Majerus, Benoît (2011) “The bathtub, the bed and the door, The social life of the objects of psychiatry” Gèneses (Médicalisation), 82, 1, 95-119

the bathtub

Majerus, B. (2011). La baignoire, le lit et la porte. La vie sociale des objets de la psychiatrie. Genèses, 82,(1), 95-119. doi:10.3917/gen.082.0095.

Since the 1980s, the human sciences have grasped objects not only as passive elements, but also as actors: objects now take on meaning in the interaction with individuals and groups [3]. We can therefore start from the idea that the experience of psychiatry is determined by the configuration imposed by these objects. Whether it is the architectural object such as the asylum, the first therapeutic agent of this specialization, the object identified as specific to psychiatry such as the camisole or the more common objects of hospital life such as the bed, all structure the action different psychiatric populations. Doctor, nurse, social worker, patient live psychiatry through these objects. These “non-humans”, to use the expression of Bruno Latour (1987), condition psychiatry much more strongly than a historiography focused on an analysis of the writings of psychiatrists reveals.

This angle makes it possible to answer two problems that arise in a reflection on psychiatry in particular, and on medicine in general. The first is the gap between theoretical discourse and practical implementation. To analyze the objectification of medical discourse, the putting into practice of psychiatric theories is a way of re-reading this questioning (Attfield 2000: 1). Then, it also allows us to observe the appropriation of these objects in practice by psychiatric populations rarely involved in the “imagination” of the object, but who are the first users, especially nurses and patients (Landzelius 2001). The aim here is to track the way in which nurses, patients and objects exhibit Eigensinn (Lüdtke 1994), a term that some French authors have beautifully translated as “rebel subjectivity”.


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