Spring 2023

The Psychic Lives of Power

Listed in: Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought, as LJST-209


Nica M. Siegel (Section 01)


The French philosopher Michel Foucault has famously argued that mental illness is a juridical question of the first order, not only because the “mad” are on the receiving end of abuses of power, but also because madness constantly makes claims back to law, throwing into question its most basic precepts.  This course will take up this claim in relation to the making of the legal subject, the formation of legal institutions, and the work of social transformation.  We will also consider how taking pathology seriously as a critical form, drawing on feminist and disability studies, might allow us to throw into question that which is often normalized through law, for example the purported solidity and desirability of the patriarchal family, or the productivity of capitalist labor.  In the last third of the course, we will take the project of decolonial psychiatry as an extended case study in the relation between psychic forms and legal and political struggles.

Thinkers include Sigmund Freud, Judith Butler, Michel Foucault, François Tosquelles, Frantz Fanon, Peter Goodrich, Judge Schreber, Theodor Adorno, Bonnie Honig, Gilles Deleuze, Camille Robcis, Danielle Carr, and Kathi Weeks.  We will also draw on literary examples and scenes from film.

Limited to 30 students. Spring semester. Visiting Assistant Professor Siegel.

How to handle overenrollment: Priority will be given to LJST majors

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Students who enroll in this class will build skills in seminar discussion, close reading, analytic reading across genres, and historical and theoretical writing.

LJST 209 - LEC

Section 01
Tu 10:00 AM - 11:20 AM CHAP 201
Th 10:00 AM - 11:20 AM CHAP 201


Other years: Offered in Spring 2023