This article examines how images of self-cannibalism, or autophagy, configure a subjectivity that emphasizes the internalization of precarious existential conditions resulting from contemporary neoliberal principles. With a focus on mental health, I argue that the combination of self-cannibalism and individual responsibility inculcates an individual rather than collective response to mental health pathologies. I demonstrate how the dominant medical model of treatment paradoxically minimizes and internalizes the social and economic factors that contribute to identity formation, and I suggest that the conventional self-other antagonism of cannibalism transforms into a new self-self antagonism. By internalizing principles of competition and self-reliance in neoliberal capitalism, the contemporary subject subscribes to the very conditions that undermine the healthy social and interactive features that define a stable community life. Autophagy shifts away from the negative associations of cannibalism and toward the positive yet paradoxical associations of autophagy as a model of self-sustainability.

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