The gaze and visibility of the carer: a Foucauldian analysis of the discourse of informal care

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Working from a Foucauldian perspective, this paper examines the discourse of informal care and addresses three questions. When was it first possible to speak of ‘the informal carer’? What are the characteristics of the discourse of informal care? And, what are the conditions of the possibility of the informal carer’s recognition? Following an analysis of the appearance and conceptualisation of the informal carer in policy and related discourse since the 1970s, the visibility of this figure is situated in the context of the historical transformation of the medical gaze. It is argued that two broad axes of the gaze’s ongoing transformation – its devolution to ‘relays’ and its extension to the whole population and the ‘whole person’–underpinned the shift in emphasis from care in the community to care by the community in the 1970s, and the associated development of the discourse of informal care.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)759-777
Number of pages19
JournalSociology of Health & Illness
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1999


  • Foucault
  • Medical gaze
  • Discourse
  • Informal care

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