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'A medical case history … ': huntington’' disease and psychiatry
journal contributionposted on 2023-05-21, 15:15 authored by Kathleen FlanaganKathleen Flanagan
An important insight arising from the work of Michel Foucault is greater attention to the ways medical science produces subjects. In the case of Huntington's disease, the subjectivity produced has historically been constructed as dysfunctional and threatening, while the subjectivity of the researcher was unscrutinised. This paper describes a Foucauldian analysis of 20th century medical and social scientific literature on the social consequences of Huntington's disease. It identifies three features of Huntington's disease as central to its discursive construction: its genetic transmission pattern, its age of onset and its behavioural symptoms. These qualities, converted into medical and psychiatric knowledge, facilitated the absorption of Huntington's disease into eugenicist discourse, a connection reflected throughout the literature. Through various techniques of power, especially genetic pedigrees, and the normalised appropriation and exploitation of patients' identities and data within psychiatry, affected individuals were subjectified as contaminated and threatening, and implicated in the intergenerational transmission of social dysfunction.
Australian Research Council
Publication titleSocial Science & Medicine
Department/SchoolSchool of Social Sciences
PublisherPergamon-Elsevier Science Ltd
Place of publicationThe Boulevard, Langford Lane, Kidlington, Oxford, England, Ox5 1Gb
Rights statement© 2022 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.