Suicide prevention as biopolitical surveillance: A critical analysis of UK suicide prevention policies

Alex Oaten, Ana Jordan, Amy Chandler, Hazel Marzetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Suicide prevention policies set out government strategies and priorities for action and in doing so construct meanings, legitimise knowledge and frame possibilities. Despite their importance, prevention policies remain underexamined and taken for granted. Using Bacchi’s poststructuralist ‘What Is The Problem Represented To Be’ approach we critically analyse UK suicide prevention policies as sites of biopolitical surveillance and consider how suicide is constructed within such policy regimes. Drawing on Foucault, we contextualise suicide as an object and focus of biopolitical surveillance. We argue that suicide prevention policies seek to negate the contingency and complexity of suicide and instead represent it as amenable to biopolitical governance. Prevention policies do this by framing suicide as a visible and predictable object that can be known and governed via surveillance driven risk management. Such policies risk marginalising some publics, and diverting attention from the political, social and economic contexts of injustice in which suicides occur.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalCritical Social Policy
Early online date15 Dec 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Dec 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • biopolitics
  • critical suicide studies
  • policy analysis
  • suicide prevention
  • surveillance


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