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At the edges – A place and a space for tears: Exploring the framing of depression in contemporary western culture


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Collins, HE 2010 , 'At the edges – A place and a space for tears: Exploring the framing of depression in contemporary western culture', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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In this thesis I explore the contemporary Western framing of depression as an illness
requiring treatment. This understanding of depression is examined through a
hermeneutic study of the depression literature, focussing primarily on medical and
sociological academic literature, but also including one popular website. Drawing on
Weberian social theory, I argue that the dominant cultural understanding of
depression allows only one story to be told: that of depression as an illness
necessitating medical treatment to facilitate a cure. However, depression can also be
understood as part of the suffering that constitutes what it is to be human. While
contemporary approaches to depression are valuable, they are also restricted. I
suggest an inclusive interstitiality of different stories would expand the current
framing of depression.
I draw on Weber’s analysis of the causal and codified nature of Western rationality
and of the total world-view of the secular West deriving from religious antecedents
to analyse the current framing of depression. In addition, I employ Derridean
concepts of the Western proclivity for logocentrism and Levinasian concepts of the
Western impulse to change Other into Same to augment the Weberian analysis to
demonstrate how dominant approaches to depression are influenced by both
historical and cultural factors ‘specific and peculiar’ to the Western way of viewing
the world. This approach embeds depression within the historical-cultural milieu of
the West, which I argue provides a predominantly exclusive and scientifically based
view of depression as illness. I demonstrate this through an exploration of historical
influences, interpretative positions, the assigning of meaning, and information
produced for the public. Finally, I proffer some possibilities for future directions.
The meta-perspective provided by this approach facilitates, for example, an
appreciation that contemporary medical science inherited its belief in a total worldview
from Western religious antecedents. Such a world-view results in the
contemporary framing of depression functioning as though depression can only be
viewed from the medical-scientific perspective, which is considered, a priori, to be
the correct perspective. Establishing this meta-perspective enables the contemporary framing of depression to be situated firmly within its historical-cultural background.
Through this re-interpretation of contemporary approaches to depression the study
provides another perspective on depression: one that is historically and culturally
grounded, one that challenges current perspectives and opinions, and one that
encourages respectful dialogue and debate.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Collins, HE
Keywords: depression, mental health, mental illness, medicalization, historical-cultural framing, Weber, Derrida, Levinas.
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Copyright 2010 the Author

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