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John Locke hid his work as a medical practitioner from readers of his Essay Concerning Human Understanding by casting language and science as separate “provinces of knowledge.” The chapter analyzes his diagnosis of social and political disorder as arising from pathologies of language, characterizing his communicative theory as following a medical logic of proposing a diagnosis of incommunicability and a treatment regime of imposing communicable order. His prescription for producing medical knowledge also rested implicitly on his referential, utilitarian theory of language. The chapter traces the roots of Locke’s work on communicability in white supremacy, colonialism, and slavery and how it positioned white, European, elite men as embodying communicability, even as women, workers, and racialized populations could barely aspire to rise above incommunicability. Ironically, even as a persistent lung condition disabled Locke, he constructed sensory disabilities as precluding access to communicability.

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