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Det högkänsliga subjektets tillblivelse: Diskursiva praktiker om identitet, förmåga och funktionsvariation
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Child and Youth Studies.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-0145-0663
2019 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)Alternative title
Becoming the highly sensitive person : Discursive practices on identity, capability and dis/ability (English)
Abstract [en]

This dissertation examines discursive practices about the highly sensitive person (HSP) from the perspective of knowledge production, categorization and community formation. In contemporary Sweden it has become increasingly common to talk about oneself in terms of being constituted in a particular way, e.g., as having a brain that functions differently than the average. The HSP often represents a person with exceptional capabilities and vulnerabilities, such as a sensitive nervous system and an empathetic disposition. The HSP discourse shares commonalities with the discourse of disability activism related to neuropsychiatric diagnoses. Namely, that by using specific discursive strategies, communities are being formed. The HSP community works to counteract the negative preconceived notions about high sensitivity, and bring to light the ignorance surrounding the needs of HSPs in society.

This compilation thesis consists of a summarizing introduction and three articles. The empirical material covers posts from an online discussion forum for parents, and one aimed at young people, blogs composed by teenage girls, and children’s books written by different types of experts. These discursive arenas are analyzed with concepts from discursive psychology and poststructuralist theory. The results show how psychological and biomedical discourses are producing citizen subjects in relation to governing in specific social contexts. Within a Foucauldian tradition such forms of governance are termed biopolitics and biosociality.

The first article examines how the HSP category is transforming notions of good motherhood. It suggests that mothers’ interaction in an online discussion forum reflects the intensive mothering norms of child-centered parenting. Mothers share their therapeutic narratives while highlighting the problems surrounding an incomprehensible social environment and the ordeals of having a guilty conscience. Through the prism of the highly sensitive child, however, motherhood acquires new anticipatory, considerate and susceptible norms, and strategies that constitute a highly sensitive parenting style.

The second article studies how young people take different stances in discursive struggles concerning the HSP category online. The article illustrates how youths disclose the weaknesses and strengths of being highly sensitive, as well as objecting to norms of biosociality that are connected to the HSP. According to these findings young people are pioneering a new informed ethics of the self as they perform HSP subjectivity.

The third article investigates children’s books that may be used as therapeutic tools aimed at informing and educating both adults and children about girls’ experiences of being HSPs, or of having a neuropsychiatric diagnosis. In these books dis/abilities are often transformed into exceptional capabilities. Through a process of identification, the girl protagonists may come to manage their behavior and emotions according to the premise of the diagnosis, thus, redefining their personhood as ideal citizen subjects.

In conclusion, norms of biosociality and biopolitical governance regulate citizens to confess and assert their capabilities and dis/abilities, yet the discursive practices also reflect the construction of social problems and their potential solutions. Citizens appear to struggle to (re)define such problems in an identity political manner in order to (re)produce knowledge on their own terms.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Barn- och ungdomsvetenskapliga institutionen, Stockholms universitet , 2019. , p. 94
Keywords [en]
Highly sensitive person, neuropsychiatric diagnosis, vulnerability, disability, capability, health, discourse analysis, categorization, biosociality, biopower, citizenship, identity politics, rhetorical resources, subjectivity, positioning theory
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Research subject
Child and Youth Science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-175337ISBN: 978-91-7797-889-3 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7797-890-9 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-175337DiVA, id: diva2:1368081
Public defence
2019-12-20, Nordenskiöldsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 12, Stockholm, 13:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 2: Submitted. Paper 3: Accepted.

Available from: 2019-11-27 Created: 2019-11-05 Last updated: 2019-11-19Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Motherhood and highly sensitive children in an online discussion forum
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Motherhood and highly sensitive children in an online discussion forum
2018 (English)In: Health, ISSN 1363-4593, E-ISSN 1461-7196Article in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

Discourse on the highly sensitive child as a mode of individual coming-into-being is transforming notions of good motherhood. Mothering a child is weighted with practical challenges, normative expectations, and moral implications, all of which can be accentuated when parenting a child that appears to differ from the average. How mothers address themselves to a highly sensitive child can reveal much about contemporary currents in family life. Through analysis of the online discussions in a Swedish forum, I examine mothers’ discourse regarding categorization of highly sensitive children, elaboration on the behaviors that constitute this category of protean individuality, and the negotiation of motherhood norms. Three themes are identified: the way in which participants established entitlement to the application of the highly sensitive child label through a process of “enlightenment” based on observing their children and scrutinizing their own childrearing practices; discourse on the “allure” of the highly sensitive child since it depicts the children as super-normal and themselves as mothers called to the custodianship of a “different child”; and finally, how the highly sensitive child label deflects the guilt and frustration linked with handling challenging behaviors, in tension with permitting the sensitive child’s self-determined development. The article suggests that the mothers’ discourse reflects the intensive mothering norms of child-centered parenting that prevail in Western countries such as Sweden. Through the lens of the highly sensitive child, however, motherhood acquires new anticipatory, considerate and susceptible norms, and strategies that constitute a highly sensitive parenting style.

Keywords
Discourse analysis, highly sensitive child, intensive mothering, parenting norms, rhetorical resources
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Child and Youth Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-162284 (URN)10.1177/1363459318812003 (DOI)
Available from: 2018-11-22 Created: 2018-11-22 Last updated: 2019-11-05
2. Biosociality in online interactions: Youths’ positioning of the highly sensitive person
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Biosociality in online interactions: Youths’ positioning of the highly sensitive person
(English)In: Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
Keywords
Highly sensitive person, subjectivity, positioning theory, biosociality online, health, self-care
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Research subject
Child and Youth Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-175335 (URN)
Available from: 2019-11-04 Created: 2019-11-04 Last updated: 2019-11-06Bibliographically approved
3. Kompetenta flickor med förmågor: Biopolitisk styrning i barnböcker om funktionsvariationer
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Kompetenta flickor med förmågor: Biopolitisk styrning i barnböcker om funktionsvariationer
(Swedish)In: Socialvetenskaplig tidskrift, ISSN 1104-1420Article in journal (Refereed) Accepted
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Research subject
Child and Youth Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-175336 (URN)
Available from: 2019-11-04 Created: 2019-11-04 Last updated: 2019-11-05

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