Selection from PK

"Two Lectures" p. 80-82 in _Power/Knowledge_:

"I would say, then, that what has emerged in the course of the last ten or
fifteen years is a sense of the increasing vulnerability to criticism of
things, institutions, practices, discourses. A certain fragility has
been discovered in the very bedrock of existence - even, and perhaps
above all, in those aspects of it that are most familiar, most solid and
most intimately related to our bodies and to our everyday behaviour. But
together with this sense of instability and this amazing efficacy of
discontinuous, particular and local criticism, one in fact also discovers
something that perhaps was not initially foreseen, something one might
describe as precisely the inhibiting effect of global, _totalitarian
theories_. It is not that these global theories have not provided nor
continue to provide in a fairly consistent fashion useful tools for local
reasearch: Marxism and psychoanalysis are proofs of this. But I believe
these tools have only been provided on the condition that the theoretical
unity of these discourses was in some sense put in abeyance, or at least
curtailed, divided, overthrown, caricatured, theatricalized, or what you
will. In each case, the attempt to think in terms of a totality has in
fact proved a hindrance to research.

So, the main point to be gleaned from these events of the last fifteen
years, their predominant feature, is the _local_ character of criticism.
That should not, I believe, be taken to mean that its qualities are those
of an obtuse, naive or primitive empiricism; nor is it a soggy
eclecticism, an opportunism that laps up any and every kind of
theoretical approach; nor does it mean a self-imposed ascetism which
taken by itself would reduce to the worst kind of theoretical
impoverishment. I believe that what this essentially local character of
criticism indicates in reality is an autonomous, non-centralised kind of
theoretical production, one that is to say whose validity is not
dependent on the approval of the established regimes of thought.

It is here that we touch upon another feature of these events that has
been manifest for some time now: it seems to me that this local
criticism has proceeded by means of what one might term "a return to
knowledge." What I mean by that phrase is this: it is a fact that we
have repeatedly encountered, at least at a superficial level, in the
course of most recent times, an entire thematic to the effect that it is
not theory but life that matters, not knowledge but reality, not books
but money etc.; but it also seems to me that over and above, and arising
out of this thematic, there is something else to which we are witness,
and which we might describe as an _insurrection of subjugated knowledges_.

By subjugated knowledges I mean two things: on the one hand, I am
referring to the historical contents that have been buried and disguised
in a functionalist coherence or formal systemisation. Concretely, it is
not a semiology of the life of the asylum, it is not even a sociology of
delinquency, that has made it possible to produce an effective criticism
of the asylum and likewise of the prison, but rather the immediate
emergence of historical contents. And this is simply because only the
historical contents allow us to rediscover the ruptural effects of
conflict and struggle that the order imposed by functionalist or
systematising thought is designed to mask. Subjugated knowledges are
thus those blocs of historical knowledge which were present but disguised
within the body of functionalist and systematising theory and which
criticism - which obviously draws upon scholarship - has been able to reveal.

On the other hand, I believe that by subjugated knowledges one should
understand something else, something which in a sense is altogether
different, namely, a whole set of knowledges that have been disqualified
as inadequate to their task or insufficiently elaborated: naive
knowledges, located low down on the hierarchy, beneath the required level
of cognition or scientificity. I also believe that it is through the
re-emergence of these low-ranking knowledges, these unqualified, even
directly disqualified knowledges (such as that of the psychiatric
patient, of the ill person, of the nurse, of the doctor - parallel and
marginal as they are to the knowledge of medicine - that of the
delinquent etc.), and which involve what I would call a popular knowledge
(_le savoir des gens_) though it is far from being a general commonsense
knowledge, but is on the contrary a particular, local, regional
konwledge, a differential knowledge incapable of unanimity and which owes
its force only to the harshness with which it is opposed by everything
surrounding it - that it is through the re-appearance of this knowledge,
of these local popular knowledges, these disqualified knowledges, that
criticism performs its work.

However, there is a strange kind of paradox in the desire to assign to
this same category of subjugated knowledges what are on the one hand
the products of meticulous, erudite, exact historical knowledge, and on
the other hand local and specific knowledges which have no common meaning
and which are in some fashion allowed to fall into disuse whenever they
are not effectively and explicitly maintained in themselves. Well, it
seems to me that our critical discourses of the last fifteen years have
in effect discovered their essential force in this association between
the buried knowledges of erudition and those disqualified from the
hierarchy of knowledges and sciences."


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