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The rest and the west: Discourse

and power
(Hall Stuart, 1992)

What is the WEST?

It is about geography,
but a as mater of fact it is about something else.
It is about a type of society;
a level of development.
Lecturer: PhD Gloria Gallardo.

West as Development
The West as implying Development started in West
Europe, but it embraces geographically much
longer than Europes border.
It does not include East Europe, but on the contrary
it includes USA and Canada, New Zeeland and

Therefore the WEST is much more than geography,

it is about an idea; it is what Hall calls a
Historical Construction.
Lecturer: PhD Gloria Gallardo.

With West we mean in other words, a type of

society that has the following characteristics:

It is developed








Secular, and



Lecturer: PhD Gloria Gallardo.

The West is, in other words,

synonymous with modernity,
of backward, underdeveloped
Lecturer: PhD Gloria Gallardo.

The concept has several functions:

1. It allows us to classify and characterize
societies according to different categories,
West and non-West.
It is, in other words, a device with whose help
we think
Lecturer: PhD Gloria Gallardo.

2. It is a picture, it condensates diverse
characteristics into a single picture. It works
as a system of representations
Ex: West=urban=developed
non-West= rural, underdeveloped

Lecturer: PhD Gloria Gallardo.


3. It provides us with a standard of

It allows us to compare different
societies; it helps to explain differences
Lecturer: PhD Gloria Gallardo.

4. It provides us with criteria for evaluation
according to which other societies are
ranked positively or negatively.
In other words, it functions as Ideology.

Lecturer: PhD Gloria Gallardo.

The West: a historical construction

When the West concept was established
it became
an organising factor
within a
system of global power relations,
organising our way of thinking and talking.
Lecturer: PhD Gloria Gallardo.

The idea of West existed already in the ideals

of the Enlightenment.

The Europeans thought that the European

societies were the most developed in the
world and they considered West as a result
of an INTERNAL development.
Lecturer: PhD Gloria Gallardo.

Hall means that the emergence of the West is

at the same time a global history
The West and the Rest became two sides of
the same coin.
The West becomes in relation to the Rest.
One find the unique in relation to that which
is different in other cultures.
Lecturer: PhD Gloria Gallardo.

This is to say that the significance or meaning

depend on the relationships that exist
between different terms within a system of
This is about Saussures theory of binary
(dichotomy) oppositions
Things have no meaning in themselves,
but only in relation to other things.
Lecturer: PhD Gloria Gallardo.

What kind of role played then the Rest

for the formation of Western identity?
Both became part of the same discourse;
they became parts of a global, social,
economic and cultural system;
of an inter-dependent world;
of a language.

Lecturer: PhD Gloria Gallardo.

In that discourse one choose to see that the

Rest or the West are not homogenous.
This simplify our world, and here we find the
value of concepts.
Observe that I am not putting any value to
the binary opposition West/Rest.
I am referring to the idea of Binary
oppositions of Saussure.
Lecturer: PhD Gloria Gallardo.

Historical retrospective
How did the process started?
In order to get a view we must use some
broad chronologies and historical
generalizations with Europes history,
which at the same time is also
the history of the Rest.
Lecturer: PhD Gloria Gallardo.

Europes expansion
The European expansion coincides with the
end of feudalism and the beginning of the
modern era.
Two successes play an important role:

The expansion of Portugal to Africa


The expansion of Spain into the so called new

Lecturer: PhD Gloria Gallardo.

We can distinguish 5 phases within

the expansion process:

The exploration process when Europe

discover the new world; the time of the
slavery begins.

2. Conquer and colonization of the new world

and of other parts of the world begins.
3. Production process in different parts of the
world and export to Europe develops (ex.
sugar and cotton plantations).
Lecturer: PhD Gloria Gallardo.

4. A climax in the economic expansion is

reached and the struggle for the colonies
and markets among different European
powers start, which finally leads to I World
5. From the 1960s forward most colonies get
their independence.
Lecturer: PhD Gloria Gallardo.

It seems that the first time the denomination
European was used was in the 8th century
in connection with a victory over Islam.
At the same time that Europe distinguishes
itself against the Rest, Europe become more
An important factor in that integration was
Christianity. Under many centuries Europe
was synonymous of Christianity
Lecturer: PhD Gloria Gallardo.

What is a discourse?
A discourse is a coherent or rational body of
speech or texts.
In a sociological sense, a discourse is a way of
representing something .
It is a way of constructing a subject in such a
way that precludes other ways of
constructing it.
Lecturer: PhD Gloria Gallardo.

Discourse formations
Affirmations or opinions consists of what
Foucault calls

Discourse formations,
it is about many affirmations and these
affirmations are congruent with each other.
Lecturer: PhD Gloria Gallardo.

Production of knowledge
Discourse formation has to do with the
production of knowledge via language,
mediated by language,
but it is produced through practice.

A discoursive practice is the practice of

creating or producing meanings.
Lecturer: PhD Gloria Gallardo.

The West and the Rest

The discourse about the West and the Rest was
made through practice,
through how the West behaved against the Rest.

Even though we dont accept the discourse about

the West and the Rest, we are trapped in that
position that says that West is SUPERIOR to the
Lecturer: PhD Gloria Gallardo.

Discourses are not closed systems, but they

can borrow elements from other discourses
and they link different discourses.
For example:
The discourse about the West is built upon
the discourse about Christianity.

Lecturer: PhD Gloria Gallardo.

Discourse and ideology

Foucault introduces a fundamental difference
between ideology and discourse.
Ideology stands in sociological terms for a
set of statements or beliefs, which produces
biased knowledge that serves the interest of
particular groups

Lecturer: PhD Gloria Gallardo.

Foucault discards this conception of ideology,

preferring to use the concept of
instead of that of ideology as this rests on a
distinction between:

statements, for which science stands,

false statements, represented by ideology
Lecturer: PhD Gloria Gallardo.

Within this view of ideology, facts would be those that

make the difference, helping us to decide between
what is true and what is not.
Foucault undermines the distinction between true and
false statements, rejecting this separation,

because statements are seldom white or black,

true or false.


facts are socially constructed and mediated

by language.

As such facts are value ladden, bearing ideological

dimensions that in practice decide what is true or
Lecturer: PhD Gloria Gallardo.

How do we solve the dilemma about

which discourse is true (science) or
false (ideology)?
Sociologists know that our values comes in
when we describe the social world and that
all affirmations about facts have an
ideological dimension.

Lecturer: PhD Gloria Gallardo.

What Foucault says is that knowledge is the
result of the struggle between 2 different
It is the results that decides what is the false
The side that wins owns the truth. It is in
other words, a question of power.
Lecturer: PhD Gloria Gallardo.

Power produces knowledge

That is why Foucault says that we must accept that it is
power that produces knowledge.
A question:
Can discourse be innocent?
Because we construct the discourse with language as a
device, and therefore language become the norm
against which we measure the Rest.
Lecturer: PhD Gloria Gallardo.

Europeans encounter the new world with own

categories and classify the environment
according to own norms.

Obviously different Europeans powers had

different interest goal and strategies and these
might contradict each other

Lecturer: PhD Gloria Gallardo.

For example, different groups/institutions in Spain

had different goals and discourses for the

gold and silver (commercial groups)


the continent under the Spanish Crown

(the Crown), and.

the so called Indians to Christianity

(The Church).
Lecturer: PhD Gloria Gallardo.

Discourse are not either innocent because the

meeting between Europeans and the Rest was not
between equals, but the Europeans were in a
position of POWER against the natives.
According to Foucault the discourse implies always
power and discourses are one of the system
through which power circulates.
The knowledge produced by discourses consist of a
type of power that is exercised upon those that
are the object of knowledge.
Lecturer: PhD Gloria Gallardo.

Through his way of looking at discourse ,
Foucault undermines the distinction
between the truth and the false, or between
science and ideology.
When power operates in such a way that it
forces up its truths, then that discourse
formation produces a Truth Regime
Lecturer: PhD Gloria Gallardo.