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Conceptualizing resistance

By Elizabeth Murphy and Natalie Armstrong


The 1990s saw a proliferation of sociological work applying Foucault's ideas on governmentality to health promotion and public health. This work characterized public health discourses as regimes of power and knowledge employed in the regulation and surveillance of individuals and populations. This article is concerned with the question of how and to what extent those who are subject to such regimes are able to resist them. We seek to identify the various forms in which resistance to such regimes of power have been manifest in empirical studies of health and illness. Our aims are threefold. The first is to alert empirical researchers who wish to examine resistance in the context of health and health care to the subtle and nuanced ways in which such resistance can be manifested both within and outside encounters with health professionals. This is achieved through tracing both the evolution of Foucault's own concepts around resistance and the way in which these ideas have been mobilized in empirical studies. The second, and related, aim is to demonstrate the complex forms which such resistance takes, problematizing the simplistic assumptions that adherence to health promotion advice necessarily implies the collapse of agency, and that resistance necessarily involves the rejection of advice and interventions. The third is to highlight the potentially problematic normative qualities that may be assigned to resistance.Peer-reviewedPost-prin

Topics: Foucault, governmentality, power, public health, resistance
Publisher: Sage
Year: 2011
DOI identifier: 10.1177/1363459311416832
OAI identifier:

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