Killer in our Midst: Part One

An Analysis of Court Transcripts Pertaining to the Defence of Stewart Wilken in Die Staat Teen Stewart Wilken

Published in: South African Journal of Philosophy
Volume 22, issue 4, 2003 , pages: 289–305
DOI: 10.4314/sajpem.v22i4.31375
Author(s): Andrea HurstPhilosophy, Centre for Advanced Studies University of Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Abstract

In the spirit of the work edited by Michel Foucault (1975) on Pierre Rivière, I propose to put philosophy to work by tackling a case study in which I shall analyse certain court transcripts that pertain to the defence of serial killer, Stewart Wilken, in Die Staat Teen Stewart Wilken. My analysis of these documents is intended to uncover the practices and struggles of the discourses that come together, and into conflict, at this event. The analysis is divided into two parts. In Part One, I thematize subjectivity in relation to the idea of enlightenment autonomy. Here I aim to show that the discourses in law, psychiatry and psychology that dominated at Wilken’s trial, appear to have undergone “normalization.” In other words, what Foucault uncovered as early internecine struggles among discourses for supremacy have given way to a unanimous stance concerning the nature of the autonomous subject and its legal ramifications; effectively silencing alternatives. In Part Two, I shall skirt around the frayed edges of these dominant discourses, with the aim of showing in more detail how internal theoretical tensions, such as those evident in the expert testimony given at Wilken’s trial, may open up spaces for other accounts of subject-formation.

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