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Textures of the OrdinaryDoing Anthropology after Wittgenstein$
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Veena Das

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780823287895

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823287895.001.0001

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Psychiatric Power, Mental Illness, and the Claim to the Real

Psychiatric Power, Mental Illness, and the Claim to the Real

Foucault in the Slums of Delhi

(p.173) 6 Psychiatric Power, Mental Illness, and the Claim to the Real
Textures of the Ordinary

Veena Das

Fordham University Press

This chapter brings out the dark potentials of the everyday by focusing on the madness of a young boy and showing how his illness reverberates in the family and the neighborhood. Canguilhem’s contrast between normatively normal in which norms may be transgressed and those of pathologically normal that signals the death of normativity itself is deployed to show how families become steeped in a scene of trance and illusion and the exhaustion of the capacity to care. The psychiatrist does not represent so much normalizing power as in Foucault but provides simply a small respite from the relentless violence and threats within which the scene of madness is engulfed. The mobile character of power is shown through the residues that are secreted so that when one aspect of power, say its normalizing function as discipline, fades out, another aspect, such as its alignment with sovereign forms of punishment, finds new objects. For Foucault, the archive was the place where individuals who are caught in the grip of the law become available as subjects to the historian, but for the anthropologist, the life of law flows through different kind of hinges and junctions that are not exhausted by the archive.

Keywords:   archive, Canguilhem, family, Foucault, madness, neighborhood, normal, pathological, psychiatric power, sovereign power

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