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Foucault and Educational Research Pauline Whelan Leeds Metropolitan University June 7 th, 2014.

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Presentation on theme: "Foucault and Educational Research Pauline Whelan Leeds Metropolitan University June 7 th, 2014."— Presentation transcript:

1 Foucault and Educational Research Pauline Whelan Leeds Metropolitan University June 7 th, 2014

2 Overview of the Day Intro to Foucault Workshop in pairs applying Foucauldian Approach Workshop in pairs identifying how Foucault’s work might be helpful to your own research project Large group discussion

3 Overview of the Talk Who was Foucault? Key works and ideas Examples from Education Research Theoretical and Political Utility of Foucault Challenges of ‘applying’ Foucault Criticisms

4 Intro to Foucault 1926 – 1984 Poststructuralist Political activist Professor of History of Systems of Thought at College de France from 1970

5 Key Works Madness and Civilisation: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason (1964) The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception (1963) The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (1966) Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (1975) Archaeology of Knowledge (1969) History of Sexuality, Vol 1 : An Introduction (1976) History of Sexuality, Vol 2: The Use of Pleasure (1984) History of Sexuality, Vol 3: The Care of the Self (1984)

6 Key Themes "It seems to me that the real political task in a society such as ours is to criticize the working of institutions which appear to be both neutral and independent; to criticise them in such a manner that the political violence which has always exercised itself obscurely through them will be unmasked, so that one can fight them" (Michel Foucault, 1974, 171). Critiques of madness (History of Madness; The Birth of the Clinic) Explorations of knowledge production over historical time periods (The Order of Things; The Archaeology of Knowledge), Analysis of modern prison systems and disciplinary societies (Discipline and Punish) Sexuality (History of Sexuality)

7 Key Ideas and Approaches “My point is not that everything is bad, but that everything is dangerous, which is not exactly the same a bad. If everything is dangerous, then we always have something to do. So my position leads not to apathy but to a hyper- and pessimistic activism. I think that the ethico-political choice we have to make every day is to determine which is the main danger. ” ‘Perpetual critique’ There is no external position of certainty Everything is historically and socially contingent Power/Knowledge: No knowledge that can be separated from the effects of power; no power that doesn’t depend upon or mobilise a set of knowledges Sees the role of the intellectual as a ‘destroyer of evidence’ (Foucault, quoted in Peters and Besley, 2007, p. 159) Two key political impulses (Frow, 2014) 1. Nietzschean ‘romanticism’, transgression, breaking of norms 2. Critic of liberalism and modernity History can make things more fragile

8 Rejection of Key Humanist Assumptions Language is transparent There is a stable, coherent self Reason and its ‘science’ – philosophy – can provide an objective, reliable, and universal foundation of knowledge That knowledge acquired from the right use of reason will be true That by grounding claims to authority in reason, the conflicts between truth, knowledge, and power can be overcome That freedom consists of obedience to laws that conform to the necessary results of the right use of reason (adapted from Flax, 1990a, pp. 41–42, in St. Pierre, 1996)

9 Poststructuralism in educational research? [T]he poststructuralist educational researcher is less ready to assume the ‘reality’ of certain social or cultural forms, the official line of thought, the neutrality of certain methods, or the dynamics of educational research and policy in terms of a transparent, consistent, or coherent process... Finally, poststructuralist researchers are developing a better philosophical sense of what is at stake when one comes to do research, gaining a healthy skepticism for what counts as ‘knowledge’, ‘education’, ‘research’, and ‘science’, and questioning the apparent naturalness of these categories (Peters & Burbules, 2004, p. 100).

10 Power ‘Where there is power, there is resistance’ Dispersed rather than top-down or centralised Does not belong to individuals Power exists in social relations Power is always present “‘We must cease once and for all to describe the effects of power in negative terms: it ‘excludes, ’it ‘ represses,’ it ‘ censors, ’ it ‘ abstracts, ’ it ‘ masks, ’ it ‘ conceals ’.’’ (Foucault, 1984, p.298) Rather, power is productive; it ‘produces reality’

11 Disciplinary Power - 1 key shift from state power to disciplinary power (shift from physical punishment dispensed by sovereign power to dispersed and insidious form of social surveillance and self-regulation/’normalisation’) 3 key modes of control within modern disciplinary society: surveillance, normalization, examination Control - from others’ knowledge (often ‘expert’/specialist knowledges) but also individuals internalise norms of scientific discourses and then self- police and self-regulate themselves (they are therefore both objects and subjects of disciplines)

12 The Panopticon “Hence, the major effect of the Panopticon : to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power. So to arrange things that the surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in its action;…in short, that the inmates should be caught up in a power situation of which they are themselves the bearers. (Foucault, 1979)”

13 Disciplinary Power - Example "The NRC report (2002) strongly recommends that educational research be organized into a “cohesive community with self- regulating norms” (p. 22). Such a research community will “acquire the values of the scientific community,” will “foster objectivity through enforcement of the rules of its ‘form of life,’” and will train scientists in “certain habits of mind” that will be policed by the “watchfulness of the community as a whole” (p. 53). The deployment of disciplinary power (St Pierre, 2002) “results in one group controlling the production of reason, science, knowledge, and researchers themselves. No doubt, certain theorists will be disciplined right out of this “cohesive” community of scientists, as they have been disciplined right out of the NRC report.“ (St. Pierre, 2002)

14 Theories of Discourse Poststructural theories of discourse, like poststructural theories of language, allow us to understand how knowledge, truth, and subjects are produced in language and cultural practice as well as how they might be reconfigured. (St. Pierre, 2000) ‘Discursive Practices’ highlights a) multiplicity of readings and interpretations of discourse b) the inseparability of the textual and the material

15 Discourse - 1 “provides a privileged entry into the poststructural mode of analysis because it is the organized and regulated, as well as the regulating and constituting, functions of language that it studies: its aim is to describe the surface linkages between power, knowledge, institutions, intellectuals, the control of populations, and the modern state as these intersect in the functions of systems of thought “ (Bove, 1990) “Foucault’s theory of discourse illustrates how language gathers itself together according to socially constructed rules and regularities that allow certain statements to be made and not others.‘‘ It enables us to understand how what is said fits into a network that has its own history and conditions of existence ’’ (Barrett, 1991, p. 126). Even more important, the rules of discourse allow certain people to be subjects of statements and others to be objects. Who gets to speak? Who is spoken? Discourse can never be just linguistic since it organizes a way of thinking into a way of acting in the world. “ (St. Pierre, 1996, p.485)

16 Discourse - 2 Changed the way we think about language and how it operates in the production of the world The questions are no longer ‘what is discourse?’ or ‘what does discourse mean?’ BUT How does discourse function? How is it produced and regulated? What are its social effects? (Bove, 1990 in St. Pierre, 1996) Discourse is productive and can therefore be resisted and reconfigured Allows us to understand how knowledge, truth, and subjects are produced in language and cultural practice

17 Discourse and Truth “The important thing here, I believe, is that truth isn’t outside power, or lacking in power.... Truth is a thing of this world : it is produced only by virtue of multiple forms of constraint. And it induces regular effects of power. Each society has its regime of truth, its ‘ general politics ’ of truth : that is, the types of discourse which it accepts and makes function as true ; the mechanisms and instances which enable one to distinguish true and false statements, the means by which each is sanctioned ; the techniques and procedures accorded value in the acquisition of truth ; the status of those who are charged with saying what counts as true. “ (Foucault, 1977, p. 131) Truth can therefore be destabilized; it is always bound to discourse and is always historically and socially-contingent

18 Archaeology: 1 Three key elements: Historical conditions Assumptions Power relations “The purpose of archaeology is to study the history of statements (knowledge), to describe the ‘‘systems of rules, and their transformations, which make different kinds of statements possible’’ (Davidson, 1986) Archaeology aims to write a 'history of the present'. Power is heavily implicated in knowledge production (What can be said? Who can say it?) Not about dates, facts, causal explanations, narratives of linear progress Presents a disruptive analysis Emphasises fragility and precarity Focused on the relation between truth and knowledge

19 Archaeology - 2 how language has been used to construct binaries, hierarchies, categories, tables, grids, and complex classification schemes that are said to erect an innate, intrinsic order in the world (Archaeology of the Human Sciences) Structures are ‘‘ discovered’’, named and slotted into existing and ever-increasing classificatory schemes. Example from feminist Foucauldian research: Since women are usually on the wrong side of binaries and at the bottom of hierarchies, feminists have troubled these structures that often brutalize women. For instance, feminists believe that the first term in binaries such as culture/nature, mind/body, rational/irrational, subject/object” is male and privileged and the second term is female and disadvantaged. In order to preserve their distinctions, binaries are more flexible than one might think and operate in subtle ways. (St. Pierre, 2002)

20 Genealogy - 1 Some slippage between archaeology and genealogy as modes of historical critique Archaeology (truth & knowledge); Genealogy (truth & power) What is accepted as true or false within certain knowledges? ‘Regimes of truth’: Each society has its regime of truth, its ‘ general politics ’ of truth : that is, the types of discourse which it accepts and makes function as true ; the mechanisms and instances which enable one to distinguish true and false statements, the means by which each is sanctioned ; the techniques and procedures accorded value in the acquisition of truth ; the status of those who are charged with saying what counts as true. (Foucault, 1980, p. 131) Goal is to identify ‘regimes of truth’ to show how they produce certain knowledges within particular contexts

21 Genealogy - 2 ‘Effective history’ the aim is to identify and disrupt previously accepted norms and ‘truths’ through a meticulous tracing of the historical emergence and trajectories of conventional assumptions no “facts to be interpreted: rather, facts are constructed out of the researcher’s ‘will to truth’ “ ‘Foucault offers us less than a structured ‘methodology’ of genealogy. What he does offer is a set of profound philosophical and methodological suspicions toward the objects of knowledge that we confront, a set of suspicions that stretch to our relationships to such objects, and to the uses to which such related knowledges are put.’ (Hook, 2005, p.4)Hook, 2005, p.4

22 Combining Genealogy & Discourse Analysis– Example To expose and denaturalise common-sense assumptions around Widening Participation To engage in a critical tactical project of critique that challenges the power effects of dominant institutional practices Trace and identify the emergence of dominant discourses of Widening Participation (How) Students are codified in classificatory schemes – ‘gifted and talented students’, ‘students with the potential to succeed in higher education’ How do these WP discourses relate to broader discourses (e.g. of neoliberalism, of the marketisation of higher education) How is power negotiated in and through these discourses (e.g. how are institutional hierarchies perpetuated/resisted through the admissions discourses of universities?)

23 Foucauldian Questions for Educational Researchers Not about asking what education is but instead: How does it operate in certain historical time periods? What kinds of power relations govern the process? What bodies of knowledge are called into being? Which institutions are involved? What forms do the interactions take? And with what effects? (Deacon, 2006)

24 Criticisms No alternatives provided; ‘merely’ a project of critique ‘I will not prescribe solutions’ (Foucault) Project of perpetual critique stifles action No grounds on which to judge power/knowledge claims If power is omnipresent and ubiquitous, is analysing it redundant? Is Foucault just enacting another ‘regime of truth’/just another discourse to be critiqued?

25 Problems for Foucauldian Analysts No clear ‘method’ - archaeology/genealogy are guides Foucault’s ‘tool box’ does not contain well-specified tools Definitional quagmire – ‘genealogy’, ‘archaeology’, ‘discourse’ Philosophical debates – postructrualism/postmodernism Scope and diversity of his work lead to multiple and conflicting interpretations Sits within broader ‘problems’ of qualitative research (See Burman & Whelan, 2011)

26 Foucauldian Influences One of the most cited theorists across the social sciences Foucauldian Discourse Analysis Critical Discourse Analysis – Norman Fairclough Foucauldian Discourse Analysis – Ian Parker, Erica Burman Genealogical approach to DA – Derek Hook Queer Theory – destabilized identity categories, paved the way for queer theory, identity without essence Antipsychiatry/Critical psychiatry/Critical psychology – challenging the fixity of diagnostic categories and the truth claims made, psychiatry as a tool of social control


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