September 25, 2007

The range of Panoptic view

Bentham’s Panopticon, Foucault tells us is an arrangement where the very idea of visibility is a trap. The inmates in the peripheral building are secluded from each other, their vision is tunneled; the eyes can only see the central tower of power. Foucault’s description of the hapless prisoner conjures up the image of a man with blinkers, his vision forced only and only in one direction. The Tower. The central tower on the other hand has a 360 degrees of vision. In a way this constriction in the degree of perceptibility also reinforces the idea of power. Restricted vision defines the suppressed, extended vision defines the suppressor.

What is very interesting is how such definitions get blurred when such an idea is put to the modern day context. Spitzack contextualizes the idea of the panopticon when she writes about women being trapped under a constant vigilance. They are being inspected all the time. What interests me here is the range of visibility that might define the position of power. A woman, according to Spitzack is at once the surveyor and the surveyed. She is surveyed by others, she surveys herself according to others; also she surveys others just the way she was surveyed. In that sense then, she is at once the power and the prisoner. She ‘does’ to everyone what everyone ‘does’ to her.
This I think is applicable to everyone who intends to be acknowledged in the human society. It is in our instinct to be acknowledged. And so almost unconsciously we assume the position of the power and the captivated. We critically view others and decide whether they are to be acknowledged or not. We also see ourselves being objectified in the same way. The range of vision for each human being therefore is at once restricted and extended. The position of power and that of the suppressed gets blurred- almost like a modern day painting with a riot of colors all forcefully blended into one another.

1 comment:

Dan said...

One interesting way to look at this as well is to compare it to what Michael Hyde mentioned during his visit to our campus. For those of you that missed out, he discussed (more specifically on Monday night) the main difference between recognition and acknowledgement. The difference between the two, according to Hyde, is that recognition is merely being seen whereas acknowledgement involves genuine reciprocity of some sort. This is rather interesting when compared with Spitzack's article. It appears that what is discussed in this article is merely recognition and not acknowledgement. I guess it could be said then that our desires to conform to fashion, to look our bests, and to judge ourselves through others is not for their acknowledgement, but for merely the recognition.

This goes along with Hyde even further in that he mentioned how acknowledgement is essentially what makes life great. How ironic is it that, in this sense, we are not striving for that which makes life great, but merely something superficial and temporary.

Really makes you think...