Michel Foucault (1926 - 1984) Discourse, Power and Subjectivity Image source
Starting Questions General Ideas Discourse Definition From Language to Discourse Power and Knowledge (Truth) Power Discipline & Punish The History of Sexuality Subject and Subject Position Outline
Starting Questions 1: Discourse, “Truth” & Power • What is discourse and how is an individual (such as an author or a reader) related to a discourse? • Do you agree with Foucault’s argument that --"nothing has any meaning outside of discourse“?
Starting Questions 1: Discourse, “Truth” & Power • What discourse, or its “the regime of truth,” makes the following statements valid? • Madness is a mental illness. • Masturbation causes sexual impotence. • sodomy = gay = homosexual = queer = 怪胎 • What are the examples of society’s carceral system? How does it function? • Do we question disciplinary powers such those of the teachers’, judge’s and doctors’? Or to what extent should they be questioned?
Foucault: General Ideas • Two periods: • Archaeology of knowledge-- rules and strategies for formation of subject-positions, knowledge and episteme. (e.g. “Man” as a product of modernity.) “What is an Author”– 1969 –transitional article 2) Genealogy of power/knowledge– extends his discussions to a variety of institutions and non-discursive practices; mutual support of power and knowledge. e.g. Discipline and Punish, History of Sexuality.
Central concerns • The "other": historical fragments, accidents & interruptions (vs. official history); madness (vs. reason), sickness (vs. health), crime (vs. law); abnormal sex (vs. normal sex).
Central concerns (2) • subjectification/objectification of individuals: -- production: of those bodies of knowledge which appear to be sciences ; (e.g. the speaking subject in linguistics; the “authors” in literature) -- differentiation: those practices which install a division of subjects of differing qualities; (e.g.the sane vs. the mad) -- discipline: knowledge and techniques by means of which individuals turns themselves into subjects. (e.g. sexualized subjects)
Discourse is "a group of statements which provide a language for talking about ...a particular topic at a particular historical moment." Three major procedures: Definition & Prohibition defining statements & Rules about the “sayable” and “thinkable” Division and rejection; subject positions; exclusion of other statements Opposition between false and true Authority/Power of knowledge (Truth) discursive practices within institutions; discursive formation over time. Discourse: Definition
From Language to Discourse • Saussure Barthes Derrida Foucault
Power and Knowledge/Truth • power – both repressive, controlling and productive -- not just top-down; it circulates, working in multiple direction like “capillary movement.” e.g. the operation of power in a hospital –exertion of power through spatial arrangement, the doctor’s examination, the posters, pamphlets, the different examination room, registration system, pharmacy, insurance co., etc. -- producing “Truth”– with a discursive formation sustaining a regime of truth.
Discipline and Punish Main purpose -- not so much the “birth of the prison”as “disciplinary technology” Three major images: • A. The carceral forms of discipline which exercise over individual a perpetual series of observation and modes of control of conduct;
Discipline and Punish (2) B. Penopticon A circular building with the central control tower control internalized.
Discipline and Punish (3) C. Disciplinary Society C. Carceral power opens up the entire fabric of society to a normalizing regulation. (Miller 200-01)
Discipline and Punish 4 Parts: • Torture -- soul –“born out of methods of punishment, supervision and constraint”; “the prison of the body” (29-30) -- torture -- part of truth-production mechanism (35-37)
Discipline and Punish 4 Parts: 2. Punishment -- gentler forms: public works and incarceration 3. Discipline • Docile Bodies (135-69) -- The aim of disciplinary technology is to forge “a docile body that may be subjected, used, transformed and improved” (136)
Discipline and Punish 3. Discipline 2. The Means of Correct Training (170-194) --”Discipline ‘makes’ individuals; it is the specific technique of a power that regards individuals both as objects and as instrument of its exercise” (170) 3. Panopticism (195-228)
The History of Sexuality • We “Other Victorians” – put the repressive hypothesis back within a general economy of discourses on sex since 17th century --central issue: how sex is ‘put into discourse’=technology of power, will to knowledge
The History of Sexuality Part Two: The Repressive Hypothesis • “regulated and polymorphous” incitement to discourse policing of sex; e.g. the Christian pastoral, children’s school education and silence on the sex of children and adolescent; population issue; medicine (e.g. nervous disorder, etc.)
The History of Sexuality Part Two: The Repressive Hypothesis 2. Perverse implantation Exclusion of sexual pleasures which are not amenable to reproduction two modifications: 1. A centrifugal mov. With respect to heterosexual monogamy; 2. Putting under scrutiny the sexuality of children, madmen, women and criminals. 1) Surveillance (vice as a support but not an enemy); 2) incorporation of perversions. E.g. homosexuality (HS p. 43)
The History of Sexuality Part Two: The Repressive Hypothesis 2. Perverse implantation = a natural order of disorder (44) 3. Medicalization of the sexually peculiar A discursive power which needs constant, attentive and curious presences, and physical proximity. Related support: psychiatric investigation, pedagogical report, family controls.
The History of Sexuality Part Two: The Repressive Hypothesis 3. Medicalization of the sexually peculiar • Interaction between pleasure and power: • Spiral of power and pleasure: “1. The pleasure that comes of exercising a power to question; . . .The power that lets itself be invaded by the pleasure it is pursuing; and opposite it, power asserting itself in the pleasure of showing off, scandalizing, or resisting.
The History of Sexuality Part Two: The Repressive Hypothesis conclusion: perverse implantation • Isolation, intensification and consolidation of peripheral sexualities power over sex branched out and multiplied, measured the body and penetrated modes of conduct; • Sexualities regidified, become stuck to a certain categories.
Subject and Subject Position: • Representation (Representationp. 55 – 56) • Two ideas of subject: 1. Conscious & autonomous subject; • 2. Subject to someone else’s control. Foucault 1. Constituted by a discourse to represent it (hysteric woman); 2. Subject positions.
Subject and Subject Position: Victorian Women--Hysteria • Foucault: “Hysterization of women’s bodies” HS 104 Pedagogization of children’s sex • Sexuality is produced
Subject and Subject Position: Victorian Women--Hysteria portrait of Augustine: Amorous supplication Showalter in Representation 73-74
References • Miller, Peter. Domination & Power. Routledge: 12/01/1987. • Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. Ed. Stuart Hall. London: Sage, 1997