L’Arche, a Radical Reversal: Fearless Dialogue between Foucault and Vanier with the New Testament
(2020) Journal of Disability and Religion, 24 (2), pp. 151-173.
Today many of us are unaware and perhaps even deny the fact that our ideas, decisions, and choices are driven by fear whether obvious or subtle. In his seminal book, Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in an Age of Reason, Michel Foucault examines the archeology of madness wherein he illuminates how fear of the other has come to shape society’s moral compass toward persons adjudged as lamentable, engendering certain social constructs that have given shape to what he called the mutation of confinement. In other words, Foucault highlights the historical and cultural turning points that gave rise to the societal belief that necessitates the establishment of confinement. To “cage” people who are different from the composite identity position held by those unmarked by stigmatized identifiers—those who fall outside the “norm”—is perceived as a meaningful exercise toward the greater good and security of society. Juxtaposed with society’s “civilized” attitude toward persons regarded as lamentable and thus worthy of confinement is Jean Vanier’s understanding of the value and dignity of each person—a radical conviction that gave rise to L’Arche, a revolutionary attempt to dismantle the walls of fear within, between, and among us.
In what follows, Jean Vanier’s understanding of fear will be comparatively analyzed in relation to the dominant societal notion of fear in order to draw attention to the practical ways in which these ideas have consequences in L’Arche and society as a whole. Underlying this attempt is the contention that Vanier’s notion of fear entails a radical reversal of the “civilized norm” of confinement. This article proceeds in three parts and will offer a theological reflection which could serve as a catalyst for a world that remains enveloped with fear of the other, particularly those deemed different and deviant. © 2020, © 2020 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.
Deafness; disability; new testament; social inclusion; vulnerability