Tracking the Therapeutic (2015-2019)


Life coaching, mindfulness, smartphone mental health apps, empowerment groups, self-help books, life management courses, and alternative spiritual and health services are an increasingly visible part of contemporary society. Yet there is little knowledge of their effects, functions, and meanings in people’s lives. TRACKTHERA is a research project funded by the Academy of Finland that addresses this gap in our knowledge by looking at subjective engagement with therapeutic technologies in a range of sites.

TRACKTHERA advances the concept of therapeutic technologies to investigate the multiple forms of knowledge and practice with which people seek to work on and transform themselves, and how these practices and knowledge shape the ways in which people make sense of themselves and the social world. Drawing on a multi-sited ethnography of therapeutic engagements, TRACKTHERA investigates the following research questions:

  1. What kinds of conceptions and strategies of wellbeing and politics do therapeutic technologies put forward?
  2. How do therapeutic technologies shape subjectivities and articulate gendered, classed and racialised relationships of power?
  3. How are therapeutic technologies domesticated in different national and transnational sites, and how do they shape and become shaped by various forms of materiality?

TRACKTHERA consists of closely-knit case studies, all of which track therapeutic technologies at sites where wellbeing and therapeutic knowledge and practices occupy a particularly seminal role. These sites include empowerment groups, alternative and complementary health services and activism, spiritual and religious services and communities, technology-related body-modification practices, and feminist activism.

TRACKTHERA is hosted by the Department of Social Research, University of Turku and led by Professor Suvi Salmenniemi.