Critical Analysis of the Practice of Auricular Acupuncture on Mentally Ill Inmates Viewed through the Conceptual Lens of Governmentality

  • Janna Young


Utilizing a Foucauldian analysis of governmentality as an analytical framework, the purpose of this paper is to understand the historical conditions of existence upon which contemporary practices depend, particularly those that seem most puzzling and unsettling (Garland, 2001, pg. 2). The case study used as an example of a contemporary crime control practice is the performance of auricular acupuncture on mentally ill inmates in correctional settings. It is argued here that this practice is indicative of a neo-liberal governmental rationality because of the responsibilization of the participating inmates and the construction of them as active agents of self-change. The approach taken to analyze and problematize this contemporary criminal justice practice employed in this paper parallels the approach used by Foucault; genealogy. By facilitating an understanding of the historical, political, and social forces that participated in the emergence and maintenance of present-day practices, a genealogical account uses crime control history to understand the present. In addition to contextualizing the emergence of the practice of auricular acupuncture in institutional settings, the practice is also problematized for aligning with the broader political ethos of neo-liberal rationalities of governance. Lastly, a critique of the approach and implications for broader conceptions of justice are also included. In sum, it is argued that the governmental rationalities and technologies of governance exemplified in the practice of auricular acupuncture on mentally ill inmate populations represent a paradigm shift within substance of and justification for the governance of criminal justice.