DruGS Program PhD scholar wins prestigious thesis award

As the academic year comes to a close, we’re delighted to announce that DruGS program PhD scholar Gemma Nourse has won La Trobe University’s Nancy Millis Medal for her PhD thesis: ‘Co-constituting drugs, health and masculinity: Performance and image-enhancing drug discourses in Australia’. The medal is ‘presented to outstanding PhD candidates for the exceptionally high quality of their thesis’. The thesis abstract appears below.


This thesis examines what it means to be a man who consumes performance and image-enhancing drugs (PIEDs), and analyses the news media, health promotion and professional discourses surrounding PIEDs for what they can tell us about contemporary masculinity and health. My work brings together these important concepts—PIEDs, health and masculinity—to ask a novel question: how are these key concepts making each other across four institutional and discursive settings, and to what effect? The thesis shows how the conventions and logics of news media, public health, welfare and health services, and consumer lived experience performatively enact (Butler, 1999; Law, 2004)—and delimit—the kinds of subject positions and possibilities available to men. In examining these concerns, I consider how the constitution of PIED consumption as problematic also constitutes problematic masculinities and narrow, regulatory definitions of health.

In examining the relations that pathologise PIED consumption, I propose that PIED consumers need more robust, flexible and inclusive conceptions of health and masculinity that can acknowledge normative contemporary practices of enhancement and self-transformation and avoid reliance on limiting and ultimately harmful understandings. With such understandings common in news media and health promotion, and among health professionals in their discussions of PIED consumption, men have few avenues for accessing non-stigmatising and more effective resources for supporting their health and wellbeing. More broadly, this thesis is also about the constitution of the category of ‘men’, and the concept of ‘masculinity’, and the extremely limiting ways in which they are conventionally made. In exploring PIEDs as a site of man-making—in exploring processes of masculinity—this thesis hopes to intervene in these tendencies and to create more expansive possibilities for men.

Thesis supervisors

Professor Suzanne Fraser and Professor David Moore