Governing the contagious body: genital herpes, contagion and technologies of the self

Candice Oster, Julianne Cheek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Genital herpes is a prevalent sexually transmitted viral infection. While genital herpes is not life-threatening, it can cause physical discomfort and psychosocial difficulties, and may increase the risk of contracting HIV. Given that genital herpes cannot be cured, both the condition itself, and the possibility of passing it on to others, becomes a part of the everyday reality of those individuals diagnosed with genital herpes. In this article we explore the ways in which people with genital herpes attending the Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) clinic govern their `contagious bodies'. The discussion draws on the Foucauldian concept of governmentality, and uses Foucault's idea of ethics as a framework to identify the technologies of the self by which individuals with genital herpes govern their own thoughts and behaviours in relation to the contagiousness of the condition. Implications for practice and other ways of thinking about what happens in the STI clinic context are suggested.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-232
Number of pages18
JournalHealth: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • contagion
  • genital herpes
  • governmentality
  • technologies of the self


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