6 Steps to Create Your We-Body: The Uses and Abuses of Self-Help in the Anthropocene

Authors: Paul Jackson*, University of Delaware
Topics: Medical and Health Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology, Social Theory
Keywords: political ecology of health, crip theory, prognosis time, Anthropocene
Session Type: Paper


The postgenomic sciences such as epigenomics and microbiomics have complicated the self as an open multiplicity. Is there a role for self-help thinking in the Anthropocene? Self-help flourishes on anxiety and both the Anthropocene and a porous body exacerbates these fears. Self-help books are self-involved by design, can be easily taken up by entrepreneurial and human capital ideologies. This paper explores the practices of self-help, the harm but also the potential in that form of thinking. Self-help is situated within a genealogy of care for the body’s ecology, weaving together the strands of alternative food and health movements, diet guides, and human microbiome research. We offer a way forward through a reparative reading of self-help regarding expanding the notion of kin towards queering social reproduction. This framework offers new paths for living with others that embraces the political ecology of health through crip theory and prognosis time: a temporality that intermingles the likelihood of death and a politics of hope . Self-involved politics currently dominates both health and environmental issues, this paper asserts that we can turn toward collective politics by tackling the self directly.

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