Heterotopic Body and Gaze

August 16, 2011

Michel Foucault’s ‘Birth of the Clinique’ investigates the origin of clinic as a form of political move within the civilised community. As he states philosophy is a perspective looking into the origin or source of an issue, interest or subject and provide perhaps a different perspective to the ‘cure’ for subject which he has also provided at the end of the reader. In my perspective, his suggestion to the ‘cure’ of the complexity and complications of modern mutated disease by “free spatialisation for disease, with no privileged region,” (Foucault, 1989) is rather naïve.

I believe, the birth of the heterotopic clinic and hospital is due to the human nature of self-conservation that we have the tendency to group and ostracize any abnormalities of the general norm and that of which poses a danger to self. No commoner would understand and accept the Foucault presents as what the zeitgeist knowledge notes as ‘no common sense’.

My true interest of this interest lies in the heterotopic nature of the human body and does Affect plays a role in the Affect notion of a person. I will begin with the latter which quoted by Naomi – ‘Emotion is the effect of affect’; disease as known to produce uncomfortable symptoms and even the possibility of death. This notion of uncertainty can imply an affective stand for our emotions of fear and unhappiness. Thus my interest in this reader was the affective role within the body resonating within the body itself without external influence. The loop of affect is self-contained.

The clinic and hospital is a form of heterotopia with the idea essentially to segregate the abnormalities from the normalities in the society. It is also a locus of affect where many emotions arises from this one single spot in a city. People find relieve, fear, sadness, and happiness with its sense of security and insecurity the clinic and hospital provides. Just the idea of going to such an institute produces a strong affect of insecurity (family member landed in hospital) or happiness (birth of a new family member). There is a strong duality of affect spatiality.

In ‘Birth of the Clinique’, the human body can be seen in Foucault’s understanding as a heterotopia, a heterotopic vessel. Through the medical gaze, a professional can separate and isolate the disease with the body and the person as an individual (personality). This heterotopic (inclusion and exclusion) quality influences and brings the medical practitioner into a heterotopia much like that of a cinema when one finds himself in a space of duality spaces in a single real space.

– Barry Lim

-Michel Foucault, ‘Spaces and Classes’ in The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception, London: Routledge, 1989.

-Michel Foucault, ‘Of Other Spaces’ in Diacritics, vol. 16, no. 1, Spring, 1986, pp. 22-27.

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