The Aesthetics of Self-Harm: The Visual Rhetoric of Online Self-Harm Communities, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Aesthetics of Self-Harm

The Visual Rhetoric of Online Self-Harm Communities, 1st Edition

By Zoe Alderton


200 pages | 20 B/W Illus.

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The Aesthetics of Self-Harm presents a new approach to understanding parasuicidal behaviour, based upon an examination of online communities that promote performances of self-harm in the pursuit of an idealised beauty. The book considers how online communities provide a significant level of support for self-harmers and focuses on relevant case studies to establish a new model for the comprehension of the online supportive community.

To do so, Alderton explores discussions of self-harm and disordered eating on social networks. She examines aesthetic trends that contextualise harmful behavior and help people to perform feelings of sadness and vulnerability online. Alderton argues that the traditional understanding of self-violence through medical discourse is important, but that it misses vital elements of human group activity and the motivating forces of visual imagery.

Covering psychiatry and psychology, rhetoric and sociology, this book provides essential reading for psychologists, sociologists and anthropologists exploring group dynamics and ritual, and rhetoricians who are concerned with the communicative powers of images. It should also be of great interest to medical professionals dealing with self-harming patients.

Table of Contents


1. Self-Harm on Social Networks: Understanding Online Eating Disorder and Self-Harm Communities

2. The Aesthetics of Self-Harm: Visual Rhetoric as a Key to Understanding Online Activities

3. Sad Girls: The Internet and the Performance of Mood

4. Suggestions for Clinical Practitioners: New Tools for Managing Visually Oriented Self-Harmers

5. Healing Through Aesthetics: How Images Can Guide Behaviour and Health

About the Author

Zoe Alderton is a lecturer in the School of Economics at the University of Sydney.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Mental Health