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The Politics of Coming Out: Stigma and Biomedical Models of Mental Disorder Open Access


Other title
consumer/survivor/ex-patient movement
mad pride
narratives of mental disorder
biomedical models of mental disorder
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Thachuk, Angela K
Supervisor and department
Heyes, Cressida (Philosophy)
Examining committee member and department
Austin, Wendy (Nursing)
Morton, Adam (Philosophy)
McWhorter, Ladelle (Philosophy, University of Richmond)
Welchman, Jennifer (Philosophy)
Department of Philosophy

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Drawing from philosophical, clinical, sociological, and activist literatures, my work critically analyses the deployment of biomedical models of mental disorder as a means of targeting stigma. I argue that “the stigma of mental illness,” when conceptualized within a biomedical framework, functions to 1) incite a multitude of discourses surrounding mental disorder, 2) extend the reaches of psychiatric surveillance and classification, and 3) streamline individuals and populations into particular modes of conceptualizing and disciplining the self. I argue that the rhetoric of stigma creates a series of new confessional venues, and determines the language and grammar through which mental disorder is made to speak. As a result of these scripts, counter narratives are outlawed, and their authors (i.e. consumer/survivor/ex-patient and Mad Pride activists) are routinely denied advantages accrued by socially authorized truth-tellers. I therefore conclude that the biomedical framing of anti-stigma rhetoric and discourse is, in part, complicit with the power relations that mark some individuals as mad. As such, anti-stigma discourse does not represent a radical break or historico-political rupture with “the stigma of mental illness” but is derivative of it. In light of these issues, I seek to develop an account of how we think about the functioning of, and relationship between, knowledge and power within anti-stigma discourse. My overarching concern, therefore, is not with what stigma is, but resides rather with what talking about stigma does.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication
Thachuk, Angela K. "Stigma and the Politics of Biomedical Models of Mental Illness." International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics 4.1 (2011): 140-63.

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