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The Annihilation of Subjective Experience. Dr. Alastair Morgan Dr. Tim Calton University of Nottingham, UK.

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Presentation on theme: "The Annihilation of Subjective Experience. Dr. Alastair Morgan Dr. Tim Calton University of Nottingham, UK."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Annihilation of Subjective Experience. Dr. Alastair Morgan Dr. Tim Calton University of Nottingham, UK.

2 Whither Subjective Experience ? Trends in International schizophrenia Research.  Aim: to evaluate trends in research presented at two international schizophrenia research fora between 1988 and 2004, including an assessment of patient-centredness.

3  Conclusion: of the 9284 abstracts at both conferences ( International congress on Schizophrenia Research and the Biennial Winter workshop on Schizophrenia), only 2% had any focus on subjective experience. Calton, T, Cheetham, A, D’Silva, K, and Glazebrook, C. “International schizophrenia research and the concept of patient- centredness – an analysis over two decades”, in Alanen et al (2006). Calton, T, Cheetham, A, D’Silva, K, and Glazebrook, C. “International schizophrenia research and the concept of patient- centredness – an analysis over two decades”, in Alanen et al (2006).

4 “... anti-psychiatry was based on an a priori philosophical position that elevated to maximum importance the category of subjectivity... It entails a reduction of politics to a philosophical first principle according to which power is evidenced by the suppression of subjectivity”. Peter Miller, “Critiques of Psychiatry and Critical Sociologies of Madness”, in Miller and Rose (eds). The Power of Psychiatry, (1986).

5 Critique of “anti- psychiatry”.  The anti-psychiatry critique is outmoded – based around the triptych of institutions, madness and medicalisation.  Madness/subjectivity is wrongly emphasised as the privileged site for understanding in the critique of psychiatric practice.  The account of power as domination leads to a negative and undifferentiated understanding of the effects of power.  A Copernican turn from madness to the practices and discourses of psychiatry and associated disciplines.

6 Concept of Biopower  Inspired by Foucault’s development of the concept of power as biopower, in the Collège de France lectures of mid-seventies and first volume of History of Sexuality (1981).

7  Replacement of sovereign power with biopower  “... the ancient right to take life or let live was replaced by a power to foster life or disallow it to the point of death”. Foucault (1981).  “To make live and let die”.

8 Two Poles of Biopower.  One centred on the individual body – an “anatomo-politics of the human body”... “centred on the body as a machine: its disciplining, the optimisation of its capabilities, the extortion of its forces...”  The other focuses on the population – a “biopolitics of the population”... “propagation, births and mortality, the level of health, life expectancy and longevity”. Foucault, History of Sexuality, vol.1.

9  Those movements that attempt to resist these forms of biopower do so on the very same terrain - that of the concept of life.  Human rights are increasingly conceived as rights to life, health, and control over the making and shaping of bodies

10 Hannah Arendt’s analysis of biopower.  In The Human Condition, Arendt articulates a paradoxical combination in the politics of life.  On the one hand the belief that “everything is possible”.  On the other, the belief that human beings are merely animals governed by the laws of nature.

11 “The social realm where the life process has established its own public domain, has let loose an unnatural growth, so to speak, of the natural”. Hannah Arendt. The Human Condition (1958).

12 Critical Psychiatry and Biopower. Three Elements.  Knowledge of vital life processes – conducted largely in the name of neuroscience but blurred in the transformation of vital life processes in the very formation of knowledge itself.  Strategies for intervention upon collective existence in the name of mental health, even happiness.

13  Modes of subjectification- in which the individual is enjoined to work on him or herself in the name of an understanding of mental health. Nikolas Rose and Paul Rabinow, “Biopower Today”, in Biosocieties, (2006), 1:

14 Two forms of subjectification.  The move in a risk politics of life from group risk to a “biological susceptibility”, which is inherently probabilistic and indeterminate.  The move towards the assumption of a responsibility to producing one’s own mental health, in terms of an understanding of one’s individuality as defined by belonging to a biological classification – Rose terms this “somatic individuality”. Nikolas Rose “The Politics of Life Itself”, in Theory, Culture and Society, (2001), vol.18 (6): 1-30.

15  A new form of biological citizenship, creating new forms of human rights.  This takes place in a moral economy of hope, focussed on life.  Biological citizenship is a matter of biosociality as well as somatic individuality. Rose and Novas, “Biological Citizenship”, in Ong and Collier (eds.). Global Anthropology, (Blackwell, 2003).

16 A new form of critique? “The melancholy refrain of those who condemn the arrogance of biomedicine for meddling in such areas, who convict all references to the biological of reductionism, individualism and determinism...are of little help to us in understanding the issues at stake here…We have entered the age of vital politics, of biological ethics and genetic responsibility”. Nikolas Rose “The Politics of Life Itself”.

17 “Critical evaluation would have to take other forms than denunciation of reductionism, individualism and rejection of the social... If in fact we are in an emergent moment of vital politics, celebration or denunciation are insufficient as analytical approaches”. Nikolas Rose and Paul Rabinow. “Thoughts on the Concept of Biopower Today”.

18 The Concept of Life “For anyone undertaking a genealogical study of the concept of “life” in our culture, one of the first and most instructive observations is that the concept never gets defined as such. And yet, this thing that remains indeterminate gets articulated and divided time and again through a series of caesurae and oppositions that invest it with a decisive strategic function in domains as apparently distant as philosophy, theology, politics, and – only later – medicine and biology”. Giorgio Agamben, The Open: Man and Animal (2002).

19 Giorgio Agamben and Bare Life Giorgio Agamben and Bare Life  The distinction between zoe and bios.  Sovereign power is already based on the inclusive exclusion of life, it is already biopower.  Sovereign power incorporates life through the limit- figure, who can be included only on the basis of his or her exclusion.  The state of exception in which sovereign power confronts bare life in the form of an inclusive exclusion is increasingly becoming diffused though different practices and spaces of political life. Giorgio Agamben:Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, (1999).

20  What is produced at the centre of a biopolitics of the individual is a dead space, a form of “life that does not live”.  A politics of life reverts to a death-in- life.

21 Early Intervention in Psychosis  Susceptibility to develop psychosis is based on a probabilistic notion which has no biological basis.  The duration of untreated psychosis hypothesis leads to the potential for earlier and earlier intervention in the name of something only minimally apparent.

22  Psychosis itself is an uncertain and indeterminate label, which may or may not develop, but into what ?  How can the individual situate him or herself in relation to such a form of biopower ?

23 Fate and Biology  “Biology is no longer blind destiny, or even foreseen but implacable fate. It is knowable, mutable, improvable, eminently manipulable”, Rose and Novas,(2003).  “Fate as the definite ineluctability that springs from an essential indefinability”, Alexander Garc ía Düttmann, The Memory of Thought, (2002).

24 The process of self- formation  What is not allowed into discourse and recognition by biopower.  What is the process of self-reflection through which subjectification takes place.

25  There is an experience of loss and domination at the heart of a subjective experience that is identified through a reduction to its biological life and supposed potential.

26 Critique  Any critique of the biopower of psychiatry needs a concept of individual suffering, of what is lost through the formation of a somatic individuality.  The subjective experience of madness is not exhausted by an analysis of the discourses and practices of psychiatry.  We need an understanding of power as domination and exploitation as well as of the productivity of power.


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