From: David Morris <sleepnotwork@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 9 Aug 2005 15:23:50 +0900
I'm not by any means enough of an authority to comment on the content
of your essay, for which I apologize. But I thought I would comment
on the title of your email; I con't know if the phrase "Colonial
Governmentality" is widely used, but it made me laugh out loud because
it reminded me of the Fela Kuti song "Colonial Mentality" - a song
which, in fact, probably provides a fairly good, if rough, synopsis of
the concept of colonial governmentality!
Not necessarily academically useful to you, but a fun fact that put a
smile on my face.
On 8/9/05, nadeem omar <ntarar@xxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> Dear All
> I am turning to the list for a clarification of the concept of
> 'governmentality', as employed by the substaltern studies theorist Gyan
> Prakash, in his book 'Another Reason: Science and the Imagination of Modern
> India, (Princeton, 1999) 1255-126. I am reproducing a page from my essay for
> your comments and feedback.
> Nadeem Omar
> Lahore, Pakistan.
> Gyan Prakash a critical voice in the Subaltern school of historiography
> while enriching the perspective of the governmentality through his studies
> of colonial modernity in India, attempts to relocates the 'Euro-centric view
> ' of Foucault by trying to establish the 'Governmentality in British
> India' as 'radically discontinuous with the Western norm'. 'Colonial
> governmentality', he argues, 'could not be the tropicalization of its
> Western form, but rather was its fundamental dislocation'.
> Colonial governmentality was obliged to develop in violation of the liberal
> conception that the government was part of a complex domain of dense,
> opaque, and autonomous interests that it only harmonized and secured with
> law and liberty. It had to function also as an aspect of coercion, that is,
> instituting the sovereignty of alien rulers.
> For Prakash, it is the lack of political legitimacy and cultural alienation
> of British rule, which determines the peculiarity of colonial
> governmentality and explains its violence. However, violation of
> metropolitan liberal norms is constructed to be 'a productive breach, not a
> restrictive liability; it instituted a generative dislocation, not a
> paralyzing limitation'.
> Produced at the point of such estrangement of Western rule in despotism,
> British India was marked by the absence of the elegant
> sovereignty-discipline government triangle that Foucault identifies in
> Europe. Fundamentally irreconcilable with the development of civil society,
> the colonial state was structurally denied the opportunity to mobilize the
> capillary form of power.
> Prakash reads colonial rule in the theoretical context of an old model of
> sovereign power, which, according to Foucault, was liquidated by the
> government as a new model of power in eighteenth century Europe. The
> rationality of new forms of power operates not through a claim to the will
> of sovereign's juridical writ, enforced through coercion, but a form of
> political rationality which 'works not in spite of but through the
> construction of the space of the free social exchange and through the
> construction of a subjectivity normatively experienced as the source of free
> will and rational autonomous agency'. What is left out of Prakash's
> analysis of the colonial governmentality is power 'understood not as the
> antitheses of freedom and reason (in which freedom emerges as the product of
> progressive realization of power), but power as the general name of the
> relation in which differential effects of one action upon another are
> produced'. 
> His rich sociological and historical account of the colonial career of
> European modernity and civil society as a breach of liberal ideas of
> freedom, and reason to borrow from Scott, 'reads like familiar improving
> story of modernization', which while homogenizing colonial forms of
> rationalities to a single rule of difference fails to understand the
> distinctive forms of modern power as it emerged in Europe and came to be
> deployed in the disciplinarisation of the colonial state in the nineteenth
> With the emergence of the discourse on population, the rationality of the
> colonial state was coded in a similar rhetoric of liberal reforms all across
> the British Empire like in India, Egypt, or Ireland or even Africa. However,
> the deployment of the discourse on population for various modes of
> domination from direct to indirect form of rule spells out the conditions
> for the formation historically specific forms of colonial governmentality
> rather than articulating principles and rules of differences along a
> singular logic of displacement of liberal principles. In the governmentality
> of colonial state in India, the emergence of discursive formation of
> population as an autonomous category, which is independent of the
> territorial domination that provides a framework through which the
> relationship between 'men and other kinds of things' can be established
> objectively and independently of the will of the alien sovereign. It is the
> 'welfare' of different kinds of population, identified through census and
> surveys expressed through pastoral concerns for improved 'habits of mind',
> physical and social environment, economic conditions that become the sole
> reasons of the state and defined the distinctively modern character of
> statecraft of a 'paternal' government in the late nineteenth century Punjab.
>  Subaltern School of historiography has been initiated by a group of
> Indian historians in the XX 'whose primary concern has been to give voice to
> the unvoiced, to high light 'subaltern' resistance and illustrate the extent
> to which subordinate people retain control over their own destiny and
> subtly-and sometimes more directly- modify the designs of their rulers' John
> M Mackenzie, Orientalism: History, Theory and the Arts, (Mancehster, 1995),
> p 11. For a representative collection of the school, see Ranajit Guha and
> Gayatri Chakravorty (eds) Selected Subaltern Studies, (Oxford: 1988). For a
> critical comment on the Subaltern Studies see Rosalind O' Hanlon and David
> Washbrook, 'After Orientalism: Culture, Criticism, and Politics in the
> Third World' in Comparative Studies of Society and History, Vol 34, 1992.
> Also see Florencia Mallon, 'The Promise and Dilemma of Subaltern Studies:
> Perspectives from Latin American History' in American Historical Review,
>  Foucault has been 'widely criticized for alleged Eurocentrism' and his
> 'scrupulous silence' on colonialism, and post colonialism especially when he
> is seen contemporary to the 'context of the Paris of Sarte, Fanon and
> Althusser, the traumatic defeat of the French at Dien Phu in 1954, the
> Algerian War of Independence, the national liberation movement of the 1950s
> and 1960s, to say nothing of his own trips to Brazil'. See, Robert Young,
> Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction (Oxford, 2001) p. 397. Also see
> Megan Vaughan, Curing their Ills: Colonial Power and African illness
> (Cambridge, 1991) for the difficulties of applying Foucault to the colonial
>  Gyan Prakash, op.cit., pp. 125-126.
>  Ibid. p.126.
>  David Scott, op.cit., 'It is this idea of a form of power, not merely
> traversing the domain of the social, but constructing the normative (i.e.
> enabling/constraining) regularities that positively constitute civil
> society, that Michel Foucault tries to conceptualize in his work on
> "governmentality".' Pp 201.
>  David Scott, op.cit., p.201.
>  For a critique of Prakash's position and generally of Subaltern Studies
> Project see Rosalind Hanlon and David Washbrook, 'After Orientalism:
> Culture, Criticism, and Politics in the Third World', in Comparative Studies
> in Society and History (Vol. x, No.34) (April, 1992).
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