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Critique of Foucault

Critique of Foucault - Camille Pags Edwin Hill A...

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Camille Pagès Edwin Hill March 27, 2008 A Post-Colonial Critique of Foucault Controversial and insightful, Michel Foucault’s History of Sexuality caused an international storm of both appraisal and critique. Regardless of the reaction, Foucault changed the manner in which sexuality was viewed by, ironically, igniting discourse on the matter. His theories have become the base of many others who attempt to tackle the same difficult subject matter. Joseph Bristow and Ann Laura Stoler, with Sexuality and chapter A Colonial Reading of Foucault, respectively, both have drawn upon many of Foucault’s theories and elaborated on the points that they deemed limiting. The following two attacked theories are not only two significant ones in Foucault’s work, they also are deemed limiting by the two fictions, Marriage of Loti and African Mistress. Sexuality, as explained by Foucault, is a social construct applied to and by the bourgeois class of the Western world. His theory dismisses any notion that our desires are innate or “stubborn drive” (pg 103) which cannot be controlled. Instead he insists they have been developed and created through the implication of discourse, initiated by the practice of confession. Not only does he narrowly apply these practices only to European civilization, but he also further limits the range of influence to bourgeoisie. He states, “it was in the ‘bourgeois’ or ‘aristocratic’ family that … sexuality was problematized and medicalized” (pg 120) as a means of both repression and confession. Through this he articulates extensively the purpose of these practices as one of gaining, as well as maintaining, supplemental control and power. In essence, his theory claims that the use and manipulation of sexuality was used as a demonstration and maintenance of power by the bourgeois class. 1
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Camille Pagès Edwin Hill March 27, 2008 Among the greatest key words in response to this claim by Foucault by Stoler is “blind spots” (pg 152). Stoler recognizes the limited vision Foucault is painting through his focus on the bourgeois family. Regardless of its origin, sexuality wasn’t and is a characteristic unique to the bourgeois class. Stoler is especially quick to critique Foucault in his neglect for the colonials. Those in pursuit and sent to the colonies were rarely part of the bourgeois class and yet still demonstrated numerous characteristics, such as the exertion of sex as a means of power, described by Foucault. These characteristics shall be discussed further on. In fact, Stoler extensively describes those at the colonies as “poor whites, subaltern soldiers, minor clerks, mixed-blood children, and Creole Europeans whose economic and social circumstances made their ties to metropolitan bourgeois civilities often tenuous at best.” (pg 152) This harsh description of the Europeans is supported by the two fictions, which were largely based on both personal and factual experiences, studied.
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Critique of Foucault - Camille Pags Edwin Hill A...

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