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Productive power and the 'practices of the self' in contraceptive counselling

Hayter, Mark


Mark Hayter


This paper explores an underresearched issue within the reproductive health of women — the discursive construction of self‐examination instruction in sexual health clinics. The study utilises Foucault's work on ‘productive power’, the ‘practices of the self’ and discourse to map out how nurses instruct contraceptive‐using women in self‐care practices. Forty‐nine consultations in sexual health clinics were tape recorded and analysed. The data reveal how nurses utilise the discourse of risk as a technique to reinforce and develop self‐care practices — a concept congruent with the Greco‐Roman concept of the cura sui, the philosophical notion that one must make oneself into the object of care. Nurses build upon the notion of risk by educating women about their reproductive anatomy and physiology utilising medical texts as tools. This provides a contemporary example of the mia chora: identified by Foucault as the incitement for the individual to develop a usable knowledge of the body. Lastly, nurses instruct women in the development of a self‐care regimen — the epimeleia, the development of habitual body techniques. It is proposed that this process is congruent with the Aristotelian notion of habitus, the development of body knowledge, body techniques and self‐care practices necessary to pursue health.


Hayter, M. (2006). Productive power and the 'practices of the self' in contraceptive counselling. Nursing Inquiry, 13(1), 33-43.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 16, 2005
Online Publication Date Feb 22, 2006
Publication Date 2006-03
Journal Nursing Inquiry
Print ISSN 1320-7881
Electronic ISSN 1440-1800
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 13
Issue 1
Pages 33-43
Keywords Contraception; Discourse; Foucault; Power; Self‐examination
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