Literature and Population
This book highlights the sociological nature of self-injury in several ways, two of which are profiled in this chapter. First, we discuss the contribution we make to a sociological analysis of the data on self-injury, expanding the understanding of self-injury beyond the way it has traditionally been conceptualized by the psycho-medical establishment with a new, sociological lens. Second, and perhaps more important, we show how the population of self-injurers has spread from a narrow, clinically conceptualized base into the broader reaches of the mainstream. These discussions lay a foundation for the examination of the development of new empirical conceptions and new theoretical analyses that will unfold throughout the rest of this book.
Sociologists have come to the study of self-injury later than the psycho-medical community did. Yet when the behavior spilled beyond the psychiatric bounds, it took on sociological dimensions that were unaddressed by the clinical definition and framework. We lay out the psycho-medical perspective here, noting its view of self-injurers’ characteristics and motivations. Sociological literature addressing this topic has mostly come from a feminist perspective, casting self-injury within the framework of patriarchal exploitation and oppression. Other literature that we examine includes the postmodern perspective, and its conceptions of space and the self as transformed by technology and media, and the empirical literature, which has been geared mostly toward a public audience of self-injurers and treatment professionals.
Most discussions of self-injury derive from within the parameters of the psychological and treatment professions. The canonical bible of the psychiatric field, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM),