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Foucault Exegesis 1

Foucault Exegesis 1

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Published by: Wes Dalton on Mar 10, 2011
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Foucault and Religion

If my demonstration is exact (because it aims to be a demonstration), you see that all of this, all of these epistemological effects or rather technological [effects] from what did they appear? From a certain interplay, from a certain distribution and a certain meshing of mechanisms of power, some characteristic of the judicial institution, and others of the medical institution or rather of medical power and knowledge. It is in the play of these two powers, it is in their difference and their meshings, in the needs that they had for each other, and the supports that they lent to each other, it is there that there was 1 made the principle of the transformation. (Abnormal , 134)

A text so rich in meaning should prove a rewarding font from which to draw. As such,I will begin with the details, the little things that may sometimes be easily passed over. If, as I suspect, the author has chosen his words carefully, each with the whole project in mind then what may seem like an , insignificant pinhole will open up to t e broadest of vistas. What does Foucault mean when he brings up h the demonstration? On the first read, it is a methodological point. If, he says, I have done what I have aimed to do, then you will begin to see a picture of these technological effects ,of its emergence from a complex mechanism. So, the demonstration in this simple reading is what we have before us, the work (in both the broad sense of life work and the narrow sense of this series of lectures) that has been done and presented, laid out to be judged by an audience. If the methods used have been exact or precise (he beginning to draw here from connotations of science or mathematics), then the picture that emerges will be clear. Yet, even this simple reading reveals the metaphorical natur of demonstration, e it is something that we cannot easily grasp, even in its completed form. The demonstration is really what is important. The nature of systems of power dictates the near impossibility of the demonstration. To demonstrate, to give a clear picture (assuming a time-slice of evolution were meaningful) of the workings of power would be very much likecatching sea-foam in flight in order to distribute it. Given this complexity and the subsequent necessity for metaphor, even when talking a bout the process or method of describing power, a new look at demonstration is inorder. I would like to read demonstration in two, possibly conflicting ways, in order to better understand what Foucault is attempting in his story of power. The firs way is one which has been mentioned t before2 and is fruitful for understanding Foucault s method and intention, yetit possesses at least one metaphorical shortfall, which could throw us off the trail towards power. This is the medical or biological metaphor of démonstration or demonstration qua dissection. Such a metaphor brings to mind the great auditoriums of dissection reminiscent of Thomas Eakins The Clinic of Dr. Gross, the searching eyes of apprentice surgeons watching as the master exposes the secrets which nature has so expertly hidden within the cadaver. The cadaver, once bristling with life ( ower, creativity) and resistant to such p examination or categorization, is now splayed nakedly before the crowd, its functions frozen in the moment of death. Is this what we read Foucault as doing? Does he(the master) dissect the dead husk of power to reveal its inner workings (to us, the apprentice surgeons)?Or is it his point to merely pull out the connotations and memories of the genealogy he hasattempted, to keep them fresh in our mind as we move into the murky waters of power s transformation? Can we read this any other way?Here is the point at which the metaphor breaks down. It is the very idea that power could be solidified some at
1 2

Comment [W1]: Also. [possibly say something (maybe elsewhere in the paper) about demonstration and genealogy as presented in the Nietzsche piece

I am here using Dr. Jordan s revision according the French text of Les anormaux, 124. Mark Jordan, lecture, Foucault and Religion, 7 October 2010.

and understood. The jester s re -enactment (notice the active feel of this word) is a song. what Mark Jordan called Foucault s deliberately invoking the various genealogies of language about power. This use of mechanical images (especially in the picture of interlocking or meshing gears which drive a great mechanism) functions to downplay the idea of centralized or agential power and puts in its place a more accurate notion of power as an immense. a truth which looks at once obvious and natural (to the king) and repugnant. abuse. for whom the only modes of storytelling available are those provided by the king. The jester himself. the valorized history of the king and his court. Comment [W2]: Work on transition from talking about talking about power. the overuse. or coagulation of (always) insufficient metaphors for power and its examination (do I smell a trace of the apophatic here?). The metaphor may seem odd. those immersed in discourses of power. One which is able to re -tell the relevant points of the story from our perspective. irony. constantly rearranging itself. causal connectors. trapped in the workings of the sovereign (forced to use humor. looking down into its innards. and satire to present a truth that would otherwise have his head)can only laugh at the wretchedness of the situation. The primary drawback to this metaphor is the re-instantiation of monarchical language to describe a seat of power. At this point I have described two ways of reading demonstration or rather two pictures of the demonstrator but only grazed the surface of language about power and its transformations. somehow able to point to them and to name them in a manner that is not already shaped by them.definitive end (rigor mortis?). once past.e. is the mechanical metaphor. The point here is to present a picture of genealogy and demonstration (qua re-enactment) that takes on an active and malleable tone. as if power flows from primary points of concentration or is controlled by some individual agency. The first thing to be overcome is the notion of the master who stands above power. i. arbitrary. Foucault does not deploy this image of the fool. The second reading of demonstration I will p forth is one which attempts to overcome the failings of ut the first. laid flat. and probably the most prominent of the passage. yet he intuits similar problems. efficient mechanical structure. are dead. As if we were not participating in the discourses of power which we attempt to demonstrate. but it approximates closely the method of trying to tell the story of power from within its own architectures(not to mention giving a nod toFoucault s own life and work). To deal with this. namely any pretension of effectively performing a dissection of power. a dance. that is. could remain still and prostrate while the operator went to work peeling back successive layers to reveal their underlying. and producing the means for its own perpetuation. to actually talking about power. I submit the figure of the fool or jester. which is always simultaneously terrible and ridiculous (again weare exposed to ubu-power). upgrading technologies. and inescapable to the vassal observer. yet all of this constitutes his stage. The benefit of the jester si the picture of truth production (both in the sense of creation and performance) which emerges. the means of his performance. The judicial and medical institutions. One such differing metaphorical/genealogical framework thrown in with the biological and political allusions already described. part of some historical record that can be easily sliced apart. The jester s very life is enclosed by the royal court. . Such a picture could lure the unsuspecting reader into falsely believing that structures of power. processing bodies. to disrupt and break up these rapidly cooling images he purposefully juxtaposes and jumbles disparate metaphors. his existence is trapped in the constant gaze of power s judgment. In contradistinction to this. situated as we always are within evolving discourses of power. as unimaginably expansive as they may be.

teeth interlocked. No precise (scientific) language is possible hre. the intricate weave of Foucault s story of power. That is. and between them was formed the new transformation of power. despite the vast amount of evidence. he remains unable to speak it. The interplay. he is still forced to use phrases like a certain interplay a certain distribution a certain meshing of mechanisms of power. Even after his lists and figures. in relation to the passage under consideration. and meshing of mechanisms of power cannot be named with a mathematical certainty or pinned to an exact point on the Cartesian grid of power. for example. e distribution. the digging and digging and yet more digging. the stories and histories of concepts. This drawn-out discussion on metaphor points to the inherent difficulties of talking about power.Take Foucault s broader work.turned together as two giant cogs. . the shadowy realm into which we venture when we attempt to escape our discursive cells. or (at the very least) the means for its emergence.

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