The connections between gut and depression have been known, in the
West, since ancient Greece. It was the Hippocratic writers who gave the
name melancholia to states of dejection, hopelessness, and torpor. They
understood such states to be caused by an accumulation of black bile (in
Greek, melaina chole), a substance secreted by the liver. For these writers,
and for prac titioners of medicine for another two thousand years, mel-
ancholia was both the name of one of the enteric humors and the name
for a disruption to emotional equilibrium (Jackson 1986). One of the
Hippocratic aphorisms makes the affinity between these two modes
of melancholia explicit: “The bowel should be treated in melancholics”
(Hippocrates 1978, 217). The condensation of viscera and mood, exem-
plified in the term melancholia, is the subject of Gut Feminism. This book
will explore the alliances of internal organs and minded states, not in
relation to ancient texts but in the contemporary milieu where mel-
ancholias are or ganized as entanglements of affects, ideations, nerves,
agitation, sociality, pills, and synaptic biochemistry.
I am not proposing a theory of depression. Rather, I want to extract
from these analyses of depressed viscera and mood some gain for femi-
nist theory. I have two ambitions. First, I seek some feminist theoreti-
cal gain in relation to how biological data can be used to think about
minded and bodily states. What conceptual innovations would be possi-
ble if feminist theory wasn’t so instinctively antibiological? Second, I
seek some feminist theoretical gain in relation to thinking about the
hostility (bile) intrinsic to our politics. What if feminist politics are
necessarily more destructive than we are able to bear? This introduction
INTRODUCTION
DEPRESSION, BIOLOGY,
AGGRESSION
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