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'A medical case history … ': huntington’' disease and psychiatry


Flanagan, K, 'A medical case history ': huntington'' disease and psychiatry, Social Science & Medicine, 311 Article 115311. ISSN 0277-9536 (2022) [Refereed Article]

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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.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Huntington's disease, Foucault, discourse, history, psychiatry, subjectivity
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Sociology
Research Field:Social theory
Objective Division:Law, Politics and Community Services
Objective Group:Community services
Objective Field:Ability and disability
UTAS Author:Flanagan, K (Dr Kathleen Flanagan)
ID Code:154506
Year Published:2022
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (DE200101182)
Deposited By:Office of the School of Social Sciences
Deposited On:2022-12-07
Last Modified:2022-12-07

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