(Re)conceptualizing Neoliberal Health Discourses as Constitutive Relationships
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Over the last several decades, a neoliberal shift in medical practice from institutional treatment to self-care and prevention has moved many engagements with medical authority figures out of the clinic and into society more broadly. In this context, medical authority has become more complex and difficult to locate as Western medical knowledges and practices have dispersed and intermingled with a range of other health informations and forms of healthcare. As a result, this dissertation uses a constitutive rhetorical approach to locate and examine contemporary forms of medical authority by interrogating the relationship between health subjects and medical authority in neoliberal health discourses. Rather than treat health discourses as fixed asymmetrical texts by which health subjects are either disciplined or empowered, I argue that analyzing these discourses as constitutive relationships by interrogating how health subjects and various forms of medical authority interact with and constitute each other through these texts reveals a more nuanced understanding of how both authority and subjectivity are negotiated and sustained in these contemporary neoliberal sites of engagement. The three case studies in this dissertation explore diverse ways health subjectivity and medical authority are interactively constituted through various health discourses. In analyzing American Girl’s The Care & Keeping of You advice books, the daytime talk show The Dr. Oz Show, and user engagement with Fitbit activity trackers as constitutive relationships, this dissertation illustrates the emergence of a complex understanding of the relationship between subjectivity and authority. I suggest that a relational approach allows us to move beyond analyzing how health subjects are constituted as they align themselves with health discourses, to examine how health subjects also participate in constituting medical authority as they engage in various forms of interaction. Indeed, reconceptualizing how medical authority emerges from and participates in various interactions with health subjects both expands our understanding of neoliberal health discourses as well as develops a more nuanced approach to critiquing health subject’s sustained engagement with these increasingly ubiquitous texts.
Cox, Travis Lloyd (2017). (Re)conceptualizing Neoliberal Health Discourses as Constitutive Relationships. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from