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Responding to institutional child abuse in Ireland: a Foucauldian analysis

O'Neachtain, Eoghan (2013). Responding to institutional child abuse in Ireland: a Foucauldian analysis. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


The research study was carried out, using Foucauldian Discourse Analysis, (FDA) and involved the analysis of three statutory reports into institutional child abuse in Ireland: The Cussen Report (1936), The Kennedy Report (1970) and the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (2009). In addition to this, an analysis was carried out on interviews with civilians with regard to their responses to institutional child abuse. My study highlights the difficulty in demarcating institutional from institutionalised abuse and demonstrates how visual technology constructs the response to institutional child abuse. The research has brought to light significant discourses, such as a behaviourist discourse in which the subjectivity of the industrial school child was found to be constructed through the body. The key finding in this study relates to the manner in which the response to institutional abuse in Ireland appears to be bound up with processes of splitting of self and object. Subjectivity was identified as split and constructed as blind/seeing, able/disabled, male/female and so on and I have called this a fractured subjectivity. Moreover, the construction of splits in selves was shown to extend to splits between various out groups and in groups, resulting in agency and responsibility being delegated to others. Subjectivity was identified as thoroughly gendered and it was concluded that separation of gender from sex may allow for ways of rethinking essentialist accounts of personhood. The industrial school was identified as a disciplining and subjugating structure of those inside the institution and those outside the institution.

The objective of this study is to inquire into how response to institutional child abuse in Ireland is constructed through discourse, thus shedding light on how the response is constrained or liberated by specific discourses and on how individuals are positioned by these discourses. The method I have chosen to meet this objective is discourse analysis inspired by the work of Michel Foucault, and is sometimes referred to as Foucauldian Discourse Analysis (FDA). The rationale for adopting this method is discussed in the following chapter. Before introducing the socio-historical context of my research and its relation to previous research, the next section will begin with a clarification of the object of my study.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
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