Colonial Subjectification: Foucault, Christianity and Governmentality

By Petterson, Christina | Cultural Studies Review, September 2012 | Go to article overview

Colonial Subjectification: Foucault, Christianity and Governmentality


Petterson, Christina, Cultural Studies Review


Foucault's concept of pastoral power is envisioned as a technique of power developed from the medieval period and carried through into modern political rationalities. As such, it is an old power technique-which originated in Christian institutions-in a new political shape.1 Importantly, Foucault distinguishes between two aspects of this pastoral power: its ecclesiastical institutionalisation and its function. While its institutional aspect has diminished since the eighteenth century, its function has not, in that it has been dispersed outside this initial institutional framework.2 The importance and repercussions of this distinction have been recognised by and utilised in, for example, education studies,3 but have not been central to the use of Foucault in cultural studies-an absence which is part of the general non-existent relationship between cultural studies and religion, which this special issue addresses.

This article has a twofold aim, namely to trace such a dispersion historically and contextually, and to discuss the theoretical implications of this function of pastoral power and dismantle some of Foucault's own presuppositions. The historical context is the former Danish colony of Greenland, which was colonised in the early eighteenth century. The colonisation was intended to lend financial support to the Lutheran mission to the Catholic Norsemen, who had settled in Greenland around the eleventh century, but had not been heard from since the fifteenth century.4 When the missionary Hans Egede and his family arrived, there were indeed no Norsemen to be found, only the indigenous population, which then became the target of the mission. The reason I have chosen a colonial setting to highlight this feature of Foucault's work is that the massive social upheavals in colonised indigenous communities illustrate how crucial the social foundation of Lutheran subjectification is, and how deeply the capillaries are rooted. Nothing less than a near annihilation of indigenous society would do.

The reason this particular colonial setting lends itself well to an analysis of pastoral power and its functions is mainly because of its state-controlled mission, its origins in the early eighteenth century, and the frantic documentation activity of the Danish colonisers. Furthermore, the colonisation seemed to occur in a number of bursts: the initial stage in the eighteenth century (roughly speaking), with its semi- systematised racialised missionary politics; an intensification of control, exploitation and institutionalisation in the nineteenth; and the fragmentation and governmentalisation of the Greenlandic people in the twentieth century. This development makes it possible to trace the progression of ideas and practices of racism, institutionalism and policy within Greenland and Denmark. It is particularly the two first stages that concern me here in that I trace the movement from institutional pastoral power to functional pastoral power in Greenland and in Foucault's work. I do so particularly through the concept of the household.

-PASTORAL POWER AND GOVERNMENTALITY

Simply named 'Governmentality', Foucault's essay was originally one of the lectures from the Security, Territory, Population lecture series held at the Collège de France in 1977-78.5 This lecture was subsequently published as a discrete essay in Aut Aut in 1978 and later reprinted in the anthology on governmentality, The Foucault Effect, which was published by a number of Foucault's co-workers.6 The separate publication of the essay makes it easy to overlook the place of pastoral power within the genealogy of governmentality and its central place in the power structure of governmentality as a whole.7 The 'Governmentality' essay focuses primarily on the differences between sovereignty and governmentality and does not therefore draw out pastoral power for special emphasis. This setting aside of pastoral power-in one essay-has generated a common understanding of pastoral power as a purely religious form of power, over, against and distinct from governmentality, which is understood as secular. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Colonial Subjectification: Foucault, Christianity and Governmentality
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.