Arthur W. Frank’s The Wounded Story Teller and Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish

Arthur W. Frank’s The Wounded Story Teller and Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish

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This discussion paper intends to address the difference between witness, on the one hand, and observation, judgement and examination on the other hand. Through the consideration of a social context, these conceptual frameworks will be contrasted in terms of their purpose, the knowledge gain once applied to the social world and social beings as well as the potential implications of their implementation. Conclusions will be drawn from the evidence as to whether these conceptual lenses aid in the understanding of the social world and in turn the nature of the human condition.
Arthur W. Frank’s The Wounded Story Teller and Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish illustrate the opposing situations of witness and observation, judgement and examination, through which the underlying social assumptions that allow for the application of these instruments are also exposed. Frank defines the process of witness as the assuming of “responsibility for telling what happened. The witness offers testimony to a truth that is generally unrecognised or suppressed” (Reference) whereby “testimony calls on its witness to become what none of us are yet, communicative bodies”(Reference). Interpretatively, to witness is to acknowledge otherness in its most natural form, communion, through which one is able to share the experience of emotionally challenging situations so as to lessen the burden of bearing testimony.
Michel Foucault as a part of his extensive exploration of the system of discipline and punishment declares that “the success of disciplinary power derives no doubt from the use of simple instruments; hierarchical observation, normalising judgement and their combination in a procedure that is specific to it, examination” (Reference), hen...


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...After considering witness on the one hand, and observation, judgement and examination on the other hand in terms of its purpose, the knowledge gained and the implications of its application it is clear that witness must be the only tool used for the analysis of human beings and as a conceptual framework for human interaction. Witness as a conceptual lens provides a basis which enhances our current understanding of the social world and in turn the nature of the human condition through the recognition of otherness. Observation, judgement and examination, gains merit from its ability to create a sense of belonging from the process of normalisation and judgement by beginning to value difference, however it does not aid our understanding of the social world due to its corrective purpose that eliminates individuality and anomalies within the human condition.

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