Abstract

"The Path to Life: Observation, Normalization, and Power-Knowledge in Suicide Prevention"

Toryn Rogers

Suicide has recently become the object of increased attention due to the rising numbers of attempts and successful suicides among the general population and the recent suicides of several high-profile athletes from the American National Football League. Non-governmental organizations often draw attention to the issue through awareness and prevention initiatives. This paper examines the rhetoric of prevention campaigns through analysis of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's Out of the Darkness Walks (OOTD). Cluster criticism explores how suicide and responses to it are characterized by OOTD through examining key terms and the associations created by surrounding symbols and phrases. Second, applying French literary critic Michel Foucault's theories of biopower and panopticism to the cluster criticism findings answers the question of how these campaigns reflect or challenge broader social trends and attitudes. The study shows a dichotomy between portrayals of suicide as a passive natural phenomenon and awareness and prevention efforts as deliberate human action contributing to the creation of a science of prevention. This paradigm encourages observation of symptoms and treatment-seeking behavior, views knowledge as a means of control, and sets limits to acceptable social deviance. 

 
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