Dispositif

Current research thoughts, developing from a discussion in my thesis: the diverse translations of ‘dispositif’ in Foucault’s writings. Take Histoire de la sexualité: La volonté de savoir. In German, Der Wille zum Wissen: Sexualität und Wahrheit I translates dispositif throughout as ‘Dispositiv’. In English, The Will to Knowledge: The history of sexuality: 1 contains the following translations:

  • devices (p. 30), deployment(s) (p. 61, 86, 106), apparatus (p. 84), system (p. 95), construct (p. 105), and on p. 113 both deployment and system.

Dispositif refers to ‘the relations among elements in a ‘decidedly heterogeneous ensemble which is comprised of discourse, institutions, architectural establishments, regulatory decisions, laws, administrative measures, scientific statements, philosophical, moral or philanthropic dogmas – in short, the said as much as the unsaid’ (Foucault 1980: 194; check the Foucault Blog for a longer quote).

Laclau and Mouffe differentiate their approach to discourse from Foucault’s by arguing that he retains the distinction between discursive and non-discursive practices (Laclau 1993: 436; Laclau & Mouffe 1985: 107). This term ‘dispositif’, however, is Foucault’s way of combining linguistic aspects of the discursive with what he considers to be non-linguistic aspects. The possibility and/or necessity of distinguishing between discursive and non-discursive is rendered inconsequential.

So, German scholars have one single term to refer to dispositif, whereas English-speaking scholars do not. Has this affected each language community’s Foucauldian research traditions? More soon in a paper publication…

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One Comment to “Dispositif”

  1. In his development of dispositive analysis as research methodology Jäger (2001; 2009) uses Foucault’s clarification of the definition of the term dispositive: ‘my problem isn’t a linguistic one’ (1980: p.198)as a justification for reducing the non-discursive elements (and the discursive) to discursively produced “knowledge”. Presumably, the possibility remains that Foucault sought to capture the more of social realities rather than the reduction of social realities to linguistics.

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