Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

"Veux-tu regarder, bourreau!": The Somanormative Dimensions of the Diderotian Citoyen

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2010), 4, (1), 73–88.

Abstract

Writing at the convergence of medical discourse and the philosophical discourse of statecraft, the philosophe Diderot was firmly within the grasp of the noso-politics of the eighteenth century. The article argues that the Lettre sur les aveugles poses an example of somanormativity: a concept meant to denote the hegemony of compulsory ablebodiedness and mandatory independence. Thus, through a reading of Diderot's major works the article seeks to demonstrate how citizenship is ineluctably bound to categories of exclusion. Through a discourse of supercripping, disabled people exemplify a trajectory to normalcy that is to be instructive for all unenlightened citizens. Moreover, by vaunting the achievements of his subjects as extraordinary, disability, through the illogic of overcoming, becomes further understood as a primary manqué. Paradoxically, then, the acceptance of blind people engenders a somanormative binary of ability versus disability that ultimately gives shape to the otherwise amorphous category of citoyen.

Access Token
£25.00
READ THIS ARTICLE
If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Corker, Mairian and Tom Shakespeare. "Mapping the Terrain." Disability/Postmodernity. Ed. Mairian Corker and Tom Shakespeare. New York: Continuum, 2002. 1–17. Mapping the Terrain Disability/Postmodernity 1 17 Google Scholar

Creech, James. Diderot: Thresholds of Representation. Columbus, OH: Ohio SUP, 1986. Diderot: Thresholds of Representation Google Scholar

Curran, Andrew. Sublime Disorder: Physical Monstrosity in Diderot's Universe. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 2001. Sublime Disorder: Physical Monstrosity in Diderot's Universe Google Scholar

Darnton, Robert. The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History. New York: Basic Books, 1984. The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History Google Scholar

Degenaar, Marjolein. Molyneux's Problem: Three Centuries of Discussion on the Perception of Forms. Trans. Michael J. Collins. Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1996. Molyneux's Problem: Three Centuries of Discussion on the Perception of Forms Google Scholar

Diderot, Denis. "Addition to the Preceding Letter." Diderot's Early Philosophical Works. Trans. and ed. Margaret Jourdain. Chicago, IL: Open Court P, 1916. 142–157. Addition to the Preceding Letter Diderot's Early Philosophical Works 142 157 Google Scholar

——. "Autorité politique." Denis Diderot: Political Writings. Trans. and ed. John Hope Mason and Robert Wokler. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1992. 6–11. Autorité politique Denis Diderot: Political Writings 6 11 Google Scholar

——. "Citoyen" Denis Diderot: Political Writings. Trans. and ed. John Hope Mason and Robert Wokler. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1992. 14–17. Citoyen Denis Diderot: Political Writings 14 17 Google Scholar

——. "Droit naturel" Denis Diderot: Political Writings. Trans. and ed. John Hope Mason and Robert Wokler. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1992. 17–21. Droit naturel Denis Diderot: Political Writings 17 21 Google Scholar

——. "The Encyclopedia." Rameau's Nephew and Other Works. Trans. Jacques Barzun and Ralph H. Bowen. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 2001. 277–308. The Encyclopedia Rameau's Nephew and Other Works 277 308 Google Scholar

——. "The Letter on the Blind for the Use of Those Who See." Diderot's Early Philosophical Works. Trans. and ed. Margaret Jourdain. Chicago: Open Court P, 1916. 68–141. The Letter on the Blind for the Use of Those Who See Diderot's Early Philosophical Works 68 141 Google Scholar

Foucault, Michel. The Birth of the Clinic: An Archeology of Medical Perception. New York: Vintage, 1994. The Birth of the Clinic: An Archeology of Medical Perception Google Scholar

——. The Order of Things: An Archeology of the Human Sciences. New York: Routledge, 2002. The Order of Things: An Archeology of the Human Sciences Google Scholar

——. "The Politics of Health in the Eighteenth Century." Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972–1977. Ed. and trans. Colin Gordon. New York: Pantheon, 1980. 166–182. The Politics of Health in the Eighteenth Century Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972–1977 166 182 Google Scholar

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature. New York: Columbia UP, 1997. Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature Google Scholar

Gitter, Elisabeth. The Imprisoned Guest: Samuel Howe and Laura Bridgman, the Original Deaf-Blind Girl. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001. The Imprisoned Guest: Samuel Howe and Laura Bridgman, the Original Deaf-Blind Girl Google Scholar

Kleege, Georgina. "Blindness and Visual Culture: An Eyewitness Account." Journal of Visual Culture 4 (2005): 179–190. Blindness and Visual Culture: An Eyewitness Account Journal of Visual Culture 4 179 190 Google Scholar

Locke, John. The Correspondence of John Locke. Ed. E. S. de Beer. Vol. IV. Oxford: Clarendon P, 1979. The Correspondence of John Locke IV Google Scholar

Paulson, William R. Enlightenment, Romanticism, and the Blind in France. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1987. Enlightenment, Romanticism, and the Blind in France Google Scholar

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. "Discourse on the Origin of Inequality." The Basic Political Writings. Trans. and ed. Donald A. Cress. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1987. 25–81. Discourse on the Origin of Inequality The Basic Political Writings 25 81 Google Scholar

——. Discours sur l'origine et les fondements de l'inégalité parmi les hommes. Ed. Jacques Roger. Paris: Flammarion, 1992. Discours sur l'origine et les fondements de l'inégalité parmi les hommes Google Scholar

Shapin, Steven and Simon Schaffer. Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle and the Experimental Life. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1985. Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle and the Experimental Life Google Scholar

Shapiro, Joseph P. No Pity: People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement. New York: Times Books, 1994. No Pity: People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement Google Scholar

Siebers, Tobin. Disability Theory. Ann Arbor, MI: U Michigan P, 2008. Disability Theory Google Scholar

Stiker, Henri-Jacques. A History of Disability. Trans. William Sayers. Ann Arbor, MI: U Michigan P, 1999. A History of Disability Google Scholar

Tremain, Shelley. "On the Subject of Impairment." Disability/Postmodernity: Embodying Disability Theory. Ed. Mairian Corker and Tom Shakespeare. New York: Continuum, 2002. 32–47. On the Subject of Impairment Disability/Postmodernity: Embodying Disability Theory 32 47 Google Scholar

Wendell, Susan. The Rejected Body: Feminist Philosophical Reflections on Disability. New York: Routledge, 1996. The Rejected Body: Feminist Philosophical Reflections on Disability Google Scholar

Corker, Mairian and Tom Shakespeare. "Mapping the Terrain." Disability/Postmodernity. Ed. Mairian Corker and Tom Shakespeare. New York: Continuum, 2002. 1–17. Mapping the Terrain Disability/Postmodernity 1 17 Google Scholar

Creech, James. Diderot: Thresholds of Representation. Columbus, OH: Ohio SUP, 1986. Diderot: Thresholds of Representation Google Scholar

Curran, Andrew. Sublime Disorder: Physical Monstrosity in Diderot's Universe. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 2001. Sublime Disorder: Physical Monstrosity in Diderot's Universe Google Scholar

Darnton, Robert. The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History. New York: Basic Books, 1984. The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History Google Scholar

Degenaar, Marjolein. Molyneux's Problem: Three Centuries of Discussion on the Perception of Forms. Trans. Michael J. Collins. Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1996. Molyneux's Problem: Three Centuries of Discussion on the Perception of Forms Google Scholar

Diderot, Denis. "Addition to the Preceding Letter." Diderot's Early Philosophical Works. Trans. and ed. Margaret Jourdain. Chicago, IL: Open Court P, 1916. 142–157. Addition to the Preceding Letter Diderot's Early Philosophical Works 142 157 Google Scholar

——. "Autorité politique." Denis Diderot: Political Writings. Trans. and ed. John Hope Mason and Robert Wokler. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1992. 6–11. Autorité politique Denis Diderot: Political Writings 6 11 Google Scholar

——. "Citoyen" Denis Diderot: Political Writings. Trans. and ed. John Hope Mason and Robert Wokler. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1992. 14–17. Citoyen Denis Diderot: Political Writings 14 17 Google Scholar

——. "Droit naturel" Denis Diderot: Political Writings. Trans. and ed. John Hope Mason and Robert Wokler. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1992. 17–21. Droit naturel Denis Diderot: Political Writings 17 21 Google Scholar

——. "The Encyclopedia." Rameau's Nephew and Other Works. Trans. Jacques Barzun and Ralph H. Bowen. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 2001. 277–308. The Encyclopedia Rameau's Nephew and Other Works 277 308 Google Scholar

——. "The Letter on the Blind for the Use of Those Who See." Diderot's Early Philosophical Works. Trans. and ed. Margaret Jourdain. Chicago: Open Court P, 1916. 68–141. The Letter on the Blind for the Use of Those Who See Diderot's Early Philosophical Works 68 141 Google Scholar

Foucault, Michel. The Birth of the Clinic: An Archeology of Medical Perception. New York: Vintage, 1994. The Birth of the Clinic: An Archeology of Medical Perception Google Scholar

——. The Order of Things: An Archeology of the Human Sciences. New York: Routledge, 2002. The Order of Things: An Archeology of the Human Sciences Google Scholar

——. "The Politics of Health in the Eighteenth Century." Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972–1977. Ed. and trans. Colin Gordon. New York: Pantheon, 1980. 166–182. The Politics of Health in the Eighteenth Century Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972–1977 166 182 Google Scholar

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature. New York: Columbia UP, 1997. Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature Google Scholar

Gitter, Elisabeth. The Imprisoned Guest: Samuel Howe and Laura Bridgman, the Original Deaf-Blind Girl. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001. The Imprisoned Guest: Samuel Howe and Laura Bridgman, the Original Deaf-Blind Girl Google Scholar

Kleege, Georgina. "Blindness and Visual Culture: An Eyewitness Account." Journal of Visual Culture 4 (2005): 179–190. Blindness and Visual Culture: An Eyewitness Account Journal of Visual Culture 4 179 190 Google Scholar

Locke, John. The Correspondence of John Locke. Ed. E. S. de Beer. Vol. IV. Oxford: Clarendon P, 1979. The Correspondence of John Locke IV Google Scholar

Paulson, William R. Enlightenment, Romanticism, and the Blind in France. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1987. Enlightenment, Romanticism, and the Blind in France Google Scholar

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. "Discourse on the Origin of Inequality." The Basic Political Writings. Trans. and ed. Donald A. Cress. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1987. 25–81. Discourse on the Origin of Inequality The Basic Political Writings 25 81 Google Scholar

——. Discours sur l'origine et les fondements de l'inégalité parmi les hommes. Ed. Jacques Roger. Paris: Flammarion, 1992. Discours sur l'origine et les fondements de l'inégalité parmi les hommes Google Scholar

Shapin, Steven and Simon Schaffer. Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle and the Experimental Life. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1985. Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle and the Experimental Life Google Scholar

Shapiro, Joseph P. No Pity: People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement. New York: Times Books, 1994. No Pity: People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement Google Scholar

Siebers, Tobin. Disability Theory. Ann Arbor, MI: U Michigan P, 2008. Disability Theory Google Scholar

Stiker, Henri-Jacques. A History of Disability. Trans. William Sayers. Ann Arbor, MI: U Michigan P, 1999. A History of Disability Google Scholar

Tremain, Shelley. "On the Subject of Impairment." Disability/Postmodernity: Embodying Disability Theory. Ed. Mairian Corker and Tom Shakespeare. New York: Continuum, 2002. 32–47. On the Subject of Impairment Disability/Postmodernity: Embodying Disability Theory 32 47 Google Scholar

Wendell, Susan. The Rejected Body: Feminist Philosophical Reflections on Disability. New York: Routledge, 1996. The Rejected Body: Feminist Philosophical Reflections on Disability Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Details

Author details

Caeton, D.

Caeton, D.