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TitleThe Production of the Depressed Subject: A Foucauldian analysis of conflict, power, and the discourse of diagnosis in teachers' narratives of their depression
AuthorCalvert, Graham Michael
AbstractBeing classified as depressed raised questions for me about how I had become a mentally ill teacher. Reading Foucault had led me to reflect on the veracity of the psycho/medical model that had classified my emotions as evidence of depression. So, rather than asking ‘What is wrong with the person and how can they be healed?’, this thesis sought to interrogate the psycho/medical account by deploying Foucault’s analytical attitudes of being sceptical, transformational, and experimental, addressing the question of ‘How is the subject of the depressed teacher produced within discourses of good teaching and a medicalised model of depression?’. A narrative method was employed to elicit eight life histories from teachers who identified as being depressed. Viewed through the Foucauldian lenses of truth, discourse, power/knowledge, and subjectivity, three overarching findings were traceable in the narratives. First, there were contradictory accounts of the causes of depression, rendering its diagnosis problematic. Second, the teaching world was described as riven with conflicts over what constitutes good teaching, how to assess good teaching, and how to be a good teacher. Third, the classroom observation stood out as a site amplifying these conflicts, described as one of the most emotionally intense encounters in schools. The conclusion drawn from this analysis was that the emotions indicative of depression could be considered a normal, if problematic, part of teaching. The accountability practices in contemporary schools, framed by policies that require teachers to view themselves as never good enough, contextualise these expressed emotions within a tyranny of continuous improvement. A psycho/medical diagnosis can be seen as a means of managing these problematic emotions and maintaining a particular discourse of the ‘good teacher’. The thesis, therefore, constitutes an argument for de-pathologising teacher emotions and a recognition that it is not necessarily the teacher that is abnormal but work environments.
TypeThesis; Doctoral
PublisherUCL (University College London)
Source Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London).