31 August 2008 ~ 0 Comments

Foucault on Geography and Population

“One might wonder, as a conceit or a hypothesis, whether geographical knowledge doesn’t carry within itself the circle of the frontier, whether this be a national, departmental or cantonal frontier; and hence, whether one shouldn’t add to the figures of internment you have indicated–that of the madmen, the criminal, the patient, the proletariat–the national internment of the citizen-soldier. Wouldn’t we have here a space of confinement which is both infinitely vaster and less hermetic”

Foucault: That’s a very appealing notion. And the inmate, in your view, would be a national man? Because the geographical discourse which justifies frontiers is that of nationalism?”

(Questions on Geography, Power/Knowledge)

I think the question can be seen assuming and also leading us towards a carceral archipelago–how a punitive system is physically dispersed and yet covers the entirety of society. One of the topics I really want to cover on this blog in the near future is Foucault’s concept of the ‘apparatuses of security’ and how they are applicable to our society. In liberal societies and the liberal international order, we are led to believe that our ‘freedoms’ require ‘apparatuses of security.’ As Foucault states, “Freedom is nothing else but the correlative of apparatuses of security.”

Stemming from this is my concern about the ‘archipelago of detention,’ especially concerning the increasing confinement of mobility regarding migrant bodies–bodies that are constructed and labeled as ‘criminal.’

Foucault also lays out a population/people distinction in Security, Territory and Population that is worthy of further exploration. Population has two meanings — one denotes a group of subjects with rights or subjects to a sovereign etc. but the one we are interested in is population as a process that needs regulation and management, a process that correlates with the awareness of the ‘public’ and maybe even the sharp binaries of citizen/non-citizen. Now, while Foucault poses the question of the ‘inmate’ as the “national man” and that is true since borders, citizenship and nationality are all confinements, I do want to focus on the (bi)(trans)(multi)-national Others as inmates, both literally and figuratively. And I don’t think we can leave economics out of the picture.

This post here – Documenting the ‘birth’ of illegal immigration, while not perfect, serves as a start and historical background in terms of the United States context.

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