The Biopolitics of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
thesisposted on 14.06.2013, 09:13 by Nikolaos Karfakis
This thesis approaches Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) as a biopolitical problem, that is as a shifting scientific object which needs to be studied, classified and regulated. Assemblages of authorities, knowledges, and techniques make CFS subjects and shape their everyday conduct in an attempt to increase their supposed autonomy, wellbeing and health. CFS identities are, however, made not only through government, scientific and medical interventions but also by the patients themselves, a biosocial community that collaborates with scientists, educates itself about the intricacies of biomedicine, and contests psychiatric truth claims. CFS is a socio-medical disorder, an illness trapped between medicine, psychology and society, an illness that is open to debate, and therefore difficult to manage and standardise. CFS is, thus, more than a fixed and defined medical category; it is a performative and multiple category, it is a heterogeneous world. This thesis studies that performative complexity by assembling different pieces of empirical data that constitute its heterogeneity: medical and psychiatric journals and monographs, self-help books, CFS organisations’ magazines, newsletters and websites, illness narratives and social studies of CFS, CFS blogs, and qualitative interviews with diagnosed CFS patients and CFS activists. The thesis delineates different interventions by medicine, science, the state and the patients themselves and concludes that CFS remains elusive, only partially standardised, in an on-going battle between all the different actors that want to define it for their own situated interests.