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Dave Holmes & Blake Poland “Celebrating Risk”

November 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Holmes, Dave; Poland, Blake 2009. Celebrating Risk: The Politics of Self-Branding, Transgression & Resistance in Public Health. – Aporia Vol. 1 No. 4: 27-36

[…] the branding of oneself arises  from  a  need  to  display  one’s  “transgressive”  identity with  the  ultimate  (intended)  goal  of  defying  the  dominant public health discourse. Marking one’s own body becomes a means of taking possession of it in order to use it as a locus not only of suffering but also of pleasure and rebellion. (28)

[…] we argue, branding the self, as an act of defiant resistance, also necessarily, if unwittingly, serves to consolidate the imbrications of the self in the social, perpetuating some of the same power relations transgressors seek to challenge and disrupt. (28)

We  deliberately  chose  the  expression  branding  as  opposed to  body  transformation  to  underscore  that  we  do  not  see  a radical  break  from  use  of  wearing  of  brand  logo  clothing, and other means of displaying physical capital, but rather a continuum  of  possibilities  for  the  construction  and  display of  identity,  aesthetics  /  politics  of  the  self. (29)

Contrary  to  aesthetic  affirmation,  branding  could  mean extreme  dissidence  from  society  or  be  a  reflection  of  an extreme form of resistance to social directives. In this way, the  body  is  intended  to  be  a  surface  on  which  to  display markings that also show a radical refusal of the conditions of existence (skinheads and punks, for example). (32)

Desires and pleasures, like power, constitute  a  positive  force  that  can  be  expressed  under  the form  of  resistance.  Deleuze  and  Guattari[48]  suggest  that social  norms  attempt  to  exercise  their  power  by  marking (mapping) and shaping the body. In this schema, the body is not a collection of organs, but an inscriptive body. Much like a political map, where most geological realities of the area are  obscured  to  the  mercy  of  political  borders,  the  body  is a ‘political surface’ on which laws, social values and moral predicaments are inscribed.[49] (32)

The  body  and  its  surfaces  are  a  medium  where  identity  is both enacted as well as socially patrolled. Branding practices respond to and are shaped by the larger social context that shapes the bodies in question. (32)

One of the paradoxes of a risk-averse  (and  safer)  society  therefore  is  a  growing  (albeit minority) segment of society that increasingly feels the need to seek out ever more dangerous risks. It is in the flirting with death that some feel most fully alive. (33)

The question is how a reflexive public health can best deal with the  phenomenon  of  resistance,  so  as  to  not  unnecessarily feed it. […] If the exertion of power inevitably produces resistance which in turn ‘produces’ reactions from the  authorities,  is  there  any  way  out  of  the  vicious  circle? (33)

In terms of Public Health practice, a shift from moralistic (and often stigmatizing) intervention designs (campaigns) toward an approach of solidarity (understanding and acceptance of the other), is, we feel, imperative if we wish to avoid pushing resistance to further extremes. (34)