Vinod Kumar Rawat, Knowledge-Power/Resistance: Beyond Bacon, Ambedkar and Foucault, Partridge India Publication, 2014
Schools, Colleges, Universities, and Educational institutes, that is, “knowledge factories,” apart from producing self-governing citizens, and skilled docile workers, function as minute social observatories that indirectly monitor their families. Michel Foucault delineates power in terms of Pastoral (church and salvation), Sovereign (visible and verifiable), Disciplinary (invisible and unverifiable), Bio-power (reproduction and individualization), Psychiatric (normal and abnormal), and Governmentality (sovereignty, discipline, and government). By applying Foucault’s theory, the research investigated the relevance of the Francis Bacon’s popular dictum, “Knowledge is Power,” and Dr. B. R. Ambedkar’s final words, “Educate, Agitate, Organize.” The insights of the research may benefit the seekers and disseminators of knowledge in understanding the subtle operative modes of the government-capitalist nexus and in advocating appropriate resistance against the pathologies of power.
Summary by author
Academic institutes appear to be apolitical, independent, and gender-neutral in their innocuous transaction of knowledge between the teachers and the taught. The inherited belief is that teachers and academic administrators facilitate transmission of liberal education to the student community. However, Michel Foucault (1926-84) points out that even the libertarian institutes like universities and hospitals are structured on oppressive and disciplinary institutions like factories, prisons, and barracks that reinforce the government in exercising power over the citizens. These “knowledge factories,” apart from producing self-governing citizens, skilled and docile workers, function as minute social observatories that indirectly govern the families of the students.
Foucault applied tools like genealogy and archaeology to study a range of institutions like family, church, parliament, factory, barrack, dormitory, hospital, prison, and mental asylum with an objective to expose the “modes of objectifications” through which human beings are transformed into “subjects.” The first mode is “inquiry” through disciplines like linguistics, economics, and biology. The second mode, “dividing practices,” either divides the individual from within (insane) or from others (criminals and good students). And in the final mode, self-objectification, one learns to recognise oneself as the subject of some knowledge like sexuality. In this way, Foucault delineates power in terms of Pastoral (church and salvation), Sovereign (visible and verifiable), Disciplinary (invisible and unverifiable), Bio-power (reproduction and individualization), Psychiatric (normal and abnormal), and Governmentality (sovereignty, discipline, and government). The research attempts to investigate the relevance of Francis Bacon’s popular dictum, “Knowledge is Power,” and B. R. Ambedkar’s final words, “Educate, Agitate, and Organize,” seeks to explore the invisible link between knowledge, education, and power. Simultaneously, the thesis examines the education-knowledge-power nexus wherever teacher-taught relationship is in practice.
A campus comprises the microcosmic image of the nation, formed by the people from different parts of the country in the form of faculty, administrators, students, and office staff. In this regard, India is considered a macrocosmic social metaphor for the Indian campuses, and its apparatus and officiates are seen vis-à-vis with those of the campuses such as the Constitution of India/institute, the official language of India/the first language of the institute, the parliament/the senate, the prime minister/the vice-chancellor or the director, the ministers/the administrators, the citizens/the residents, the bureaucrats/the faculty, the lawyers/the student-representatives, the courts/the disciplinary committees, and the prisoners/the students.
The thesis contains five chapters. The first chapter titled, “Education, Knowledge, and Power,” uses the views of various thinkers to illustrate that the covert function of the educational institutes is to maintain class inequality instead of imparting knowledge. Foucault proclaims that power can be converted into knowledge and vice-versa, and that it produces resistance.Foucault subverts the popular theories of “power” by Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud who propagated that power is negative and repressive. After establishing and exposing the relationship between the politics-knowledge nexus, the thesis investigates the semantic boundaries of campus fiction. It also contains a brief review of the Western works and shows how this genre originated and developed.
The second chapter titled, “Sovereign Power: Caste System and University Administration,” discusses Foucault’s view of the Sovereign power and examines why understanding the history of a country is a prerequisite for understanding the contemporary culture and society. In this regard, it evaluates the Indus valley civilisation, Hindu caste-system, Muslim invasion, the British rule and the partition of India. It maps the knowledge-power nexus in the Western context and explains that in India, apart from the race and class, the ancient caste system has given rise to new complexities. This analysis leads to the discovery of various misconceptions, mis/representations of people and false propaganda within the Indian society as a part of power-politics nexus. The chapter ends with the discussion on the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi who played a pivotal role in laying the foundation of modern and independent India.
The third chapter titled, “Disciplinary Power: Class and Panoptic Professors,” seeks to understand how Foucault by leading the life of an exemplary disciplined student substantially developed his concept of disciplinary power. It introduces the important concept of “Panopticism,” with a focus on “invisible gaze,” and elaborates that the teachers merely act as “agents of power.” It evaluates the socio-political conditions that took place between the partition of India in 1947 and the enforcement of the Indian Constitution in 1950. Finally, the chapter reveals how the “class system,” through the establishment of the democracy, permeated the post-independent Indian society and premier educational institutes like the IITs, the IIMs, the IIITs, and the NITs.
The fourth chapter titled, “Bio-Power: Gender, Caste, and Resistance,” deals with Foucault’s theory of bio-power and traces the subordination of women in the global perspective. In the Indian context, it exposes the subjugation of the females through scriptures. This chapter also deals with Foucault’s views on resistance and employs his archeology methodology to expose the statements made by Rajendra Pandey regarding the continuation of the traditional castes in maintaining their status quo as the intellectual castes even after the Indian independence. Finally, it attempts to consolidate Foucault’s views to sketch the exact relationship between power, knowledge and resistance. Accordingly, these triads are inseparably linked together as Knowledge-Power/Resistance, they are to be seen as action words, and their functioning is to be grasped in their invisibility.
The fifth chapter titled, “Indian Campus Fiction: Textual Elucidations,” opens with defining India and Indian culture. It further highlights the genesis of fiction as imported genre in India. It traces the origin of the Indian Campus Fiction through a survey of literature on the major works done in this field. In order to illustrate the results derived through Foucauldian study, representative Indian Campus Fiction have been studied. The insights of the research may benefit the seekers and disseminators of knowledge in understanding the subtle operative modes of the government-capitalist nexus and in advocating appropriate resistance against the pathologies of power. The faculty might adopt humanitarian and egalitarian methods of teaching, while the students might gain productive and positive knowledge.
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