Skjulte lidelser: Fanget i liminalitet

Andreas Hollensen

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis investigates how the social construction of hidden disorders shapes the way in which welfare subjects are dealt with and governed and how this construction, along with demands of documentation and predominant values of active citizenship, affect the negotiation of the subject role based on an analysis of fibromyalgia as a hidden disorder. This thesis deals with chronic widespread pain, here exemplified by fibromyalgia (FM), where patients are trapped in liminality between two very different epistemes. Whether or not the pain can be traced back to an underlying anomaly in the body is controversial and causes division. Determining what it means to be sick is a social process and since the disorder is ‘hidden’ so to speak, it goes beyond the sphere of the health system encroaching upon other political fields, and FM becomes a political regulation category. Two regimes of practice are at battle when considering the phenomenon: The instrumental regime, which is grounded in traditional biomedicine with a dualistic division between mind and body, and the holistic regime, which is grounded in a constructivistic understanding of the body with a biopsychosocial point of view of sickness. The analysis is divided into two parts carried out within an analytical framework, which draws upon Michel Foucault’s insights into power and governmentality. The first part draws on Foucault’s concept regimes of practice in order to reconstruct the two regimes. It shows that the instrumental regime has been divided into a part that recognizes FM and a skeptical part, which along with the holistic regime, results in three discourses. Each discourse constitutes different subjectivations such as ‘the moral patient’, ‘the evidence-seeking patient’ or ‘the good pain patient’. The second part of the analysis draws on Foucault’s concept of ethics and technologies of the self. It shows that the way FM-patients are identified as a patient has consequences for what they are entitled to, what they have to undergo to obtain these rights and how they are understood in the social system. This thesis shows that pain, which used to be a private matter, has become interpersonal and part of the public sphere, which enables more governmental intervention. The distinction between private and public is in a process of dissolution where private matters become politicized.

EducationsMSocSc in Political Communication and Managment, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2015
Number of pages86