In its search for the pathological in the human body, modern medicine found itself. The historical timeline of this discovery may be contested, but its reliance on “opening a few corpses” is certain (Foucault [1963] 1975, 124). To know the body, to diagnose and cure it, required evidence of deviance from the normal, which as a concept can only exist in constant proximity to shifting conceptions of the pathological (Canguilhem 1991; Foucault [1963] 1975; Foucault [1976] 1990; see “Normal”). For Foucault’s mentor Canguilhem, whose work lays a foundation for future interrogations of the normal, to “discern what is normal or pathological for the body itself, one must look beyond the body” (Canguilhem 1991, 200–201). We cannot, then, know what is normal for the body (or the individual) before we establish what is pathological, and what is pathological depends largely on culture and context. Canguilhem, like Foucault, draws attention to the construction of normalizing institutions, like medicine, to highlight the tensions and oscillations between the pathological and the normal that reach beyond physiology into culture, from organic matter to social interactions. Notions of normalcy and pathology are, therefore, constructed and evolving. These insights expose the conceit that medicine is a science...

This essay may be found on page 157 of the printed volume.

Works Cited
Permanent Link to this Essay