Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2014

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

American Studies

First Advisor

Rigal, Laura

First Committee Member

Baynton, Douglas

Second Committee Member

Depew, David

Third Committee Member

McLeod, Kembrew

Fourth Committee Member

Rabinovitz, Lauren


During the last thirty years, millions of Americans have come into contact with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), if not through their own diagnosis or the diagnosis of a friend or family member, then through the perennial and occasionally passionate debate this behavioral disorder has inspired in U.S. popular culture since its inauguration in 1980. The competing claims of this debate are many and varied, and they revolve around a number of subtle distinctions that have emerged from diverse discourses and institutional histories. It is among the aims of this project to excavate and clarify these multiple, often contradictory and disjunctive claims by resituating them within their disparate (indeed, still emerging) rhetorical and historical contexts.

The central questions animating this debate tend to advocate for one position or another, within the limitations of a single field and its defining questions, making it nearly impossible to gain a balanced or nuanced understanding of ADHD. Moreover, dominant accounts fail to consider the diagnosis within a wider socio-cultural and historical context. This project therefore analyzes this under-theorized behavioral disorder from a rhetorical and cultural perspective. In doing so, it aims to go further than other critiques or defenses of the diagnosis and its chemical therapies. It does so by bringing discourse analysis to bear on ADHD, thereby illuminating how this assemblage of rhetorics and questions - centered as they are on the Mind/Body continuum - constitute what Michel Foucault refers to as biopower - or a process of social control exercised on and through the technological manipulation of life itself. Considering it from such a perspective will allow us to situate ADHD within modern debates over the definition of consciousness, a debate that is inseparable from the history of technology and the technological systems in which minds and bodies are thoroughly implicated. This dissertation demonstrates that a biopolitics of consciousness structures the emergence of and the debate surrounding ADHD and the administration of stimulant drugs for the purpose of managing attensity.


ADHD, Cultural Studies, Cyborg, History of Medicine, Pharmacy, Ritalin


ix, 359 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 345-359).


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Copyright © 2014 Jonathan Herbert Hansen