McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
Neuropsychology, autoethnography, performativity, Disability Rights Movement
Neuropsychology in the United States initially strove to diagnose brain damage. Recently, this diagnostic task has been largely usurped by the emergence of neuroimaging. Despite the encroachment upon the traditional territory of neuropsychology, neuropsychology has continued relatively unchanged. Personally encountering neuropsychology from the multiple positions of patient, family member, and training professional, I wondered about the forces operating that prevented neuropsychology from evolving. I speculated that unseen forces operated to keep neuropsychology stagnant and that the neuropsychologist's function was largely unarticulated. I further speculated that the hidden functions involved very particular (problematic) relationships. This dissertation aims to begin to highlight those hidden forces in the service of creating more liberatory performances of neuropsychology. Using a multi-perspectival autoethnographic approach, and calling upon Judith Butler's (1999) notion of performativity, I set out to explore the constructed role of neuropsychologists and neuropsychology patients. After exploring the position and function of the neuropsychologist, I sought to imagine new, more liberatory, performances of neuropsychology. With Butler's (1999) performativity informing the way that I approach these questions, I turned to the experiences of my multiple selves on the neurobehavioral unit. I made use of the work of Foucault (1964, 1965, 1975) and Baudrillard (1995) in order to make sense of these experiences. I discovered that the neuropsychologist was valorized in contrast to the patient, repeating a process similar to that outlined in Foucault's (1965) Madness and civilization. Further, I found that patients were stripped of the psychological and contextual, reminiscent of the living corpse characteristic of the anatomo-clinical phase in Foucault's (1974) Birth of the clinic. I realized that neuroimaging was exalted to a god-like status, promising to ensure order and certainty. These false promises parallel the hyperreal of Baudrillard's (1995) simulacra. Armed with this new understanding of the performances of neuropsychologists and their patients, I provide new performances – both fantasized and actual – that can offer hope to both neuropsychologist and neuropsychology patient.
Hennessy, K. (2009). Imag(in)ing Neuro-Psychology: A Multi-Perspectival, Critical, Autoethnographic Study (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/648