Michel Foucault is well known as a theorist of power who provided forceful critiques of institutions of confinement such as the psychiatric asylum and the prison. Although the invention of factory farms and industrial slaughterhouses, like prisons and psychiatric hospitals, can be considered emblematic moments in a history of modernity, and although the modern farm is an institution of confinement comparable to the prison, Foucault never addressed these institutions, the politics of animal agriculture, or power relationships between humans and other (...) animals more generally. The few times that Foucault discussed animality or human–animal relations, animals and animality remained metaphors for humans and human experiences. Despite Foucault's failure to analyze human–nonhuman animal relations, a significant body of Critical Animal Studies literature has mobilized Foucault's work over the last decade. In particular, a number of scholars have taken up Foucault's writings to consider how relations between humans and nonhuman animals in agriculture might be conceptualized as instances of sovereign power, biopower, disciplinary power, and pastoral power, as well as why we may not think that these are power relations at all. This essay provides an overview of Foucault's accounts of power and of the Foucauldian scholarship that applies these accounts to human–nonhuman animal relations in animal agriculture. (shrink)
This paper provides an overview of Michel Foucault's continually changing observations on familial power, as well as the feminist-Foucauldian literature on the family. It suggests that these accounts offer fragments of a genealogy of the family that undermine any all-encompassing or transhistorical account of the institution. Approaching the family genealogically, rather than seeking a single model of power that can explain it, shows that far from this institution being a quasi-natural formation or a bedrock of unassailable values, it is in (...) fact a continually contested fiction that masks its own histories of becoming. (shrink)
Drawing on Michel Foucault's writings as well as the writings of feminist scholars bell hooks and Jane Gallop, this paper examines faculty–student sexual relations and the discourses and policies that surround them. It argues that the dominant discourses on professor–student sex and the policies that follow from them misunderstand the form of power that is at work within pedagogical institutions, and it examines some of the consequences that result from this misunderstanding. In Foucault's terms, we tend to theorize faculty–student relations (...) using a model of sovereign power in which people have or lack power and in which power operates in a static, stable, and exclusively top-down manner. We should, however, recognize the ways in which individuals in pedagogical institutions are situated within disciplinary and thus dynamic, reciprocal, and complex networks of power, as well as the ways in which the pedagogical relation may be a technique of the self and not only of domination. If we reconsider these relations in terms of Foucault's accounts of discipline and technologies of the self, we can recognize that prohibitions on faculty—student sexual relations within institutions such as the university are productive rather than repressive of desire, and that such relations can be opportunities for development and not only for abuse. Moreover, this paper suggests that the dominant discourses on professor—student relations today contribute to a construction of professors as dangerous and students as vulnerable, which denies the agency of (mostly female) students and obscures the multiplicity of forms of sexual abuse that occur within the university context. (shrink)
In a 1983 interview, Michel Foucault contrasts our contemporary interest in sexual identity with the ancient Greek preoccupation with diet, arguing that sex has replaced food as the privileged medium of self-constitution in the modern West. In the same interview, Foucault argues that modern liberation movements should return to the ancient model of ethics, of which diet was a prime example, as aesthetics or self-transformative practice. In this paper I take up Foucault's argument with respect to the Animal Liberation Movement (...) and the dietetics of ethical vegetarianism. Contra Foucault, I suggest that diet has not been replaced by sexuality in the modern West, and that food choices, along with and intertwined with sexuality, continue to function as practices of self-constitution in both disciplinary and aesthetic fashions. I then consider the implications of this argument for the Animal Liberation Movement, exploring ways in which it might (and to some degree already does) take on aesthetic rather than moral strategies in order to pursue what Foucault once described as “an ethics of acts and their pleasures which would be able to take into account the pleasure of the other.”. (shrink)
In 1977 Michel Foucault contemplated the idea of punishing rape only as a crime of violence, while in 1978 he argued that non-coercive sex between adults and minors should be decriminalized entirely. Feminists have consistently criticized these suggestions by Foucault. This paper argues that these feminist responses have failed to sufficiently understand the theoretical motivations behind Foucault's statements on sex-crime legislation reform, and will offer a new feminist appraisal of Foucault's suggestions.
In the first volume of the History of Sexuality , Michel Foucault states in passing that prostitution and pornography, like the sexual sciences of medicine and psychiatry, are involved in the proliferation of sexualities and the perverse implantation. Against an influential misinterpretation of this passage on the part of film studies scholar Linda Williams, this paper takes up Foucault’s claim and attempts to explain the mechanism through which the sex industry, and pornography in particular, functions analogously to the sexual sciences (...) in terms of the normalizing form of power that Foucault describes. Whereas Williams sets the question of prostitution aside, and argues that pornography must be a confessional discourse for Foucault, this paper argues that consumption rather than confession is the mechanism through which both prostitution and pornography deploy sexualities within a disciplinary system of power. (shrink)