My chapter has been published in an edited collection on Merleau-Ponty. The title of the chapter is “The Need for Merleau-Ponty in Foucault’s Account of the Abnormal” and is in the book, Normality, Abnormality, and Pathology in Merleau-Ponty, edited by Talia Welsh and Susan Bredlau. You can purchase the hardcover on Amazon or at SUNY press. The paperback should come out in late summer 2022.
Here is the abstract:
Due to both his historical contributions as well as the simple persuasive power of his writing, many of us are drawn to the work of Michel Foucault on the history of the abnormal. And yet, while we acknowledge the insights offered by his account of the abnormal, we may feel that something is missing from his historical narrative and wonder if it can be fully trusted. In this chapter, I will argue that we can only successfully draw on Foucault’s work on the abnormal once we recognize that it is Merleau-Ponty’s work in psychology that serves as its hidden foundation.
To do so, I begin by giving a brief summary of Foucault’s account of the abnormal according to his 1961 History of Madness and his 1974-1975 lectures entitled Abnormal. Foucault describes how the abnormal of the modern age comes out of an understanding of madness that can be traced in the previous ages. He then reveals some common historical structures present in each age; in particular, how the notion of madness is dependent on the societal constructions of the rational and the nonrational. But we are left asking: Where are these constructions coming from? And why is madness inextricably linked to our understanding of the rational and nonrational in every age? Foucault’s account of the abnormal seems to tell us how the notions of madness play out in society, but offers no explanation for why the historical structures are shaped in this way.
I turn to Merleau-Ponty for aid and find that the very historical structures recounted by Foucault are actually rooted in Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological patterns of the abnormal. Drawing on the Phenomenology of Perception, I describe the phenomenological foundation of the abnormal as a way to make madness both accessible and meaningful. We find that this foundation is precisely what is needed for the arbitrary historical constructions of Foucault. To close, I look at the presence of these patterns in the disorder of schizophrenia, demonstrating how the unity of a historical-phenomenological account of the abnormal can provide deeper insights into the experience of a mental disorder.
My book has been sent to press! You can actually pre-order it now through Routledge and even Amazon. It is so exciting to see this come to fruition!
Title: Madness in Experience and History: Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology and Foucault’s Archaeology
Back of the Book Blurb:
Madness in Experience and History brings together experience and history to show their impact on madness or mental illness.
Drawing on the writings of two 20th century French philosophers, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Michel Foucault, the author pairs a phenomenological approach with an archaeological approach to present a new perspective on mental illness as an experience that arises out of common behavioral patterns and shared historical structures. Many today feel frustrated with the medical model because of its deficiencies in explaining mental illness. In response, the author argues that we must integrate human experiences of mental disorders with the history of mental disorders to have a full account of mental health and to make possible a more holistic care.
Scholars in the humanities and mental health practitioners will appreciate how such an analysis not only offers a greater understanding of mental health, but also a fresh take on discovering value in diverse human experiences.
I am happy to announce that my article “The Carnival of the Mad: Foucault’s Window into the Origin of Psychology” has just been published in the journal Foucault Studies. This article was extremely time intensive due to the research required, including translating sections of books and articles from French to English. It was also challenging because I had to obtain permission to use the rare photos of Foucault at the carnival in the article. I am so happy that it has been completed! You can see the official post here (where you can read it online or download it). Or you can also download it from my profile on academia.
If you have felt concern about the motivations and goals of modern psychology, this is for you! It also gives you a glimpse into the history behind the use of some mental health medications. Here is the abstract:
Foucault’s participation in the 1954 carnival of the mad at an asylum in Switzerland marked the beginning of his critical reflections on the origins of psychology. The event revealed a paradox at the heart of psychology to Foucault, for here was an asylum known for its progressive method and groundbreaking scientific research that was somehow still exhibiting traces of a medieval conception of madness. Using the cultural expression of this carnival as a starting place, this paper goes beyond carnival costumes to uncover the historical structures underneath the discipline of modern psychology. Drawing on Foucault’s earliest works in psychology, his 1954 Mental Illness and Personality, his 1954 “Dream, Existence and Imagination,” his 1957 “Scientific Research and Psychology” and briefly his 1961 History of Madness, I will describe the discrepancy between the theory of modern psychology, which finds its heritage in the methods of modern science, and the practice of modern psychology, which finds its heritage in the classical age. I will argue that this division helps make sense of unexplained psychological phenomena, as seen in general practices related to artistic expression, and individual experiences, as seen in the presence of guilt and the resistance to medical diagnosis in patients.