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Arthur W. Frank’s The Wounded Story Teller And Michel Foucault’s Discipline And Punish

1828 words - 7 pages

This discussion paper intends to address the difference between witness, on the one hand, and observation, judgement and examination on the other hand. Through the consideration of a social context, these conceptual frameworks will be contrasted in terms of their purpose, the knowledge gain once applied to the social world and social beings as well as the potential implications of their implementation. Conclusions will be drawn from the evidence as to whether these conceptual lenses aid in the understanding of the social world and in turn the nature of the human condition.
Arthur W. Frank’s The Wounded Story Teller and Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish illustrate the opposing situations of witness and observation, judgement and examination, through which the underlying social assumptions that allow for the application of these instruments are also exposed. Frank defines the process of witness as the assuming of “responsibility for telling what happened. The witness offers testimony to a truth that is generally unrecognised or suppressed” (Reference) whereby “testimony calls on its witness to become what none of us are yet, communicative bodies”(Reference). Interpretatively, to witness is to acknowledge otherness in its most natural form, communion, through which one is able to share the experience of emotionally challenging situations so as to lessen the burden of bearing testimony.
Michel Foucault as a part of his extensive exploration of the system of discipline and punishment declares that “the success of disciplinary power derives no doubt from the use of simple instruments; hierarchical observation, normalising judgement and their combination in a procedure that is specific to it, examination” (Reference), hence implicating the devices of observation, judgement and examination in a disciplinary regime. Foucault thus defines observation as a disciplinary mechanism that coerces by means of surveillance, “an apparatus in which the techniques that make it possible to see induce effects of power, and in which, conversely, the means of coercion make those on whom they are applied clearly visible” (Reference). Foucault reinforces the idea of a disciplinary machine that acts as an apparatus of control through the recognition of a judgement stage, which he conceives as a process of normalisation (Reference). Foucault states that “in a sense, the power of normalisation imposes homogeneity; but it individualizes by making it possible to measure gaps, to determine levels, to fix specialities and to render the differences useful by fitting them one to another” (Reference) hence demonstrating his definitive argument that discipline must cease being described in negative terms as with the effects of power (Reference p. 194). The final element through which power is upheld and human beings are objectified is in the examination process. Examination “combines the techniques of an observing hierarchy and those of a normalising judgment. It is a...

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