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Tensions of the self and discourses of being: Californian medicine, embodiment, metaphysics, and the absence of love

Contemporary understandings of embodied praxis concerned with the reconfiguration and reinvention of one’s body image are guided primarily by biomedical and mechanical (the body/mind is a biological organism and machine) or/and social constructionist (the body/mind is a social being) worldviews (Birke, 2019; Butler, 1990; 2014; Canguilhem, 1992; 2008; Crossley, 2007; Deleuze & Guattari, 1987; Frank, 2012; Goldberg, 1984; Holmes, Murray & Foth, 2017; Kirk, 1997; 2004; Shildrick, 2008; Shilling, 2012; 2016; Turner, 2008). In this study I challenge and attempt to transgress these ontological and epistemological assumptions by drawing upon a postmaterialist (Beauregard, 2021; Miller, 2014) neo-Nietzschean understanding of embodiment and men’s body practices. Subsequently, I endeavour to theoretically and empirically reimagine how scholars predominantly analyse the self by taking the position that life is an ongoing struggle between the wills, demands and phantasms of the soul, the physiological body and the moralities of culture (Nietzsche, 1882), from which existential experiences and a desire to change one’s physical appearance arise. Inspired by Continental philosophy, my analysis of the soul-body-culture-praxis nexus is achieved by utilising and interweaving: a) the embodiment theories of Bourdieu, Nietzsche, Foucault, Freud, and Lacan, and b) poststructural and psychoanalytic discourse analytic techniques (i.e., Butlerian/Žižekian discourse analysis (Butler, 1989; 1990; 2014; Žižek, 2009)) to interpret the life histories and social milieus of a cohort of men (aged 27–40) living in (West) Los Angeles, California. Specifically, I focus on men’s use of synthetic androgens (i.e., AAS, Hch, hGH) to explore the role biopedagogies play in managing the embodied ‘tensions of the self and discourses of being’ within a hyper-capitalist society that idealises the beautified celebrity body. Consequently, this postdisciplinary (Pernecky, 2019; Sayer, 2000; 2003) study provides an array of insights relating to men’s (mental) health, sexualities, desires, fears, identity and biopolitics, and the commodification of the self – a performative mode of being adopted to overcome and improve one’s social position and quality of life. I conclude this study by summarising and contextualising my research findings within a theory that I have coined ‘Displaced Humanism’. This is a theory of embodied praxis that describes how the body and soul become discursively subjugated by culture and elucidates the reflexive practices participants have adopted to awaken from and psychically transcend the sublime matrix of ideology to reconnect with the authentic self (Bourdieu, 1990; Jung, 2006; Kierkegaard, 1849; Nietzsche, 1886b; Winnicott, 1965; 1971; 2018).
Type of thesis
Hillgrove, C. (2021). Tensions of the Self and Discourses of Being. Californian medicine, embodiment, metaphysics, and the absence of love. (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/14553
The University of Waikato
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