International and Interdisciplinary Colloquium – Thursday June 23, Friday June 24, 2005 – University of Grenoble, France (Grenoble 3 – Stendhal) CEMRA Research Center (Centre d’Etude sur les Modes de la Representation Anglophone)
Send a 300-word abstract of your proposal for papers in English or French before December 15, 2004 to:
Agnès VERE (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Madhu BENOIT (email@example.com)
Susanne BERTHIER-FOGLAR (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Linda CARTER (email@example.com)
SITES OF RESISTANCE – TEXTUAL TACTICS: Can marginalized groups resist hegemonic rationalizing discourse or are their voices effectively suppressed? The role of discourse in the construction of power relations
The crucial role of discourse in its capacity to produce and sustain hegemonic power has been extensively discussed by Foucault; we suggest a colloquium based on the contemporary relevance of his work concerning shifts in relationships of power and discourse.
Foucault, discussing the objectification of individuals states that the Subject is shaped by what he calls ‘pastoral power’ – or the ethical code any given society expects its members to live by. He notes that the two main instruments for maintaining ‘pastoral power’ are violence and consensus. Does ‘pastoral power’ therefore correspond to Tocqueville’s consensus universalis, i.e. a general tacit agreement? Clearly it does not, or violence would not be required. Foucault’s ‘pastoral power’ is constructed by discourse, and, eventually, resisted through discourse. We propose exploring this counter-discourse.
The theme of the colloquium would be twofold: firstly, the analysis of the construction of received opinions, and secondly, the exploration of resistance to this hegemonic discourse. The theme would thus be transversal and inclusive of disempowered groups whose voices are raised against prevailing hegemonic discourse in various contexts.
What is the power of this ‘counter-discourse’? Does it offer an alternative, or has it been founded on prevailing discourses, and thus does it contribute to, rather than resist normalizing power? e.g. Indian nationalist discourse deconstructed colonial hegemony, but it served to suppress peasant movements and communist alternatives and it contained female activism, thus silencing marginal voices.
Four sites of power will be considered:
Body as a site for power: feminist analysis has shown how the female body has been used to enforce male hegemony through practices as diverse as constrictive clothing, unequal access to physical exercise or stereotyped/idealized representations of women in advertising and literature. What kinds of strategies using the body as a site of resistance have been developed, and to what extent have such strategies been successful in subverting or destabilizing the dominant discourse? In what ways has the feminist counter-discourse enabled women to redefine their sense of themselves and of their bodies? What innovative modes of expression, particularly in literature, has such an awareness led to?
Ethnicity as a site for power: the near extermination of indigenous populations and the appropriation by others of their lands and resources was justified by a discourse which relegated them to the position of an inferior species or considered them as potential candidates for conversion. How was this discourse received by the conquered peoples and what strategies have they devised to reclaim their lands, reinstate their way of life and preserve their identity? To what extent has ethnicity been successful in fostering group cohesion and achieving political strength? Indigenous historians contest the role played by mainstream histories, claiming their right to rewrite their own history. Is this defendable?
Colonial discourse as a site for power: Colonisation was based upon carefully constructed categories which divided colonisers and colonised into white and ‘Other’ to the disadvantage of the latter. The ‘Other,’ belonging to the realm of the emotions, imagination and irrationality, required colonisation to usher in stability, rationality and modernity. Colonisation was thus to bring enlightenment to the colonised. Up to what point was this hegemonic discourse internalised and used by nationalist rhetoric? Did nationalist rhetoric use the tools of colonial discourse to transgress and overturn it?
Margins as a site for power: In any given society, hegemonic discourse will create margins within which to inscribe disempowered groups. Thus discursive formations become a source of power and domination by defining and excluding certain sectors of society (homosexuals, the poor, the mentally ill, criminals, and the lower castes in Indian society). What kind of discourses of resistance do these groups develop which enable them mentally and/or physically to free themselves of the barriers constructed around them by hegemonic discourse? Does the hegemonic discourse itself provide the elements they require?
Departement d'Etudes Anglophones
Universite Stendhal - Grenoble 3
38040 Grenoble Cedex 9
France Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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