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J Med Humanit. 2008 Sep;29(3):147-61. doi: 10.1007/s10912-008-9062-4.

"How do you know unless you look?": brain imaging, biopower and practical neuroscience.

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  • 1Southwestern University, 1001 E. University, Georgetown, TX 78626, USA. djohnson@southwestern.edu

Abstract

Brain imaging is a persuasive visual rhetoric by which neuroscience is articulated as relevant to the construction and maintenance of desirable selves. In this essay, I describe how "brain-based self-help" literature disseminates neuroscientific vocabularies to public audiences. In this genre, brain images are an authoritative visual resource for translating neuroscience into a comprehensive program for living. I use Foucault's discussion of biopower to describe the ways in which brain-based self-help literature enables self-constitution in a biosocial age where health is a central means of communicating personal worth, social value and political order. The implications of this continuous self-fashioning are not limited to the personal realm but have important political consequences.

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