Embodied Agency and its Role in Healing
Isabella (Ike) Johnson ’21, Saint Paul, Minnesota
Major: Religious Studies
Minor: Health and Society
How do patients suffering with depression assert embodied agency differently depending on the form of their treatment? In order to answer this question, this paper draws on two different approaches to healthcare—Western Biomedicine and the practice of Vodou—with a focus on the role of patient agency in the treatment of depression and in interactions with healthcare providers. This paper centers its argument about agency and treatment around the distinct relationship of resistance between the two healthcare approaches. In comparing these two approaches this paper does not aim to determine which is better, but rather to analyze the assumptions built into each approach, specifically identity-based power roles, regarding the agency of those who are treated. This paper discusses the different experiences of the spectrum of agency (from active to passive) as a part of our everyday lives, with particular attention to the impact of marginalized identities on experiences of agency. This spectrum of agency is especially evident in those practices we choose to embody—physical or mental practices to which we ascribe a positive state of being. This project focuses on the role of patient agency in the treatment of depression and in interactions with healthcare providers. By analyzing two distinct case studies, this paper demonstrates how power dynamics between the health system and the individual have ramifications for the individual body, and especially for bodies of color. These power dynamics infuse the ways in which we interact with medical systems, as well as the ways in which the systems shape us as patients.