Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Piece of the Thesis

From what I am editing today.

Foucault calls this kind of analysis a “search for instances of discursive production, of the production of power, of the propagation of knowledge”(8). This analysis challenges notions that power merely holds people down. A commonplace idea about power is that it is always repressive for those who “hold none” but what if power is something always in production? What would happen to repressive theories if power could be understood to proliferate rather than clamp down? Foucault writes

Hence, too, my main concern will be to locate the forms of power,
the channels it takes, and the discourses it permeates in order to reach
the most tenuous and individual modes of behavior, the paths that give
it access to the rare or scarcely perceivable forms of desire—all this
entailing effects that may be those of refusal, blockage, and invalidation,
but also incitement and intensification: in short, the ‘polymorphous’
techniques of power.’90

Power proliferates rather than stagnates. Power in this exploration does not lie within one area. Rather power uses various channels that flow out and back into each other. Power does not merely close off channels of knowledge; it also opens them up to us. Power functions (and indeed creates) in discourses. Discourses are not one-sided. The very nature of a discourse involves a multiplicity of voices. And these discourses function as techniques to shape human bodies towards certain behaviors.91 And there is desire driving this flow of power. The discourse creates not just a will to know but a desire to know. The discourses excite and create a desire to know and grasp who we are which becomes tied to sexuality. Our desire for others’ becomes a way to know we are. Part of powers ability to shape is the pleasure inherent in that shaping. We desire to know who we are, and there is a pleasure in feeling that we do know. In addition, power through the discourse of sexuality shapes what we desire and who desire and what that desire feels like. It has a real physical effect on our bodies. If one looks at this metaphor as a channel of water, it is easy to see that these channels will function in a variety of ways due to different circumstances. Sometimes channels will be blocked up due to debris or a dam. Other times, they will flow into another channel creating a bigger body of water which eventually leads to even a bigger body of water. Power works in this way. The directions it takes will depend upon the discourses surrounding it. And indeed, it may be repressive but that is not the only form it takes. And there is pleasure in that release of power, pleasure in that shaping. Power is polymorphous creative force, that shapes people in ways both expected and unexpected. Through desire it always out of reach and always changing. Desire rests on that which we cannot fully lay hold of, and the small pleasures we feel when we grasp the desired if even for a moment.

6 comments:

John B-R said...

Can you say this again in Lacanian? I mean, how does this notion of power relate to l'objet petit a??

Ginger As in Green Tea... said...

I can't say shit in Lacanian. Sorry.

John B-R said...

Well, you're so eloquent in Foucault, even Lacan himself says who cares?

I think what I was getting at is Foucault's notion(s) of desire and power seem only partially in accord with the psychoanalytical. You write: "Desire rests on that which we cannot fully lay hold of, and the small pleasures we feel when we grasp the desired if even for a moment." For Lacan, as best I can understand him (I speak pidgin Foucault and even less Lacan, maybe) the true object of desire (l'objet petit a) can (by definition) **never** be laid hold of or grasped.

Actually, your version is much more hopeful.

Ginger As in Green Tea... said...

Oh yeah that is totally Lacan. Focuault's isn't really too hopeful I'm afraid. He suggests there is a pleasure in being subjected because it tells us who we are in. I suppose it could be hopeful if that subjection is somewhat positive (i.e., good parents subject just as bad parents do but it's a matter of degree I suppose). For my story the subjection is not positive...

I've been trying to read Lacan and just reading is dreadful...not sure I'd ever be able to translate.

ernesto priego said...

"We desire to know who we are, and there is a pleasure in feeling that we do know. In addition, power through the discourse of sexuality shapes what we desire and who desire and what that desire feels like. It has a real physical effect on our bodies. If one looks at this metaphor as a channel of water, it is easy to see that these channels will function in a variety of ways due to different circumstances. Sometimes channels will be blocked up due to debris or a dam. Other times, they will flow into another channel creating a bigger body of water which eventually leads to even a bigger body of water. Power works in this way. The directions it takes will depend upon the discourses surrounding it. And indeed, it may be repressive but that is not the only form it takes. And there is pleasure in that release of power, pleasure in that shaping. Power is polymorphous creative force, that shapes people in ways both expected and unexpected. Through desire it always out of reach and always changing. Desire rests on that which we cannot fully lay hold of, and the small pleasures we feel when we grasp the desired if even for a moment."

I think this qualifies as poetry too.

Miriam Jerade said...

Hi Ginger. I really enjoyed your post. No puedo escribir en inglés. The interesting thing in Foucault is how norms construct subjectivity. Have you read "Subjectivity and Otherness" by Lorenzo Chiesa? Un abrazo. Miriam