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Pharmaceutical entanglements: An exploration of the effects of stimulant medication in children's lives

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Pharmaceutical Entanglements aims at exploring the complex and local interactions between stimulant medication, children using it, and other human and non-human actors which are present inside the classrooms of two neo-Catholic high-income schools in Santiago, Chile. Although much has been written in social sciences about the interactions between stimulant medication and children, most of these accounts have approached this topic neglecting the practicalities arising from such an encounter. Rather than providing an abstract or theoretical description of how the medical apparatus is put into use to control deviant behaviour by children, this thesis centres its analysis on how, in practice, these interactions are more nuanced and open-ended than commonly is described.
To provide an insight into how these interactions take place in the everyday life worlds of actual children, Pharmaceutical Entanglements is based on an ethnographic experience that took place during 2015 in two schools located in the East Side of Santiago, Chile. As discussed in this thesis, location is an essential element to be considered if one is to understand the trajectories that the medication can undergo. As I argue during the six chapters composing this thesis, the socio-material setting where the medication unfolds plays a decisive role in how different actors can produce an interplay that can lead to strengthening the medicated child’s sense of agency, or can lead to its collapse.
Importantly, this project does not position itself in principle either as opposing the use of stimulant medication or encouraging it. Rather, it tries to fill a gap in the social sciences literature on the topic by updating the discussions about potential dialogues between life and the social sciences, encouraging the field of childhood studies to embrace up-to-date theories in social sciences, and producing new examinations of how children deal with, and make use of,stimulant medication and psychiatric labelling. In that sense, this investigation does not dismiss traditional concerns about the potential perils and hazards linked to the use of pharmaceutical drugs. Rather, it centres its focus on the lives of medicated children and their interaction with teachers, staff members, peers and others, animating specific and local uses and trajectories for the medication as they constantly attempt to establish coordinated dynamics with those around them.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date2018


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