, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 17-35

Voices of Silence: Foucault, Disability, and the Question of Self-determination

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Abstract

In this paper I examine two controversialissues that occurred in two different centuriesbut that are inextricably linked with eachother – the 1835 murder committed by a Frenchpeasant, Pierre Riviere and documented byMichel Foucault and the 1990's debate regardingthe controversial methods of FacilitatedCommunication used with students labeledautistic in the United States. In this paper Iargue that both controversies foreground thecrisis of the humanist subject. In other words,I argue that both controversies are generatedby a seemingly simple question: Are personsidentified as mentally disabledcapable/incapable of representing themselves?In response to this question, I will use amaterialist analysis to explore theimplications that the poststructuralistdepiction of the humanist subject as a fictionholds for both the Riviere case and theFacilitated Communication debate.