The self of self-care: practices, politics, and passions

My research centers on processes of subject formation within care settings. Throughout my training in psychology, philosophy and anthropology, and as a researcher working at the intersection of STS and medical anthropology and sociology, I have had an interest in the practices through which people (are taught to) relate to their bodies, and how they craft themselves as persons through these practices. 

At the core of this interest lies, on the one hand, a curiosity towards how knowledges and technologies enact ways of being a person and body, and how they shape the socio-material organization of daily life. On the other hand, a concern with the politics and normative registers in which subjects are cast through practices aimed at health, productivity and/or wellbeing.

Doing ‘active selves’ in health care practices targeting chronic pain and fatigue

In my current research project, I conduct ethnographic research on how self-care is taught in health care practices targeting burnout and chronic pain. With the increase in chronic conditions and lifestyle diseases there is an increasing normative and practical investment in self-care in (former) welfare states such as the Netherlands and Sweden, most notably in health care. In my work I observe that professionals don’t just ask patients to do differently, but teach them to feel, think and appreciate differently altogether. In other words, they enact and shape people’s agency, affectivity and way of being in the world in profound ways. I investigate how in the process, rehabilitation clinics negotiate normativities of (self-)worth, vulnerability, productivity, relationality and health. 

Subjects of Care: Living with overweight in the Netherlands

In my PhD dissertation, defended cum laude at the University of Amsterdam in 2016, I analyze how (self-)care practices addressing bodily weight and obesity configure subjects, bodies and their environments. By contrasting different ‘forms of care’ emerging in these practices, I interfere with the theoretical and practical repertoires in which the problem of obesity figures. For instance, I destabilize vested notions of the nature of the body and its desires; and theorise modes of doing and being foregrounding care and appreciation rather than choice and control.

This dissertation was awarded the Praemium Erasmianum Dissertation Price 2018.



About the Technology and Social Change