Posts tagged ‘dispositif’

24 November 2008

War of Images

The Caucasus conflict was a central topic at the “European Television Dialogue” on 20 November, in particular the way the media reported it. Quote of the day today comes from Deutschlandfunk’s reporting of the discussion. Talking about the different ways of dealing with information and foreign correspondents, Stephan Stuchlik, correspondent for the main German television station ARD, said:

On the second day I tried to get into Tskhinvali. I waited for seven and a half hours at the border, and I only managed to get into South Ossetia with extremely Russian methods. Whereas the Georgian side immediately understood: aha, we need to offer journalists a service. There were little buses going from Tbilisi, driving people there and saying: Something really awful has happened here; here are the relatives, feel free to ask them. (my translation; full text here).

Deutschlandfunk’s report continues by telling listeners how Stuchlik tried to get his editors to cover the victims and eyewitnesses who spoke of Georgian atrocities. His reports met with disbelief:

You could see that the three days of anti-Russian reporting had left its mark. Not only on the public, but also on my bosses and the news editors.

And once again, we see the dispositif at work: Journalists are based in Tbilisi, are bussed into the region by their Georgian hosts. It fits a certain expectation that the Russian army will have been involved with atrocities. The Georgian leadership activates welcoming information managment techniques; local news and bloggers are onside. At the same time, the Russian side fends off the western journalists (annoying them in the process by making their work more difficult) rather than welcoming them into their information zone. Thus is hegemony is fed.

I still think one of the most interesting things about the conflict, however, is that – contrary to Stuchlik’s comment – the first three days of reporting did not leave its mark on very large swathes of the public. Why, in this one incident, did so many people not believe the reporting? They usually have a good deal of faith in western reporting when it comes to Russia, but not this time. Answers on a postcard to…

3 October 2008


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…