Foucault's Panopticism

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In Michel Foucault’s essay, Panopticism, power relations between different ranks are analyzed and explored. Foucault begins by exploring the instances of power relations of a plague village; when illness has taken over a community, a hierarchy of power is put in place. At the bottom of this system are the ill and those who are quarantined inside their houses, followed by the syndics who report to the intendants who report to the magistrates (Foucault 182). As a result of this reporting system, the ill remain isolated and visible, which Foucault argues are the basis of Panopticism. In order for the panoptic structure to be effective and evoke the desired outcome, the people must be made visible, isolated, and their sense of agency must be forfeited.…show more content…
In addition to being made visible, the people must also be isolated from one another; they was done in the plague village by ordering everyone to remain in their homes or face consequences if they ventured from them (Foucault 181). Furthermore, in order for this system to work, an individual must be stripped of their agency; this was done in the plague village by taking away the rights of the people without giving them any other choice. Once these three characteristics have been fulfilled, those at the bottom of the hierarchy system will be blindly obedient to those in the highest power. Foucault states that “he who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power” (Foucault 189). In essence, Foucault is stating that once a lower powered person knows that they are being watched due to their visibility, they will assume responsibly for their actions, and person the actions that desirable to the higher powered authority. Consequently, when obedience is evoked in this manner, it is further contributing to a loss of agency toward the individual of the lowest…show more content…
An art gallery, where multiple painting are situated are the periphery of a room, operated much like a panoptic structure. The paintings are comparable to inmates in the sense that they lack power, are visible for everyone to view, and that they are likely situated by themselves, isolated from other pieces of art. That is not to say that a painting is a prisoner and its interpretations are controlled, but that interpretations of the work or art can only be stretched so far until it is no longer relevant to the piece. Berger insists that “The way we see things is affected by what we know and what we believe” (Berger 141). In other words, Berger is explaining that a person’s perspective on a piece of art will be influenced by all of their encounters with the world and the experiences of their upbringing, education, and personal beliefs. This is not to say that these are the only circumstances that influence ones interpretation of a work of art, but that theses a highly influential ideas, in addition to what is actually being presented to the viewer on the canvas. When the artist crafted their work of art, they might have had some idea of the emotions and response they wished to evoke. While this is important to consider, most pieces of art have some room for interpretation among their viewers, but this

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