Det högkänsliga subjektets tillblivelse : Diskursiva praktiker om identitet, förmåga och funktionsvariation

Sammanfattning: 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.