concepts of child and abnormal, and practices that result from institutional care in brazil: a genealogical analysis

tânia mara pedroso müller


In defining the concept ―abnormal,‖ Michel Foucault revealed the consolidation of a complex and self-functioning network of control, distribution and monitoring mechanisms and social roles and requirements, — a maelstrom into which the child so defined is thrown. This paper presents a genealogical history of caring for poor children in Brazil, founded on a moralistic notion of that concept. The category of "minor" was constructed according to a justice-assistance dyad that sought to justify its own actions as the regulation and protection of a morally ―clean‖ society, and having as its target the poor child—the child that did not correspond to the ―civilized‖ model of child to which the nation and its elites aspired. Institutional care was dedicated to the defense of society through the removal of dangerous children. The goal of their ―treatment‖ of discipline and correction was the cancellation of danger, enabling these children to return to a productive life in society. Therefore, the institution had the function of changing character, teaching a craft, transforming the child into a citizen ―useful to himself and to others." A variety of historical data reveal that the concept of abnormality was directly related to that of danger, and therefore, that the principal target of the "treatment" that was carried out on these ―abnormal‖ children was the cessation of the "social danger" they posed to society. What moves us today is the questioning of this very order itself, even in its legal dimensions: to what extent must freedom be linked to the regulatory powers supported by a set of assumptions about human nature held by those in power? How might freedom no longer be understood as a simple derivation of rational and moral qualifications, to the exclusion of the dispossesed and the excluded? These are the new problems that this analysis imposes us.


Anormal; Criança; Menor; Atendimento infantil; Justiça; Foucault


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e-issn 1984-5987 | p-issn 2525-5061