Tag: discourse analysis

On Xenophobia during the Pandemic – A Lacanian Perspective



The aim of this article is: (a) to argue that the UK governments’ authoritarian response to the COVID-19 pandemic is inciting a qualitative shift in discourse structures that are transforming xenophobia into a radically totalitarian force; and (b) to demonstrate that even ostensibly voluntarist libertarian discourse also creates conditions for the psyche that incite the same totalitarian xenophobic transformation. I use two approaches to the relation between authoritarianism and xenophobia in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK and the debates over the benefits and harms of ‘lockdowns’ (state-enforced, legally binding restrictions on social interaction to reduce infection transmission). First, I use Lacanian theory in a socio-cultural critique to explain the on-going shift, during the pandemic, towards an increasingly totalitarian psyche, that is intensifying and transforming xenophobia. The anti-democratic imposition of new laws induces agencies and civilians to over-zealously report and punish violators. I present xenophobic activities that are signs of a developing totalitarian psyche that over-represses and ultimately negates the humanity of the other and feels a duty to punish the ‘other’ as a moral good. Second, I use Lacanian discourse analysis to analyse an example of ostensibly libertarian anti-lockdown discourse. The analysis disorganises and disentangles the underlying non-sensical symbolic values and structure of words or signifiers. This reveals how these signifiers: (a) create discrete identities for social groups of ‘minority’ non-sensible others; who are (b) blamed as the cause of harm to the sensible ‘majority’; and (c) function socially to effectively demand that the ‘minority’ groups isolate themselves, as if voluntarily, and are to be isolated, actually and metaphorically, by the xenophobic ‘majority’. The apparently liberal democratic discourse is shown to be performative of a totalitarian system of mastery and xenophobic attitudes and behaviours.

Fodder for Medical Perverts – Zizekian?

My latest work is exploring a Lacanian approach to the discourse analysis of Evidence Based Medicine. It is looking at a discourse of (and the site of struggle around) what was called Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy (or FII now, Fabricated Induced Illness) where mothers (usually) allegedly cause symptoms in their children to ‘attract’ medical attention for themselves, so it is said anyway.

The basic idea here is that we can use psychoanalysis to explore notions of Prohibition, Truth and Enjoyment as a tool to tackle ideology (after Parker, I, after Slavoj Zizek).

The analysis focuses on the activities of ‘superstar’ expert Paediatricians Roy Meadow and David Southall. They accused many mothers, in the late 1990s, early 2000s, of harming and even murdering their babies, and provided ‘evidence’ for courts, but several cases have now been overturned (Clark, Patel, Cannings, and others) and both Doctors have fallen from grace, discredited (though with some champions still) , and were struck off the medical register at different times for giving e.g. extreme prejudicial stereotyping, ‘simply wrong’ information, ‘grossly misleading evidence’ and showing’ ‘deep seated attitudinal problems’..

An account I am creating suggests these individuals, (frozen psychically as objects of jouissance for The Other, and horrified by the (m)Other’s lack of The Phallus) demonstrate the acting out of the clinical psychoanalytic structure of ‘perversion’ (using Lacan’s particular use of the term) , and that their extreme grandiose lawlessness as ‘Primal Fathers’ exposes the anxiety and auto-erotic drives of Medicine (its ‘obscene superego underbelly’) itself functioning as a ‘stable’ discursive formation which, (as a gendered masculine agent), demands subjects to “Be Normal!”, and which disavows ‘not-knowing’ (e.g the cause of ‘cot deaths’), so that Medicine, through discourses, situates subjects (gendered feminised agents) as that which must be known (possessed or enjoyed), firstly: reified objects (patients) and secondly: as possessing objects of desire they must hand over: such as the ‘murdering mother’s baby’, ‘the intoxicated addict’s heroin’, ‘the cancer-thief’s cancerous tissue’, ‘the dis-eased patient’s pathology’ etc.

I argue that this process (Evidence Based Medicine under Capitalism) is ‘Feeding The Beast’: our infinite capacity for medicalisation (or overdiagnosis). The transgressive, unstable, uncertain-gendered, and perverted rogue doctors make the exploitation (The Real) in this process visible to all.

Are the ‘medical perverts’ a necessary production of the antagonisms of the ideology that is Modern Medicine under Capitalism? If they are where are they today?