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Foucault's Discipline And Punish And Power And Sex

1855 words - 7 pages

Foucault's "Discipline and Punish" and "Power and Sex"

Every great architect is - necessarily - a great poet. He must be a great original interpreter of his time, his day, his age- Frank Lloyd Wright

Darkness is meant to conceal, light is meant to expose, and there is power intrinsically imbued in both of these. Murderers hide in the dark, waiting for their victims, and the atrocities of different countries are hidden in history and official memos and propaganda. At the same time, light exerts power because it illuminates, it discovers, it creates vulnerability on all it touches. These powers, however, do not simply exist; they are forged within every aspect of life, even the very structures that people live in. Low-income tenement apartments are built so that they are not seen, colored in a drab shade of gray or brick, build alongside one another so that they blend into the background. They have small lawns and even smaller windows so that people walking by cannot get a glimpse of the life inside; darkness is used to hide their sad reality. Victorian mansions, however, do not need to shroud themselves in darkness. Their almost treeless lawns, small front gardens, and large picture windows are meant to illuminate their wealth, showing it off for the entire world to see.

Beginning in the eighteenth or nineteenth century, the nature of punishment began to change. Slowly, the spectacle of justice which accompanied the public executions and torture of the Middle Ages began to recede farther and farther away from the public into the fringes of society as the institution of the prison began to take shape. Hidden by both distance and structure, the large stone/concrete walls and small windows kept the reality of the prison well hidden from the general public. The prisons succeeded in separating the normal from the abnormal, the law-abiding from the delinquent without bringing any great attention to it. Although the outside of the prison was meant to conceal, the inside was meant to illuminate; the prison was not meant merely to confine convicts, but also to keep a watchful eye on them, to keep them separate from one another and to keep them constantly under surveillance:

Rather than the massive, binary division between one set of people and another, it called for multiple separations, individualizing distributions, an organization in depth of surveillance and control, an intensification and a ramification of power. (Foucault, “Discipline” 553)

Instead of merely a holding cell, the prison became an instrument of subjugation, distinguished by the control it exerted over the inmates’ corporeal being. Visibility was exercised on the prisoners themselves, ensuring that even if their mind resisted, their bodies would be forced to obey. The separation, subjugation and surveillance of prisoners became the device through which order was maintained; prisoners were separated so they did not conspire, watched in...

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