Tilting the frame: Israeli suicide as an alternative to suicide in Israel

Haim Hazan, Raquel Romberg

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


INTRODUCTION: TILTING THE FRAME OF SUICIDOLOGY Suicidology and its mother disciplines of public policy, public health, psychiatry, and psychology have taken over both global and national/local discourses of suicide in the past four decades. Global approaches to suicide, in general, and the design of national suicide prevention programs, in particular – have been both led by the World Health Organization (WHO), revealing subjacent yet forceful global bioethical forms of governance. These are driven by mental health and public policy conceptions of suicide, showing the prevalence of the so-called therapeutic society in Israel and the rest of the world. It involves, Brunner and Amrami argue (2016: 7), a sweeping work of “translation” of disparate social fields to the conceptual and applied frameworks of mental health in ways that appear as “legitimate and central to define, manage, and express the modern self” (p. 8). The “triumph of the therapeutic,” in Rieff’s apt phrase (1966), is evident in the “hijacking” of suicidology research and its bioethical significance, which circumscribes global and local bioethical understandings of suicide to mental health models aimed at the early detection, treatment, and prevention of suicide (see Lester and Rogers 2013). The marketing of scientific knowledge based solely on standardized, quantifiable methods was critiqued extensively by Porter (1996, 2012). This critique also informs the recent alerts about suicidology monopolizing the study of suicide through positivist, medicalizing forms of knowledge (Brancaccio et al. 2013; Fitzpatrick et al. 2014; Marsh 2015; White et al. 2015). “By relying so heavily on such a narrow range of (positivist) methodologies, the knowledge produced within the field of suicidology can only take us so far, and many interesting and important research questions that are worth asking are not being explored. This includes, for example, questions that pertain to meaning, values, morality, contexts, language, culture, power, relations and discourse” (Marsh and White 2014: 73–74; cf. also Farberow 1975). Particularly disturbing is the technocratic demand for “evidence-based” research (Pringle et al. 2013; Rodgers et al. 2007; Widger 2015; Yip 2011) that guide “audit cultures” (Strathern 2000) such as those administered by modern states, thus reducing suicide research and its ensuing public understanding to mentalist and medicalizing models driven by standard quantifiable methodologies (Bowker and Star 1999).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBioethics and Biopolitics in Israel
Subtitle of host publicationSocio-Legal, Political, and Empirical Analysis
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781316671986
ISBN (Print)9781107159846
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2018


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