Valerie Gaimon and Jazmine Wells
Key terms: torture, body, punish, discipline, gaze, surveillance, panopticon
Foucault’s Discipline & Punish is talked about frequently across all disciplines, usually in regard to surveillance and/or conformity. We should discuss Foucault in terms of the violence enacted on the body through discipline and punishment. Foucault states that “punishment like forced labor or even imprisonment—mere loss of liberty—has never functioned without a certain additional element of punishment that certainly concerns the body itself: rationing of food, sexual deprivation, corporal punishment, solitary confinement” (16). The body is the focus of punishment. As you read think about what the body is being disciplined to do, or better yet prevented to do, and the type(s) of violence that result from this discipline. Also, take into consideration the different crimes that rear punishment, and if a crime is even necessary to enact punishment.
Foucault explains how intuitions (prisons, schools, hospitals) use architectures and methods of surveillance to expose the body to a constant state of visibility. These institutions act as spaces where discipline can either be instilled or punishment can be distributed. Our discussion of Agamben touched on space, but we should talk more about the violence and pain associated with these spaces. Foucault argues “it is spaces that provide fixed positions and permit circulation…they guarantee the obedience of individuals, but also a better economy of time and gesture” (149). Foucault also states that the art of punishing relies on a technology of representation (obstacle-signs); one must fear the image of the punishment before and after committing a crime. Space places a role in this punishment, as it can be a symbol or signal for punishment. What then do we do when we are focused to occupy a space that constantly reminds us of a punishment we cannot escape? Take the colonialism for example; are we not living in a violent space? Are our bodies not the constant object of punishment because of where we live?
Foucault recounts the history of the criminal body’s punishment to show the shift from physical to analogical punishment—where “the power that punishes is hidden” (105). Meaning, punishment now comes from the nature of things instead of the will of the legislator so that one doesn’t see man committing violence against man. Ideologies and institutions are used to restore public morality, which requires a certain standard of normalcy. Therefore it is a must that we discuss the violence in sameness. How do we take into account the bodies that have been othered, that are punished even though they didn’t commit crimes, or that are constantly under surveillance because their bodies are marked? How do we write about the constant pain these bodies undergo because the space they occupy reminds them of a punishment they had no way of preventing?
Foucault’s text works on the assumption that the body has committed a crime and therefore needs to be punished. We should use Foucault’s framework to discuss the bodyies that are being disciplined, punished, and/or under surveillance, not because they committed a crime, but because their race, class, and gender are a crime. We then need to discuss how using pain, memory of pain, or thought of pain resulting from a punishment as a tactic to discipline is a form of violence, as it retains the body in a constant state of suffering. Foucault admits that the body is the object of punishment, but it must also be acknowledged that certain bodies are punished more often and more severely.