The Norm___ and the Pathological

Kevin Gotkin


In this paper, I read The Normal and the Pathological by French philosopher Georges Canguilhem for what it can offer disability theory. I examine how the field has already taken up the text but further, I argue for The Normal and the Pathological as a keystone of disability theory (currently taken up with curiously reserved energy). I start with a précis on the text before offering a condensed citation analysis of the book. In the latter part of the paper, I suggest how the monograph might inform current conversations and I offer possibilities for it to deepen and complicate core notions about disability, including the social model, norms, normalcy, and the normate. I conclude by suggesting that Canguilhem’s philosophical intervention can be understood as "propulsive atavism" – an excavation of medical epistemology in order to map and reconfigure its legacies – and I propose this as one methodological template for disability scholarship.


disability theory; philosophy of medicine; methodology; normalcy

Full Text:



Copyright (c) 2016 Kevin Gotkin

Beginning with Volume 36, Issue No. 4 (2016), Disability Studies Quarterly is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license unless otherwise indicated. 

Disability Studies Quarterly is published by The Ohio State University Libraries in partnership with the Society for Disability Studies.

If you encounter problems with the site or have comments to offer, including any access difficulty due to incompatibility with adaptive technology, please contact the web manager, Terri Fizer.

ISSN: 2159-8371 (Online); 1041-5718 (Print)