This paper addresses the visual discourse of psychopharmaceuticals, such as Prozac, in order to investigate the network of relationships of affects, advertising, design and the production of new identity practices.
As psychopharmaceuticals enter the public sphere through television and print advertisements, as well as first person narratives increasingly promoted in the media, the cultural discourse surrounding their use and the identity of the users are also changing. Drawing from a Spinozist notion of affect, ‘the trace of one body upon another’, as well as from a semiotic analysis of advertisements, I intend to examine the identity practices and the type of embodiment emerging in, and envisioned by, the increasingly normalised object ‘psychopharmaceutical’. The centrality of affects in the constitution of subjectivity is increasingly relevant to contemporary critical theory (see the notion of ‘affective turn’, Clough). Addressing the network of affective investments we exchange with objects is crucial for an understanding of how embodied subjectivities mutate accordingly to the objects they interact with.
Against the theoretical backdrop provided by what Nikolas Rose calls the ‘pharmaceutical biopolitics of the neurochemical self’, the analysis of packaging, colour, visual and textual language of their advertising suggests how new scripts of selfhood are inscribed in the relationship between users and psychopharmaceuticals. The ensuing dialogue among chemistry, affects and design creates narratives of the self as a myth-making operation in which psychopharmaceuticals perform as objects imbued with magic properties.