Posts tagged ‘foucault’

11 October 2008

Yoda and Foucault

Combining Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back with Foucault makes far more sense in German, where the same word – Macht – refers to both ‘power’ and ‘force’. But since Foucault never really distinguished between power and force (unlike Hannah Arendt), we can give this tenuous link a go anyway.

The effects of power, in possibly the most cited aspect of Foucault’s work, are not only negative – excluding, repressing, censoring, concealing – but also productive – ‘In fact, power produces; it produces reality; it produces domains of objects and rituals of truth. The individual and the knowledge that may be gained of him belong to this production.’ (Displine and Punish, 1977 [Vintage edition, 1995, p. 194]). Or, in Yoda’s words:

Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hm? Mmmm.

(Luke shakes his head.)

And well you should not. For my ally is the Force. And a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we…

(Yoda pinches Luke’s shoulder)

… not this crude matter.

(a sweeping gesture)

You must feel the Force around you.


Here, between you… me… the tree… the rock… everywhere! Yes, even between this land and that ship!

Not only does Yoda refer to the productive effects of the force, but also reminds us of a basic discourse theoretical position that power is relational.

Section starts at 2:20 on the video (after another momentous Yoda quote: “Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.”):

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…