The Self-Generating Language of Wellness and Natural Health

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Colleen Derkatch


This article extends Keränen’s (2010) application of the concept of autopoiesis, or self-generation, to rhetoric by examining how arguments about wellness and natural health self-generate in public discourse. The article analyzes 20 qualitative interviews on what it means in contemporary culture to be “well”—how wellness differs from illness, how it is distinct from health, and how it can be maintained and enhanced. The analysis shows that wellness discourse is predicated on the entanglement of seemingly opposed logics of restoration and enhancement: those who seek wellness through dietary supplements and natural health products seek simultaneously to restore their bodies, perceived as malfunctioning, to prior states of ideal health and well-being, and to enhance their bodies by optimizing bodily processes to be “better than well” (Elliott, 2003). The fusing of these two logics creates an essentially closed rhetorical system in which wellness is always a moving target.

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Author Biography

Colleen Derkatch, Ryerson University

Associate Professor, Department of English