Accepted Paper:

Talking madness: ethical truths and the power of subjects  


Luigigiovanni Quarta (University of Pisa)

Paper short abstract:

What is the relationship that reality and delirium have with truth? Towards an anthropological approach to mental illness and confinement experience, I reflect on the sense of telling-the-truth as an ethical exercise that produces an agonistic and intersubjective Self.

Paper long abstract:

During my ethnography carried out in an Italian High Security Hospital for mentally ill offenders I encountered a fragmented social space where dichotomies are fuzzy.

Mediation systems emerge from everyday micro-practices, building an unstable sense of identity mainly produced by autobiographical narratives. Affirming the truth of their experiences, patients rethink the past and create a possible future through a vision of the present. But, unlike other practices, telling-the-truth is hardly negotiable.

In my paper I will outline the truth of one patient, Edgar, who murdered his mother.

The rehabilitation needs a rationalisation process and the acceptance of only one reality principle. This means binding mental health to the acceptance of social norms and a collective sense of justice. Psychiatrists' truth becomes a consistent moral act because it is socially relevant. It is a political act.

Edgar's answer is a symmetrical inversion of faults and justice: "My mother visits me every night; therefore, I'm innocent. Give back my freedom".

I argue truth is not only a logic predicate of utterances. We can consider telling-the-truth as a reflexive practice and an ethical action: the origin of a self-reflexive moral system informing one possible Self, used by the subject to act in the world in a relational way. We are in front of a specific Dasein.

Even inside the delirium the subject, in his absolute Otherness, remains a relational being-in-the-world but we should think about his truth in contrastive terms and his actions have to be understood in an intersubjective ethical dimension.

Panel RM-CPV08
Violence, the body and movement