Reconstructing truth, deconstructing ADHD: Badiou, onto-epistemological violence and the diagnosis of "ADHD"

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Psychiatric/neurodevelopmental diagnoses have expanded in number and scale with increased influence over matters of education and upbringing. One of the most common psychiatric diagnoses among children and adolescents is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The dominant perspective of ADHD is biomedical, where ADHD is defined as a neurogenetic dysfunction and disorder of the brain. Due to the absence of biological markers, the diagnosis is legitimized on the basis of a humanitarian principle: as an ideology. Through the diagnosis, which is construed in the article as a form of onto-epistemological violence, the unique subject is forced into an object and a second-class citizen who undergoes instrumental techniques of behaviour modification. The overall leitmotif of the article is to shift the focus from ‘chemical imbalances’ to ‘power imbalances’ to counteract reductionism, disempowerment and medical behaviourism. Theoretically, the article draws upon the French philosopher Alain Badiou’s ontological examination of being qua being, wherein the aim is to critically examine the onto-epistemological violence following the diagnosis of ADHD and to seek out a less violent pedagogy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-257
JournalCritical Studies in Education
Issue number2
Early online date2019-May-30
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes

Swedish Standard Keywords

  • Social Work (50402)
  • Pedagogy (50301)
  • Philosophy (60301)
  • Ethics (60302)


  • ADHD
  • badiou
  • critical pedagogy
  • philosophy of education
  • ethics
  • onto-epistemology
  • power
  • psychiatrization
  • violence


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