Monday, October 12, 2009
The Declassification of Sexual Discourse
I found this week's readings to be a very enlightening exploration of topics that I had found previously inaccessible or unknown. I have always been fascinated by the modification of the discourse of sex over time- how it has evolved from being dominated by religion to becoming something that is discussed in morning programming, talk shows, and the news- but never could quite place what mechanisms were at work behind the revealing of sexual discourse. For me, the power and juridico-political systems behind verbalizing sex and the issues it entails, involves a sort of classified information in which the government is able to classify this information itself (without the lengthy process of officially classifying and securing in library's of congress, etc) through its own mechanisms of representation. Foucault discusses this in his analysis of the deployment of sexuality when he states "power is tolerable only on condition that it mask a substantial part of itself. Its success is proportional to its ability to hide its own mechanisms." (p86) In this, Foucault implies that the prohibition on sexual discourse and the 'laws' governing the illicit and the licit, would not be effective if power (or the nodes of forces of power) were to cleanly and honestly project their intentions to the masses. Secrecy here is an integral part of the equation and it is exactly this secrecy that Galison explores in Removing Knowledge. Galison's explanation of the classification system of the US is more legislative, methodical, and precise, but so are the informational systems that he is attempting to explain. It is precisely the ambiguity and intractable nature of the sexual discourse (and thus most systems of cultural prohibition) that makes its mechanisms so effective and untraceable. Centuries ago, would Foucault's uncovering of the power structure and questioning of the system of law and sovereignty become classified information and thus removed through censorship or complete disappearance? I believe so. Foucault's analysis of the power mechanism and its inner operations truly works to declassify systems that until now have remained, for me, secret and entirely removed.
Posted by Erik at 6:22 PM