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However as we have seen the shift towards a

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However,aswehaveseen,theshifttowardsaconstructionistconceptionof languageandrepresentationdidagreatdealtodisplacethesubjectfromaprivileged positioninrelationtoknowledge and meaning. The same is true of Foucault’s discursive approach.It is discourse, notthe subjects who speak it, which produces knowledge.Subjects may produce particular texts, butthey are operating within the limits of theepisteme, thediscursive formation, theregime o f truth,of aparticular periodandculture.Indeed,thisisoneof Foucault’smostradicalpropositions:the‘subject’ isproduced within discourse.This subjecto fdiscourse cannot be outside discoursebecause it must besubjected todiscourse. It must submit to its rules and conventions, to its dispositions of power/knowledge. The subject can become the bearer of the kind of knowledge whichdiscourse produces. It can become the object through which power is relayed. But it cannot standoutside power/knowledge as its source and author.In‘The subject and power’ (1982),Foucaultwrites that:My objective... has been to create a history of the different modes by which, in our culture, humanbeings are made subjects....It is a form of power which makes individuals subjects. There are twomeanings of the wordsubject: subject to someone else’s control and dependence, and tied to his39
Representation[sic]own identity by a conscience and self-knowledge. Both meanings suggest a form of powerwhich subjugates and makes subject to.(Foucault,1982, pp.208, 212)Making discourse and representation more historical has therefore been matched, in Foucault, by anequally radical historicization ofthe subject.‘One has to dispense with the constituent subject, toget rid of the subject itself, that’s to say, to arrive at an analysis which can account for the constitution of the subject within a historical framework’ (Foucault,1980, p.115).Where, then, is ‘the subject’ in this more discursive approach to meaning, representation and power?Foucault’s‘subject’ seems to be produced through discourse intwodifferent sensesor places.First, the discourse itself produces ‘subjects’ -figures who personify the particular forms of knowledge which the discourse produces. These subjects have the attributes we would expect as these aredefined by the discourse:the madman, the hysterical woman, the homosexual,the individualizedcriminal,andsoon. Thesefiguresarespecific tospecificdiscursiveregimesand historicalperiods.But the discourse also produces aplace fo r the subject(i.e. the reader or viewer, whois also‘subjected to’ discourse)from whichits particular knowledge and meaning most makessense.Itis not inevitable that all individuals in a particular period will become the subjects of a particulardiscourse in this sense, and thus the bearers of its power/knowledge. But for them -us -to do so,they -we -must locate themselves/ourselves in thepositionfrom which the discourse makes mostsense,and thus become its ‘subjects’ by‘subjecting’ ourselves to its meanings, power and regulation. All discourses, then, constructsubject-positions,from which alone they make sense.

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Term
Fall
Professor
Rachel Barker

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