Anthropology of becoming: Psychotropic drugs - social withdrawal - wish

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    19 Scopus citations


    In this article, I discuss the "pharmaceuticalization" of mental health care in Brazil and chart the social and subjective side-effects that come with the encroachment of new medical technologies in urban poor settings. I focus on how an abandoned young woman named Catarina talks about psychopharmaceuticals - the drug constellations that she was brought into - and how she tries to find, mainly through writing, an alternative to the deadly experiment she literally became. Her "ex-family", she claims, thinks of her as a failed medication regimen. The family was dependent on this explanation to excuse itself from her abandonment. In her words: "To want my body as a medication, my body." Catarina's life thus tells a larger story about shifting value systems and the fate of social bonds in today's dominant mode of subjectification at the service of global science and capitalism. But language and desire continue and Catarina integrates her drug experience into a new self-perception and literary work. Her "minor literature" grounds an ethnographic ethics and gives us a sense of becoming that dominant health models would render impossible.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)413-449
    Number of pages37
    JournalRevista de Antropologia
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - 2008

    All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

    • Anthropology


    • Ethnographic theory
    • Medical science and capitalism
    • Subjectivity and sublimation


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