A TRIBUTE TO MICHAEL WHITE (2009) by D Epston

I believe what Michael most objected to and why he felt such a kinship with Foucault was the prevailing professional ways of seeing those who sought their help — ‘the gaze’. The feminist scholar, Marilyn Frye, refers to this as the ‘arrogant eye’ a gaze that takes the professional’s own standpoint as central; their opinions, desires and projects as the salient ones, their experience and understanding as what is the case. The ‘arrogant eye’, she writes, allows them to absorb the identities of others into their own. From the point of view of the ‘arrogant eye’, insofar as patients exist they exist for the professional. They are dismissed and degraded in the light of such an eye. Frye asserts that the ‘loving eye’ knows the independence of the other. It is an eye of one who knows that to see the seen, one must consult something other than one’s own will and interests. Under the ‘loving eye’, people who lay claim to certain kinds of knowledges aren’t unauthorized or de-legitimated because they are not regarded to be in a position to know. The ‘loving eye’ confers social standing on those who have been dismissed and degraded by the ‘arrogant eye’. I have no doubt that Michael looked upon everyone with what Frye referred to as a ‘loving eye’. To fall under Michael’s loving gaze you felt the utmost in respect-worthiness, which was in absolute contrast to the blameworthiness of so many of the psychological and psychiatric gazes.

 Michael had an inimitable voice and quaint vocabulary that bent the English language at times almost to its breaking point. He could be said to have willingly misused language to create new language.  One of my favourites is ‘knowledges’…

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