By Bernard E. Harcourt, Daniele Lorenzini, and Jesús R. Velasco
Michel Foucault, Le Pouvoir psychiatrique. Cours au Collège de France. 1973-1974, Jacques Lagrange, ed. (Gallimard/Le Seuil, 2003)
________________, Psychiatric Power: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1973-1974, Graham Burchell, trans. (Picador, 2006)
Book Reviews and videos regarding Foucault’s 1974 Lectures
Nick Butler, Ephemera. Theory and Politics in Organization (2006)
Kamuran Godelek, Metapsychology (2007)
John Iliopoulos, Philosophy, Psychiatry & Psychology (2012)
Tiffany Jones, H-SAfrica, H-Net Reviews (2007)
Chris Philo, Foucault Studies (2007)
Nikolas Rose, “Mental Illness: Five Hard questions“
A Walk into the Archive
The lectures engage a corpus of publications from a period that stretches from 1798 to the 1870’s. Genres include treatises, essays, mémoires, précis, insights, inquiries, observations, etc. Many of them are part of a long debate among different authors throughout the nineteenth century, and by reading them one can observe some of the terms of the discussions that are going on in the terrain of “insanity”, “melancholy”, “delirium”, “alienation”, “madness”. These treatises also contribute to establishing the vocabulary itself, the language, and even the style, which is very often that of a journal, an autobiographical account of experiences and inventions—a science based on personal observation, tabulation of data, and creation of objects that serve the purpose of forcing the individuals to perform the activities they could not perform on their own (including, for instance, eating). Two other important elements common to many of those publications are: 1) The book itself as an artifact; in it, plates, tables, and other graphic elements are central to the argumentation; 2) Most of those treatises are in conversation with juridical and legal innovations, and with the necessity to constitute a jurisprudential archive based on this new science that has its own artifacts and atrezzo.
Philippe Pinel (“Professeur de l’École de Médecine de Paris, Médecin en chef de l’Hospice National des femmes, ci-devant la Salpêtrière, et Membre de plusieurs Sociétés savants”) published his Traité médico-philosophique sur l’aliénation mentale ou la manie in year 9 (1800-1801). It sports a small number of plates and tables. The plates, like the one on page 321, show the external traits to recognize the “shape of the crane” and “the portraits of the alienated.” Tables demonstrate, in short, that hospitals like Bicêtre evidence a dramatic change in results that start showing in year 1 (as in the “General table regarding the alienated who were healed during the II Year of the Republic at the Hospice for the Alienated of Bicêtre by using diets and physical exercice” (between pages 249-250). As Pinel says in the introduction, there is no evidence that herbal treatment of mental illness can lead anywhere, and he suggests a refutation of those who have written the classical treatises about the “debate between gallenisme and a false chemistry, applied to medicine” (xiv). Pinel’s sections V (“Internal police, and surveillance procedures to establish within the hospice”) and VI “Principles about the medical treatment of the alienated”) are central to the question of body and soul, surveillance, physical behavior, etc.
Pinel and John Haslam refer to each other. Pinel refers to the first edition of the Observations on Madness and Melancholy. Including Practical Remarks on those Diseases; together with Cases: and an Account of the Morbid Appearances on Dissection of 1798, and Haslam quotes Pinel’s table on Bicêtre’s admissions (with one important modification, however, as he does not include years 1 and 2 of the Republic). We link to the second edition, the one in which Haslam quotes Pinel, “considerably enlarged”, and published in 1809. Haslam’s work abounds in cases (and the word “cases” occupies the central part on the cover of the book), because he was enormously interested in juridical issues and the constitution of a medical jurisprudence regarding the mentally ill, as we can see in his Medical Jurisprudence as it Relates to Insanity, according to the Law of England, published in 1817, the same year as Fodéré’s Traité du délire (definitely a year that constitutes a historical series of discursive events of which these books are only the tip of the iceberg). Haslam’s Observations sport the following epigraph, attributed to Johnson Rasselas: “Of the uncertainty of our present state, the most dreadful and alarming is the uncertain continuance of reason”, and they also include, apart for a rare discursive violence in narrating the cases, a plate on page 318 in which he shows the instrument invented by himself to force the mentally ill to eat: “Since the use of this very simple and efficient instrument, which I constructed about twelve years ago, I can truly affirm that no patient has ever been deprived of a tooth, and that the food or remedy has always been conveyed into the stomach of the patient” (319).
Foucault also focuses on François Emmanuel Fodéré (“Professeur de Médecine légale et de police médicale, à la Faculté de Médecine de Strasbourg, et Médecin du Collège Royal de la même ville”), and his Traité du délire, appliqué à la Médicine, à la Morale, et à la Législation (and in particular volume 2), which was published by Croullebois, who worked for the Society of Medicine and the General Direction of Mines in 1817. This book was crucial for all the other treatises, and is quoted throughout the century. Its juridical and legal importance will be discussed by the rest of doctors and reformers during the nineteenth century. His comparative tables on pages 585-593 of volume 1 cover most of Europe (that is, England, Germany, and France!). Chapter 5 of the second volume, pages 489-540, on the rules on how to recognize the existence or non-existence of insanity, either temporary or permanent, are central to the juridical discourse and the judicialization of mental illness (as mental illness leads to the exclusion of the individual from juridical rights).
Foucault also gives especial importance to E. Esquirol (“Médecin en chef de la Maison Royale des Aliénés de Charenton, Ancien Inspecteur Général de l’Université, Membre de l’Académie Royale de Médecine, etc.”), and his Des maladies mentales, considérées sous les rapports medical, hygiénique et medico-légal, published by J.-B. Baillière in 1838 and it comes with 27 planches, and preceded by a complete, almost overwhelming, analytical table (something unusual in this kind of books). He collects reflections, “mémoires,” and cases from the last forty years, and gives the date for each of the chapters. The first one, for instance, corresponds to 1816. The book needs to be read as well from a rhetorical perspective, as the style changes throughout those forty years in ways that would need further research. Most of the “planche” are tables including data that conveys both absolute numbers and a catalogue of professions and lifestyles that could be part of Borges’s Emperor’s catalogue (cf. for instance, page 45, vol. 1). The book was translated in English in 1845.
The archive is much larger, and much more complex. As Foucault puts it, his research must provide, as well, pistes de recherche. A walk into the archive gives an idea of the depth and breadth of those pistes.