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ERIC Number: EJ719671
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2005-Mar
Pages: 16
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0046-760X
The Taming of Disability: Phrenology and Bio-Power on the Road to the Destruction of Otherness in France (1800-60)
Verstraete, Pieter
History of Education, v34 n2 p119-134 Mar 2005
In the second half of the eighteenth century, intellectuals, stimulated by the sensualist theories of Etienne-Bonnot de Condillac (1714?80) and John Locke (1632?1704), tried to understand how a sensorially disabled person, such as one suffering from deafness or blindness was able to reason and develop ideas, for the senses were thought to be the basis of reasoning. Together with medical developments and religious motives, texts like Diderot?s "Letters on the Blind for the Use of Those Who See" (1749) and "Letter on the Deaf and Dumb for the Use of Those who Hear and Speak" (1752) increased interest in the vicissitudes of deaf and blind people and led towards the foundation of special institutions by the end of the eighteenth century. Through the work and publications of people such as Abb? de l?Ep?e (1712--89), Samuel Heinicke (1727--90) and Valentin Ha?y (1745?1822) the educability of deaf and blind people was disseminated throughout Western Europe. Until the end of the first half of the nineteenth century, mentally retarded people escaped the attention of the educational community. Because there were no accurate diagnostic instruments, some of these children slipped through the selection criteria used by institutions for deaf people, leading to pedagogical difficulties for the instructors. In the first half of the nineteenth century, gradually internal differentiation took place--at least in France and Germany. In March 1842 Karl Wilhelm Saegert (1809?79), director of the Royal Institution for the Deaf and Dumb in Berlin, diagnosed a young boy named Hermann Taube as deaf and dumb. Very soon Saegert changed his opinion but rather than casting the child off, he tried to make him capable of being educated. This led to the foundation in 1845 of the Institute for the Care and Education of the Mentally Handicapped in Berlin and the publication of the book "Attempted Healing of Feeble-mindedness in an Intellectual Way". In France, a Wild Boy captured at o of that institution, Jean-Marc Itard. Although Itard?s educational experiment can be seen as a starting point for the institutionalized care of mentally retarded children, it can be argued that the real breakthrough in the French notion of educability came with the rise of phrenology in Paris between 1800 and 1860. Rosen, Jak and Scheerenberger have pointed to what Scheerenberger has called ?the far-reaching effect of phrenology on the diagnosis and treatment of mental retardation? in Europe and the USA. Samuel Gridley Howe, who founded a school for feeble minded youth in south Boston in 1855, was heavily influenced by phrenological theory. This article will develop Scheerenberger?s statement, in respect of the French situation in the first half of the nineteenth century to argue that the shift from sensualism to phrenology made it possible, paradoxically, to see the mentally retarded as perfectible and thus educable. Using primary and secondary sources, the role of phrenology will be outlined in this article by examining the life and works of three prominent French phrenologists: Jacques-Etienne Belhomme, F?lix Voisin and Louis Delasiauve. Although the ?data? for this article will be provided by historical analysis, the ?method? will be of a more philosophical kind: a dialectical one. (Contains 89 footnotes.)
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Publication Type: Information Analyses; Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: France