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27-31 August 2019
Poznań, Poland
Europe/Warsaw timezone
programme last update: 23 August 2019
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Contribution Paper

Poznań, Poland - Morasko Kampus, room: 2.20

Facing the unknown: negotiating the medicalization of juvenile delinquency in France



Primary authors


Drawing from a year-long ethnographic immersion in the services of the French Juvenile Judicial Services in Paris, this paper examines psychiatric rehabilitation alternatives to youth imprisonment. The contemporary surge in juvenile delinquency, youth extremism and radicalization, as well as conduct disorders among adolescents have challenged the rehabilitative and containment potential of the prison. Youngsters come out of incarceration being radicalized, in deeper drug dependencies, and often with aggravated long-standing psychic traumas from abuse or solitary confinement. Since 1945, France has been devising alternative experimental institutions where criminal youth could be hosted, contained but also rehabilitated. The triple psychiatric, psychological and educative investment of adjudicated adolescents, aims at reintegrating these alienated adolescents in novel social webs, allow them to construct personal projects for the future, and provide them with the psychiatric and psychological support that is necessary to many. This paper explores some of these experimental approaches by examining how the alienated, criminal and sometimes radicalized youth of the Parisian banlieue, invest these opportunities and weave meaningful relationships with their care-takers. How diagnostic categories, ranging from conduct disorder and antisocial personality to psychopathy and borderline personality disorder, are negotiated among psychiatrists, psychologists and specialized educators. The ethnographic vignettes will complicate the motivational positionalities of social actors and appose the implicit demand for a psychiatric diagnostic of educators and families seeking refuge in the safety, clarity and exculpation of a psychiatric diagnostic and the hesitant reticence of pedopsychiatrists to medicalize deviance.