organizational Reports. Specifically, this discussion will focus on developing a more comprehensive socio-historical explanation for the emergence of the serotonin hypothesis of depression within a broader analysis of other mediated discourses within global networks by utilizing the philosophical thinking of Deleuze, Guattari, Heidiegger, Lazzarato and Walby. In particular, emphasis will be placed upon illustrating the connections between the discourses emerging from self-help literature with the trends in the biologization of psychiatry and the promotion of neurochemical accounts of 'disorders of desire' in global capitalism. Moreover, by following and unpacking these threads of analysis it is possible to further explore what Martin Heidegger termed the 'will to technology' within late modernity and develop a critique of the arguments that underpin the very basis for the continued popularity of the serotonin hypothesis.

Donovan Rocher is a candidate in the joint doctoral program in Communications at Concordia University, which is affiliated with the Université de Montréal and the Université de Québec à Montréal.  Donavan has recently become a College Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at John Abbott College.  Previously, he was a Sessional Lecturer in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Carleton University.  Recent publications of his work include a chapter entitled Alcoholism: "‘Correction’ and the Changing Notions of ‘Recovery’" in the Probing the Boundaries Series and “Gay Pride and Divers/Cité: Political Parades or Spectacles of Consumer Culture” in Culture of Cities…under Construction.  As part of the [ctrl] collective, he participated in the organization of [ctrl] Controlling Bodies/Controlling Spaces Conference at McGill University and was the Associate Editor for the journal published by the Graduate Researcher Consortium Journal for the Arts, Sciences and Technology.  Past research project affiliations include: Information Seeking Behaviour in Cancer Patients: Breast, Colorectal and Prostate (School of Nursing at McGill University), Archival Research on the Emergence of the Calorie and the Calorimeter (Department of Engineering at Concordia University), The Culture of Cities Project (Joint Project of the universities Concordia, McGill, Québec à Montréal and York).


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