Since the late nineteenth century, patients who fall under the “borderline” category have presented challenges to both psychiatric and psychoanalytic institutions. In this paper, I delineate the complicated social relations of production encapsulated in the history of the borderline group of patients beginning in the late nineteenth century and continuing into the twentieth, ending with the solidification of the diagnostic category “Borderline Personality Disorder” in the 1980 publication of the DSM-III. Although some histories have explored the socially contingent aspects of borderline, none have recognized the more radical potential of this diagnostic category in critically analyzing the diagnostic systems of normative psychiatry. I add to the dynamic history of the diagnosis by exploring the ways that borderline, as an object of medical-scientific study, has challenged the project of European scientific medicine in ways that might help us understand the latent contradictions within this project itself.
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