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The Afterbirth of the Clinic: a Foucauldian perspective on "House M.D." and American medicine in the 21st century


Mirroring Michel Foucault's The Birth of the Clinic (1963), which describes the philosophical shift in medical discourse in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Fox television series House M.D. illustrates the shift in medical discourse emerging today. While Dr. Gregory House is Foucault's modern physician made flesh-an objective scientist who has perfected the medical gaze (le regard) and communicates directly with diseases instead of patients-his staff act as postmodern foils. They provide a parable about the state of biomedicine, still steeped in modernity but forced into a postmodern, managed care world. House M.D., however, is more than a mere depiction of the modern-postmodern tension that exists in today's exam rooms. It is an indication of a transition period in American medicine. House M.D. nostalgically celebrates what once was and simultaneously questions what currently is, while what is about to be is in the midst of becoming.