'Looking into the countryside from where he had come: placing the 'idiot, the 'idiot school and different models of educating the uneducable

Philo, C. (2016) 'Looking into the countryside from where he had come: placing the 'idiot, the 'idiot school and different models of educating the uneducable. Cultural Geographies, 23(1), pp. 139-157. (doi: 10.1177/1474474015591123)

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The article begins with the story of ‘the savage of Aveyron’, a wild boy of the woods who some early 19th-century experts identified as an ‘idiot’ (a version of what is now widely termed ‘learning disability’). In seeking to tame, civilise and educate this boy, the French physician Itard learned to avoid wild nature, the remoter reaches of the rural, but still sought to enlist, as part of a thoroughly embodied training regime, encounters with patches of cultivated nature in Paris. A contrast is thereby suggested between different models and geographies of how the apparently ‘uneducable’ might be educated, one dwelling within the remote rural as a source of sensory enchantment and other enlisting domesticated ‘natural’ settings within a broader programme of disciplining the mind-body. This contrast is illustrated through the later 19th-century extremes of, first, Guggenbühl’s ‘idiot school’ on a remote Swiss mountain and, second, Séguin’s blueprint for a North American ‘idiot school’ with carefully regulated buildings, gardens and outdoor gymnasiums not too ‘isolated’ from urban areas. This contrast loosely maps on to disputes between Romanticism and Enlightenment, as well as on to shifts in forms of power enacted in educational establishments, and it informed specific controversies over where exactly to locate ‘idiot schools’ on the ground. The article concludes with brief reflections on such wider matters beyond the empirical materials to hand.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Philo, Professor Christopher
Authors: Philo, C.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences
Journal Name:Cultural Geographies
Publisher:Sage Publications Ltd.
ISSN (Online):1477-0881
Published Online:30 June 2015
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2015 The Author
First Published:First published in Cultural Geographies 23(1):139-157
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
610821Rethinking learning disability - contexts, voices, policiesChristopher PhiloEconomic & Social Research Council (ESRC)ES/J022004/1SCHOOL OF GEOGRAPHICAL & EARTH SCIENCES