Siisiäinen, “Foucault, pastoral power, and optics”

Siisiäinen, Lauri.  2015.  Foucault, pastoral power, and optics.  Critical Research on Religion.  Early online publication.

Abstract: The article shows that in Foucault’s late 1970s and early 1980s analyses of pastoral, conductive power—most essentially in early and medieval Christianity—the issue of sight and visual perception recurs and occupies a crucial status. In Foucault’s discussion, these Christian relations of power, knowledge, and truth are attached with a surveying gaze that is both totalizing as well as individualizing, one that is mobilized by the thrust towards perfect visibility, transparency, and illumination of the subject turned into an object. The intention is also to develop Foucault’s analysis further, by demonstrating how Christian, providential government can be and actually has been detached from the totalizing modality of optics, and instead become articulated with a very different sort of sight and seeing, one that is non-totalizing and affirms its own limits. The article maintains that from this angle, Foucault’s conception of modern, economic-liberal governmentality has essential convergences with the Christian form of providential government, even though Foucault himself leaves these convergences partly inarticulate.

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