International Association of Bioethics
Rotterdam, Netherlands
26-29 June 2012
Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) and the Ethics of Seclusion in Mental Health

This paper presents preliminary findings from empirical CIHR-funded research on the ethics of seclusion in the treatment of mental health patients. Drawing on interviews with nursing staff and with patients who have experienced seclusion as part of their hospital stay, we explore the use of IPA as an ethical methodology. IPA is a qualitative method originally developed for studies in health psychology (Colaizzi, 1976; Reid, Flowers, & Larkin, 2005; Smith, 1996, 2004). While it is a relatively new methodological approach, in recent years it has become increasingly popular in the human, social, and health sciences (Larkin, Watts, & Clifton, 2006; Smith, Flowers, & Larkin, 2009). The goal of a phenomenological study is to understand the ways in which individuals perceive the world around them and make sense of their lived experiences. Focusing on the body and its perception, IPA offers an alternative to cognitively oriented health psychology and the principle of autonomy favoured by analytic philosophy, “by looking in detail at how individuals talk about the stressful situations they face, and how they death with them, and by close consideration of the meanings they attach to them” (Smith, 1996, p. 270). We argue that an ethical approach must address the experiential gap that arises between the body that is both a subject in the world and a biomedical object of health care, which is especially salient in the psychiatric setting. We turn to phenomenology in an effort to understand the place of the lived-body (Husserl, 1970; Merleau-Ponty, 1962) in bioethics.

American Comparative Literature Association Annual Meeting
Brown University
Providence, Rhode Island
29 March – 1 April 2012
Foucault’s Ethical Turn: From khrēsis to catachresis

This paper explores Foucault’s turn to ethics in the last years of his career. In his re/turn to ancient thought, Foucault seeks to overturn modern ethics and politics founded in what he calls the “Cartesian moment.” I believe that Foucault’s ethics offers a rejoinder to the modern ethos and, in particular, to the biopolitical and neoliberal forms of governance that characterize our present. For Foucault, ethics is a turn, the turning of the self upon itself in the care of the self. In my reading, this is a rhetorical turn that reconfigures the subject rhetorically. From Plato’s Alcibiades, the self’s relation to itself is a relation of khrēsis; however, Foucault takes great pains to demonstrate that this is not an instrumental relation, as it is for the neoliberal subject. While khrēsis can be translated simply as “use,” it enjoys a more extended sense: it is an attitude, behavior, or, in the language of phenomenology, a comportment or intensional and directed engagement, perhaps even a being-in-the-world. This sense of khrēsis shares a great deal with the rhetorical figure of catachresis, commonly defined as the misuse or abuse of a word or expression. But the khrēsis, in some sense, relies on the catachresis, for it is in this trope that an abuse gets played precisely so as to expose the context or the scene in which normative use is maintained. This inaugurates a shift in ethical subjectivity towards the responsibility for those conditions (of possibility) within which an “ethical” ethics is upheld.


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