Bricolage and blackboxing : exploring the responses of consumers and health providers to controversy about the third generation oral contraceptive pill.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
In the late 1990s, when otherwise healthy women in Aotearoa/New Zealand started to die as a result of thrombosis allegedly attributed to third generation oral contraceptive pills, the workings of this particular version of contraceptive technology (and for many users 'the pill' and other contraceptive methods in general) became subject to scrutiny and re-investigation. This thesis examines the 'talk' of a small selection of contraceptive consumers and health providers in Christchurch, New Zealand who were aware of this contraceptive debate. Through conversations with this study's participants it is possible to trace the discursive practices, responses and strategies taken before and during this medical controversy.
The voices of consumers dominate this thesis and it is my contention that their 'talk' can be interpreted as the deployment of what I call 'bricolage'. Bricolage as practice can be illustrated by paying attention to the self-stories that some contraceptive consumers utilise to constitute themselves and their actions. Contraceptive consumers, particularly during a medical controversy, are exposed to multiple sources of information. They engage in the production of the self with whatever resources they find 'at hand'. My focus is on the practice of bricolage as subjects constitute their selves in and through the varied, often incommensurable, discourses with which they come into contact. I argue that 'bricolage' is a strategy that is utilised when contraceptive consumers want to ensure that they are not constructed as passive, 'blind consumers', but as proactive users who make 'informed choices' and take meaningful action.
This thesis attempts neither to uncover what 'really' happened before and during this contraceptive controversy, nor does it reach conclusions about the medical and statistical 'safety' of oral contraceptives. On the contrary, this study is an exploration of discursive practices: the layering of accounts and the innumerable versions of the same controversial events. While I am interested in the meanings that differently positioned 'actors' ascribe to this controversy, I recognise that access to meanings - such as explanations of 'real' physiological side effects - are mediated though discourses. This is not to deny the 'vital signs' of corporeality, but to contest the supposed transparency of 'experience'. These, then, are the primary approaches that this thesis adopts in order to engage with the strategies utilised by this study's participants when they are coming to terms with the controversy surrounding third generation oral contraceptives.