Resistance and Power beyond Foucault

The nature of political power is changing. The state is no longer the only, or even the main player in the complex mechanisms of power structures at the beginning of the 21st century. Foucault’s oeuvre has a crucial role in analyzing these changes and emphasizing the productive element of power against the idea that power (and the state as its embodiment) fulfills a merely repressive function. Resistance, as a counter-part to power, is changing as well. However, the academic analysis of resistance has remained constrained within the framework of strike and protest, both essentially practices of resistance to repressive state power. What would be a resistance to a productive power, and what could the relation between the two be?

Resistance seems to refuse clear-cut conceptualization. This may be due to the plurality of possible ways in which one can conceive the term, but also to the contextual and practical character of resistance. In fact, resistance is always specific; it is, in other words, always resistance to something, within a certain historical framework. This has led to the development of a series of competing notions, from ‘deconstruction’ to ‘performativity’, from ‘counter-hegemony’ to ‘counter-conduct’, all of which aim at theorizing resistance and clarifying its relation to power. Additionally, empirical analysis of different forms of resistance remains painfully descriptive, avoiding a critical analysis and appraisal of its multiple new forms and practices.

Power and resistance are not two separate phenomena. If we accept Foucault’s analysis of power, even in its most basic intuition, that power is historically bound, then we will need to re-conceptualize resistance as a counter-power. This may mean that power and resistance do not stand in a merely ‘action-reaction’ relation to each other, whereby power is repressive and resistance liberating; or whereby power is predominant and resistance happens in the restrictive space that a totalizing form of power leaves. If we agree with Foucault, that resistance is as productive as power, what would be the implications on our understanding of politics, what forms would resistance then take?

This workshop aims at encouraging discussion between different perspectives on resistance and power (not exclusively limited to a Foucauldian perspective). Propositions engaged with one of the two following themes (or other related issue) are encouraged :

1) Resistance beyond the state: Protest and strike are heavily state-centered forms of resistance. They focus mainly on demands put to sovereign power. Can power be resisted in such a way? What would a resistance that does not focus on power as though it is emanating from one fixed point look like?

2) Different forms of resistance to power: Civil disobedience, whistle-blowing, ‘illegal’ forms of digital resistance such as Pirate Bay or Anonymous, veganism are all examples of contemporary resistance: are they inherently different from previous forms of resistance? Do they embody different ways to resist to different forms of power? What do they require from the individual or communities resisting?

Call for abstracts: Abstracts of about 400-600 words on all topics mentioned above for the MANCEPT workshops should be sent to Guilel.Treiber@hiw.kuleuven.be The deadline for submitting abstracts is MAY 15, 2015. Applicants will be informed about acceptance by the JUNE 01, 2015. Final papers should be sent by August 2015 (date to be specified later), so that they are circulated between the workshop’s participants.

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