Why does an estimated 5% of the general population intentionally and repeatedly hurt themselves? What are the reasons certain people resort to self-injury as a way to manage their daily lives?
In Why Do We Hurt Ourselves? Understanding Self-Harm in Social Life
(Indiana University Press, 2018), sociologist Baptiste Brossard
draws on a five-year survey of self-injurers and suggests that the answers can be traced to social, more than personal, causes. Self-injury is not a matter of disturbed individuals resorting to hurting themselves in the face of individual weaknesses and difficulties. Rather, self-injury is the reaction of individuals to the tensions that compose, day after day, the tumultuousness of their social life and position. Self-harm is a practice that people use to self-control and maintain order—to calm down, or to avoid "going haywire" or "breaking everything." More broadly, through this research Brossard works to develop a perspective on the contemporary social world at large, exploring quests for self-control in modern Western societies.
In this interview, Dr. Brossard and I discuss how he came to study self-injury, managing the stigma of self-injury, how people use online forums for community, the discrete nature of self-injury, and the role of gender. I recommend this book for people interested in mental health, stigma, deviant behavior, and qualitative methods.
Dr. Baptiste Brossard, (@BaptistBrossard
) a French sociologist, is a lecturer at the Australian National University. He received his PhD in sociology at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (2011). His primary areas of research are mental health, sociological theory, qualitative methods and utopian studies.
Krystina Millar is a PhD student in the Department of Sociology at Indiana University. Her research interests include gender, sociology of the body, and sexuality. You can find her on Twitter at @KrystinaMillar.