Some Philosophical Points Postulated By Michael Foucault And Freud To Consider Regarding Phenomenology Of Targeted Individuals

Karen Barna
6 min readAug 18, 2023

“My problem is essentially the definition of the implicit systems in which we find ourselves prisoners; what I would like to grasp is the system of limits and exclusions which we practice without knowing it; I would like to make the cultural unconscious apparent.” ~Michel Foucault, Rituals of Exclusion

Judith Butler used this quote to open chapter three, Subjection, Resistance, Resignification: Between Freud and Foucault. It comes from her book entitled “The Psychic Life of Power: Theories in Subjection. Resignification through the act of subjugation of a subject occurs not only to the benefit of the subject but also to the detriment of populations when we consider forms of historical genocides and those who find themselves outcasts in social systems.

Sadly, part of the cultural unconsciousness of a society are genuine fears regarding people’s perceived “Otherness". The cultural unconscious possesses the differential aspects of the Other’s unique way of being that we find castrating or that seems “to seek to annihilate the cultural collective.” Many people may find it difficult to identify with these Object-Others and, instead, seek ways to destroy the Objects they most vehemently fear. With the widening cultural acceptance of homosexuals and transgender people, we see acts of extreme lethal violence and terrorism against gay night clubs and transgender people as well as continued forms of historic antisemitism, racism, sexism as well as other forms of discrimination. And although we live in a culture that claims these forms of discrimination are unjust and unfair, they are still institutionalized within the public structures and systems that operate the country.

If we consider Foucault’s work DISCIPLINE AND PUNISH and the phenomenon of the Targeted Individual, the paradoxical character of the prisoner, what Foucault described as the subjectivation of the prisoner, the term subjectivation denotes a form of assujetissement must take place. This implies that the prisoner owes “a tax" or “a liability” of some kind for some type of perceived “wrongdoing” to a higher authority. It denotes both the becoming of the subject and the process of subjection. The philosophical echoes of Nietzsche and Hegel are expressed here. One inhabits the figure of autonomy only by becoming subject to a power. (That means, in order for an independent person (a bondsman) to become the property of another (a Lord), a process of RESIGNIFICATION must take place.) This Subjection requires a radical dependency upon the higher authority, “the Power". For Foucault, this process takes place primarily through the physical body.

Using Foucault’s philosophical examinations used to address the social exclusions of homosexuals and prisoners in France, we might ask the following. “If a Targeted Individual has become a prisoner to some higher authority (Power), what wrong doing have they committed and where are the legal instruments detailing the charge against them?” As well as, “Under whose authority and jurisdiction has it been imbued with the legal virtues and legal powers to carry out such acts of punishments and human torture?”

Analyzing Freud’s castration theory, the very psychological process that develops “normal sexual orientation” is the very same theory we use to explain psychosis. In my opinion, a form of psychotic foreclosure cements the child’s sexual orientation through fear of castration and sets in place his surrogacy to choose other females when he grows up. The little boy, denied his mother, finds himself stranded on the sexual shores of his development and grows up to choose a surrogate female. So many things can go wrong in the psychological primal scene it’s scary.

In HATE, HUMILIATION, AND MASCULINITY by Nancy Chodorow, Chodorow psychoanalysis the aspects of the roots of EXTREME TERRORISM. It suggests that national, religious, ethnic, or peoplehood can be psychodynamically experienced as cultural selfhood, and that, as such, threats experienced directly to it are experienced as threats to the self. It argues that the psychic faultlines of masculinity and male selfhood express two developmental and fantasy components. These are maleness as not female (or a little girl), the male self as defensively separate and warding off the other, defensively needing to split self from the other if hate takes over, and maleness as an adult man and not a boy-child, not humiliated, shamed, or defeated by another man.

This makes me question what might be considered “normal sexual development?” Although it has been perceived that heterosexual orientation is the norm, is it really? In my opinion, it would be a sexual orientation that is not foreclosured upon either sex, male or female. If this is true, and I’m not saying that it is, the psychological theory postulated by Lucy Holmes would hold meaning. That is, all little girls are born bi-sexual and later choose their sexual orientation. Could a bi-sexual orientation be considered “normal” as there seems to be no psychotic foreclosure against the mother/femininity? This is based upon the child’s unconscious pre-oedipal experience. It certainly may explain why women are under-represented in violent criminal statistics. But it would also be flawed as it might fail to explain all the possible things that could go wrong in the primal scene (mise-en-scene) of Freud’s castration theory.

SURVEILLANCE STATE

Surveillance involves meticulous “rituals of power" on the psychoanalytic theatre stage utilizing props as counter-phobic defenses. We can discuss geofencing as one form of advanced technology that is used to deny people their right to choose freely in the online market place. Elon Musk’s low-orbit satellites also used geofencing during the Ukrainian war with Russia to deny satellite internet connections to the foot soldiers' state of operations. The state uses many different methods of surveillance from traffic light monitors (cameras), to ankle monitors for those under house arrest, to opening access to medical tests and treatments, like blood tests and pharmaceuticals, through state and federally funded health care insurance as well as private medical insurance. All this data is collected, analyzed, and stored and it also allows those interested in surveiling your health access to your personal and private information (mind you, access to your body and all the secret truths it holds). The many rituals of power that are used as tactics in a surveillance states are ritualistic because they are meticulous, methodical, thorough, efficient, precise, and fine-tuned. It is ritualistic because it is practiced repeatedly and accepted routinely in an inter-personal manner of linguistics spoken by those “in Power". Surveillance is not simply the observation of external qualities and behaviors but also invades the human body, and looks for inner secrets and truths, answers to enigmas about the body’s truths, for it is the body that holds the answers to these questions surrounding it’s truths, not the self. No doubt it has been those who have carried out acts of inhumane and unethical medical treatments who sought out to find the philosophical truths about human populations.

In Foucault’s book, HISTORY OF MADNESS, he examined the history and means of exclusion, a history of those oscritized and confined on the basis of a dividing line between sanity and insanity, reason and unreason that led to the birth of the asylum of the seventeenth century were madness and unreason were tamed and put under constraint. Re-reading the text today one realizes it is as Jean Kalfa comments in his Introduction to the English edition:

“an analysis of the history of madness considered as a cultural, legal, political, philosophical, and medical construct from the Renaissance to the beginning of the nineteenth century. But it is also a reflection on the notion of history and the methodology of the historian, a reflection influenced by Nietzsche’s criticism of historical teleologies. The book from this point of view, shows how a non-teleological approach to historical phenomenon can denaturalize what is most familiar by unearthing its long forgotten and often unpalatable origins through the study of forgotten archives traces of a reality often very removed from what was to become the dominant narrative. From a philosophical point of view, this book is the moment when Foucault thought starts to look beyond phenomenology, and toward structuralism, moving from a theory of forms of consciousness to a description of historical forms of thought.”

SOURCES:

Judith Butler. (1997) “The Psychic Life of Power: Theories in Subjection. Standford University Press. Standford, California.

William Staples. (1997) “The Culture of Surveillance: Discipline and social control in the United States. St. Martin’s Press. New York, NY.

Michael A. Peters and Tina A.C. Besley, “Social Exclusions/Inclusion: Foucault’s Analytics of Exclusion, the political ecology of social inclusion and the ligitimation of inclusive education.” Review of Educational Research (2014). Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 99–115.

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Karen Barna

I am a Targeted Individual suffering electronic harassment. I write about gender difference and object relations and feminism. I am Gen. X