Modafinil in the media: metaphors, medicalisation and the body

Coveney, Catherine, Brigitte Nerlich, Brigitte and Martin, Paul (2009) Modafinil in the media: metaphors, medicalisation and the body. Social Science and Medicine, 68 (3). pp. 487-495.

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This paper uses UK media coverage of the sleep drug modafinil to investigate the medicalisation of sleep at a conceptual level. Using metaphorical frame analysis we investigate the conceptual links created in media discourse between sleep and health, and the body and technology in the UK. Using this novel analytical tool we explore under what circumstances modafinil is constructed as a necessary medical treatment or a (il)legitimate performance enhancement and, how in this process, various images of the body are constructed. We found that media discourse on modafinil was structured through four types of sleep discourse: patient, sports, recreational, and occupational. Each discourse was built up around the specific deployment of three central metaphorical frames ‘war’, ‘commodity’ and ‘competition’ that acted to construct the biological body in a particular way. How the body was framed in each discourse impacted upon how modafinil use was portrayed in terms of therapy or enhancement and the level of engagement with a medical rhetoric. This had distinct normative implications strongly influencing the legitimacy afforded to modafinil use in each domain. We argue that medical authority acts to legitimise modafinil use for repair, restoration and relief of suffering, whilst being deployed to pass judgment on its use in bodies already perceived as functioning normally. This leads us to conclude that conceptually, the acceptability of ‘enhancement’ is strongly tied to context of use and intricately related to medical social control.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > International Relations
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0001 Medicine and the state. Including medical statistics, medical economics, provisions for medical care, medical sociology > RA0418 Medicine and society. Social medicine. Medical sociology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0418 Medicine and society. Social medicine. Medical sociology
Depositing User: Catherine Coveney
Date Deposited: 21 Jul 2014 11:46
Last Modified: 08 Mar 2017 11:14

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Project NameSussex Project NumberFunderFunder Ref
UnsetWT080528MAThe Wellcome TrustUnset