Trespass, crime and insanity: The social life of categories

Lydie Fialová*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract / Description of output

Then I went to the school for librarians and publishers in B, and I was as far as in the third year when this fatal episode with my mother happened, when I actually knifed her to death, and then I spend five month in the prison, and afterwards I was transferred – after the prosecution was suspended on the grounds of insanity – I was transferred here to this institution and here I am for a year and a quarter and I am waiting for what is to come. Josef K 2008 Although it might seem that anyone addressing the notions of crime and insanity, treatment and punishment inevitably finds themselves on Foucaultian territory, my aim in this chapter is not a dialogue with the work of Michel Foucault (1965, 1977), whom I consider a historian of a specific culture of classical France. His studies on the logic and technologies of power certainly have wide resonance and have influenced the ways in which we conceptualise and understand the historicity of contemporary practices, in the areas of both medicine and jurisprudence. However, in this contribution I intend to complement his perspective ‘from above’ with the perspective ‘from within’ and my interest is twofold: first, to understand what it means to interpret specific transgressive acts within specific frameworks – in this case moral, medical, legal and religious; second, to examine assumptions about the nature of such seemingly transgressive acts that allow people to place them in such general categories. As Hans Georg Gadamer demonstrated, meaning is not a quality of a thing as such, but is always derived from its context (Gadamer 1994). In this sense, the interpretative context is constitutive of meaning. I am therefore interested in the law and medicine as a resource for the interpretation of human action and behaviour, and in their normative role in human affairs. These interpretations presuppose as well as constitute the moral dimensions of reality.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Clinic and the Court: Law, Medicine and Anthropology
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)9781139923286, 9781107076242
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


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