Bodily resistance and the role of culture

November 4, 2013

In class we discussed the body as a site of power, albeit briefly. Beginning with public execution, where the body is horrifically displayed, Foucault charts the transition to a situation where the body is no longer immediately affected. The body will always be affected by punishment—because we cannot imagine a non-corporal punishment—but in the modern system, Foucault says, the body is arranged, regulated and supervised rather than tortured. At the same time, we have come to understand from the readings that the penal system is not the only nexus of power to regulate bodies (i.e. the museum, art galleries, archives, and the category of “oriental”). What has not been discussed is the ways in which bodies can be tools of resistance to socio-political forms of power and regulation. How might we conceive of instances of resistance within these narratives of power and control? What benefits come with understanding how bodies can become sites of resistance rather than vessels of intersecting structures of power?

I would also suggest we stop and think about Bennett’s discussion on culture as a discourse which regulates identities and bodies. It appears that there exists a constant tension between various cultures that constitute identities and regulate bodies. The most prevalent which comes to mind is museums and art galleries as “temples” of civilization and which provide a “high culture” for patrons, and working-class “tavern” culture. In essence, does culture provide the framework for how power operates and constructs identities, or is it simultaneously constructed? What can we make of bodies that move to-and-from different cultural venues—from the museum to the tavern—and are therefore under different penoptic gazes?

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