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Foucault - Docile Bodies

Exemplifying Foucault's deconstruction of the concepts of control, surveillance and the creation of modern political system of internalized policing.
by

Natalie Nikolaeva

on 7 June 2013

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Transcript of Foucault - Docile Bodies

Cellular Individuality This is the concept of the spatial distribution and its influence on discipline. This concept underlines the importance of enclosed spaces, partitioning, functionality and distribution strictly controlled by hierarchy (rank) and order.

Most university students can identify with Foucault's example of a schooling system. University creates docile students (by taking over the work done in high school) through placing students in classrooms, making sure they are isolated from one another, demanding high functionality in learning (specifying and promoting behaviors that contribute to this) and organizing space based on hierarchical divisions (where students can and can't go - graduate vs. undergrad student spaces). Characteristics of individuality Creation of docile bodies is not a natural phenomena (an evolutionary process that corresponds to human instinct or wishes). Foucault argues that it is a interplay of systematized forces of external control that work together to analyze how human beings function and utilize discipline to ensure greater efficiency and malleability (both physical and political).

There are four areas, or characteristics of individuality, that must be taken into account when designing "perfect" docile bodies:

cellular individuality

organic individuality

genetic individuality

combination individuality Requirements Manipulation of the scale of control (part vs. whole)

Manipulation of the object of control (economy, efficiency, organization of movement)

Modification of the modality of control (meticulous control, close supervision) Organic Individuality This part of individuality of a docile body has to do with coding and control of activities. This aspects is often harder to perceive as being a tool of outer control, because of the way it mimics natural human way of functioning. However, Foucault argues that this contains strict timetables, with time becoming of special significance with regards to actions, aim geared towards perfecting bodily poses and gestures (to maximize efficiency), addition of the object through which action is improved and absolute use.

Coming back to the example of the university, students are expected to attend classes based on a timetable, organize their time efficiently and act economically (save energy or spend energy when necessary for a project), use tools (computers, printer, etc.) to achieve best performance, adopt a certain style of writing/typing and make sure they do not allow their actions to be wasted. Genetic Individuality Although time has been talked about before in regards to space and activity organization, this type of individuality explores it further. Changing nature of time management saw it divided into segments, putting the segments into a desired order, introduction of further constraints of measurable levels and final organization that facilitated simple repetition and rearrangement.

University students are constantly reminded about the value and preciousness of time. Their days are organized around systematically arranging the puzzle of time segments into a well-functioning whole. Progression to the next educational level is measured through performance of time sensitive tasks (examinations). Combinatory Individuality The key idea that contributes to the creation of docile bodies has to do, unsurprisingly, with a combination of all previously mentioned elements to produce a flawless, mechanized version of a human being. This being is easily controllable, knows and appreciates timely constraints, can be placed in space that would facilitate efficiency and thus can be used in strategy.

As a part of a student community at a university, the student-person embodies all of these things. They are experts at time planning and arrangement, can be easily controlled by those of higher standing (TAs, professors, other personnel), adjust to various spatial locations and come together to form an institutionalized system of internalized policing. Construction of docile bodies Michel Foucault Created by Natalia Nikolaeva

Student #13615125 References:

Foucault, Michel (1977). “Introduction” “Docile bodies,”
Discipline and Punish: The birth of the prison. New York: Vintage Books, 135-170.

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