Therapeutic practices and collectives


Convened by Josep Rafanell i Orra

                                                   « Sutty went away and brooded …
                                                   It always came back to words.
                                                   Like the Greeks with their Logos,
                                                   the Hebrew Word that was God.
                                                   But this was words. Not the
                                                   Logos, the Word, but words. Not
                                                   one but many, many… Nobody
                                                   made the world, ruled the world,
                                                   told the world to be. It was. It
                                                   Ursula Le Guin. The Telling.

The social management of the healthcare system presupposes institutions that effect a separation between healthcare providers and healthcare receivers, between those in possession of knowledge and those to whom this knowledge is applied. In these dystopian times, the old disciplinary world seems to have returned, along with its punitive logic, hybridising with apparatuses of control to produce standardised experiences and identities determined by illness.

In this way, an unemployed person will be apprehended as a (benefit-receiving) jobseeker — incompetent, asocial, and suspected of “taking advantage of the system”. Likewise, a person who claims to hear voices ‘in their head’ and who might sometimes enter into conversation with them will be considered a psychotic ignorant of their own condition. A psychoactive substance-user will be apprehended as a narcissistic pervert or a person affected by a neuronal imbalance — prepared to commit the most heinous of acts just to satisfy his or her ‘fetishistic object relation’. A person living in substandard housing will be apprehended as a person unwilling to commit to a social inclusion programme, and a Romani person will of course be categorised as “a person who refuses to integrate”. And what about “the undocumented”? Here we have the ultimate aporia: a clandestine without world and without qualities, the taxonomic category of a sub-humanity which must remain invisible (even when performing construction work on the Paris tramway system).  We know that the singular strangeness of the outsider, first apprehended as a form of anomie, then as a deviancy to be normalised, tends ultimately to wind up as ‘the enemy’ to be neutralised.

Our only possible form of response to this pathologisation of lived experience lies in collective forms of experimentation with what we share, in attending to that which in singular relationships makes us all ill-adjusted. We no longer wish to entrust our ways of inhabiting the world to the supposed knowledge of specialists. We no longer want to be ‘represented’. Not by statistics or social classifications or nosographies. We are not etiological beings, we are not a prognosis or a calculation of probabilities. We do not want our lives to become provisional practices. Our lives cannot be reduced to some kind of skills recognition scheme or human capital evaluation. In the face of the probable — and today the probable is the worst-case scenario — we need to bring about the possible.

Taking care of our relationships thus signifies letting ourselves be transformed by our encounters — in other words, engaging with alternative becomings. There can be no encounter in a context where sameness reigns supreme — a world characterised by the fear of disorder, the passion for mastery and the homogenisation of control. An encounter, the prelude to a new community, always entails engaging with difference.
More than ever we need to foster sites of hospitality in order to enable the collective construction of our sensory experiences. For what are acts and words of hospitality if not the encounters that rhythm the becoming of a community? Hospitality is the set of gestures and words we use to receive/welcome that which is foreign/strange. As Ivan Illich states, it took some lengthy historical forcing for hospitality, first destined for the unexpected stranger, enabling ties with other worlds, to become the hospitalism of our westernised regions; and for illness, deviance and abnormality to become associated with that which is foreign or strange.

We want to share in the crafting of new modes for understanding our singular experiences, to welcome alternative regimes of awareness than those of the healthcare apparatuses which prevent us from having shared experiences. This will entail renouncing the guarantee of ‘legitimate’ forms of knowledge and their regimes of visibility. The medical clinic, psychopathology, and sociological determinations have brought about a slow process of sedimentation of knowledge, presenting experiences of abnormality while rendering difference pathological.
The logic of coproduction of collective knowledge carries a cost: re-appropriating that which singularly differs from the norm means taking the risk of renouncing the evidence of the knowledge of those who are supposed to know, on our behalf, what pathology is. In opposition to causalist notions, foundations, universal structures and all forms of determinism, we will need to ‘situate’ our knowledge, to be as experience-near as possible, to attend to the singular condition of emergence of the new that is given to us to share. The making of a common world is a process of composition that comes about through heterogenesis, through mutual transformations which call for new sensibilities.

« Making our experiences felt », that will be our initial focus — not to foster a logic of compassion but to make new experiences and alternative, collective ways of engaging with these experiences possible.
This also entails crafting new problems, to be apprehended as ‘friendly’ problems. Therapeutic care as a relational practice is always about friendship.
But therapeutic practices cannot be subtracted or set apart from the creation of a polemical field, from the antagonism with health management institutions. If care is always apprehended as taking care of a situation that we inhabit and which alters us, then it can no longer be about being represented. And it then becomes impossible to accept being governed.  We can at last start to pull apart the logic that establishes an asymmetrical relationship between care providers and care receivers, between the governing and the governed.

We have scheduled a series of workshops due to begin in January 2016. For each session we will be inviting people who have either taken part in experimental forms of collective care, or in forms of resistance to the apparatuses that assign the labels of mental illness or deviance. The purpose of these sessions is not to demonstrate the ‘exemplary’ character of a handful of experiences and experimentations, but simply to present collective ‘cases’.  An isolated case establishes its own potentiality, which specifies its singularity, but also possible resonances with other cases which, themselves, in their situatedness, in their singular collective composition, elude any generalisation. These sessions will therefore be about identifying possible associations and alliances. To this end, we will need to produce new narratives and to attend to the words transmitted.

28 January 2016, 7 pm
« L’usage de drogues, hier et aujourd’hui. Quelles pratiques d’auto-support dans l’adversité de la prohibition ? » // Substance use, past and present. Looking at self-support practices in the face of prohibition.

25 février 2016, 19h
« Collectifs de personnes « expertes par expérience » : qu’est-ce que ça change dans les pratiques  des professionnels de la psychiatrie ? »  //  Collectives of ‘experts by experience’: how do they impact the practices of psychiatric health professionals?

31 mars 2016, 19h
« Communauté des corps transfigurés. Créations collectives autour de la maladie somatique »  //  A community of transfigured bodies. Collective undertakings related to somatic illness.

28 avril 2016, 19h
« Prostitution : travail, stigmatisation et salut. Des collectifs de travailleurs du sexe contre les pratiques policières »  //  Prostitution: work, stigmatisation and salvation. Sex worker collectives against police practices.

19 mai 2016, 19h
« Rendre la ville habitable : vivre et errer dans la rue »  //  Making the city habitable. Living in and wandering the streets


A l’approche de chaque séance, on proposera la présentation des intervenants invités et d’un certain nombre de problématisations élaborées avec eux.