Clinic and Affect

August 18, 2011

The clinic has been a key institution since the advent of civilisation. It is an institution charged with the care of the sick in society and as such has become a physical embodiment of disease. Although it is charged with the care of the sick, the clinic itself is a dehumanising institution. The patient is treated as an accident of their inflicting disease. They are perceived as merely a carrier, a subject of the disease that will reveal itself to the doctor’s gaze. The patient is left to wonder, to occupy isolation under observation from the powers above. They are left at the mercy of the disease as the doctors gaze attempts to remove it from its host body, leaving the later with symptoms as well as a flurry of emotions stemming from the possibility of death and the isolation of the hospital bed.

The institutionalisation of medicine comes with it’s politicisation as it is generally the poor who get sick. If there was complete equality within society the role to the doctor would only be temporary and the clinic as an institution would become obsolete.

This essay will look at the clinic as an institution as discussed through the work of Michel Foucault who argues that the clinic is a politicised institution for the sick to be isolated from society and for disease to mutate and be distributed. It will use the works of Nigel Thrift and Brian Massumi to determine the affect felt by the patient and will investigate the materialisation of this affect through the representation of the clinic in film.

Adrian Rivalland


One Response to “Clinic and Affect”

  1. Adrian, so sad that you plan to leave us!
    Meanwhile, your first line is a very large generalisation, and you should know from our discussion of Foucault, that the modern institution of the clinic emerges at a specific historical juncture…it does not exist since the birth of civilisation?! Historically it was an older form of the hospital that collected the sick poor together, allowing for the circulation and hybridisation of disease…this model shifted, as Foucault argues. So, you are confusing your time periods somewhat and lumping things altogether.
    I think if you had a specific clinic, or else a study of architects and designers approaches to the clinic today (see dedicated edition of the journal Artichoke for example), then your essay would gain some much needed specificity! Feel free to come and sit in even if you unenrol!

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