Aaron Matthew Neiman
Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationStanford U.
Grant numberGr. 9836
Approve DateApril 30, 2019
Project TitleNeiman, Aaron (Stanford U.) "Meeting the Black Dog's Gaze: New Ways of Knowing and Treating Depression in Australia"
Sadness has long been an object of fascination to those who ponder the human condition. For millennia, the fields of philosophy and medicine have speculated about its origins, attempted to distinguish “normal” sadness from something more profound, and proffered different definitions and remedies for this latter category. Most recently, mental health researchers around the world have turned to the affordances of websites and mobile apps to deliver inexpensive, automated cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to anyone with an Internet connection– a depression treatment usually administered in person by a trained psychologist. This ethnography examines how one of the most prominent such sites– the Black Dog Institute in Sydney, Australia– navigates the many epistemological and ethical challenges raised by taking depression treatment online. By studying the social practices involved in the development, marketing, and testing of these treatments, I seek to understand how this “e-mental health” turn influences popular distinctions between normal and pathological low mood and produces new kinds of mental health professionals– ones whose work seemingly disempowers the therapist and obscures the category of patient. At stake in the development and proliferation of these technologies is psychiatry’s authoritative knowledge and care of “the depressed” as a discrete population.