Event Title

Session Three: Panel 5 - Power, Performativity and Discourse

Location

Marsh Hall 101

Start Date

17-10-2009 3:30 PM

End Date

17-10-2009 5:00 PM

Description

“I’d Rather Get a Needle than Get HPV”: A Critical Examination of the HPV Vaccine(Lyndsay Gray)

The HPV vaccine (manufactured by Merck Frosst under the trade name, Gardasil) is currently being administered to hundreds of thousands of girls and young women in the United States, Canada and across the world. Further, many governments are considering implementing (or already have in the Canadian case) large-scale vaccination programs, targeting girls and young women between the ages of nine and 26. This vaccine has been heralded as a life-saving medical advance by some, and demonized as a license for girls’ “promiscuity” by others. A significant aspect of the issue that is seldom addressed is the fact that the HPV vaccine is related to a larger project of moral regulation that targets women’s bodies. Under the theoretical umbrella of “governmentality,” I examine the ways in which discourses of risk, responsibility and empowerment come to be internalized by women and translate into practices of self-regulation. Through the construction, production, and dissemination of medical, scientific, and public health discourses, the HPV vaccine garners a type of cultural legitimacy, thus making women’s self regulation normal and difficult to challenge at the level of the social. Further, I explore the ways in which public health acts as a vehicle for the dissemination of a majority of discourses surrounding the HPV vaccine. Finally, and what is imperative to address, is the glaring absence of men within almost of the medical, scientific and popular discourses around the HPV vaccine and how this further implicates women’s bodies as sites of moral, sexual and reproductive contestation.

Performativity and Mary Frith (Lauren Petrino)

Public Minds and Private Bodies: Knowledge as Power in Berhnard Schlink's "The Reader" (Francesca M. Marinaro)

In The History of Sexuality, Michel Foucault defines power as "the multiplicity of force relations imminent in the sphere in which they operate…as the process which, through ceaseless struggles and confrontations, transforms, strengthens, or reverses them…and…as the strategies in which they take effect" (92-3). By defining power in terms of "force relations," Foucault argues that we cannot view power as issuing from a single "source of sovereignty" wherein one individual dominates, but rather as a continuous struggle between opposing forces wherein the balance of power constantly shifts (93). When we explore the social and sexual battleground of gender relations, we can explain this never-ending struggle for dominance not as one's strength versus the other's weakness, but rather in terms of the heterogeneity of power by identifying two types of knowledge that operate as forms of power within this relationship: knowledge of the body as female power and intellectual knowledge (knowledge of the mind) as male power. These "weapons"—body and mind—are not instruments of power in and of themselves; rather it is the knowledge of how to use these instruments—Foucault's "strategies" for exercising power—that renders them effective.

Bernhard Schlink's novel The Reader examines this power dynamic through the relationship between Hanna Schmitz and Michael Berg. To explore the struggle for power between these two opposing forms of knowledge, Schlink locates each character within the traditional gendered paradigm of the mind/body binary. Woman, traditionally associated with motherhood, is inextricably linked to the body, and as knowledge—according to Platonism—is only attained by transcending the body, only man can gain access to Truth and knowledge. Hanna Schmitz, as an illiterate woman, represents the notion of woman as body, while Michael Berg, the well-educated son of a professor of Philosophy, represents the notion of man as mind.

To consider how these two forms of knowledge-power operate in opposition to one another, we must situate Hanna within the realm of "private" or domestic knowledge (knowledge of the body and the domestic space) and Michael within the realm of "public" knowledge (knowledge of the mind). Viewed within this dynamic, knowledge is defined not merely as intellect, but as an awareness of how to use one's strengths as a vehicle of power. Hanna is able to dominate Michael through seduction only because she comprehends the power of her body and her sexuality in the face of Michael's sexual inexperience. Similarly, only when Michael fully understands the extent of Hanna's intellectual disempowerment as a result of her illiteracy can he utilize his own literacy as an instrument of power. I wish to consider these two forms of knowledge-power within the framework of Foucault's theory that "force relations" are "imminent in the sphere in which they operate"; that is, Hanna's power is effective only within her own body (the domestic space), and she can wield her power over Michael only when he is located within this space. Conversely, Michael can exercise his power only when he steps beyond this sphere—when he transcends the body and the reach of Hanna's contact to enter the public realm and the exchange of intellectual ideas.

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Oct 17th, 3:30 PM Oct 17th, 5:00 PM

Session Three: Panel 5 - Power, Performativity and Discourse

Marsh Hall 101

“I’d Rather Get a Needle than Get HPV”: A Critical Examination of the HPV Vaccine(Lyndsay Gray)

The HPV vaccine (manufactured by Merck Frosst under the trade name, Gardasil) is currently being administered to hundreds of thousands of girls and young women in the United States, Canada and across the world. Further, many governments are considering implementing (or already have in the Canadian case) large-scale vaccination programs, targeting girls and young women between the ages of nine and 26. This vaccine has been heralded as a life-saving medical advance by some, and demonized as a license for girls’ “promiscuity” by others. A significant aspect of the issue that is seldom addressed is the fact that the HPV vaccine is related to a larger project of moral regulation that targets women’s bodies. Under the theoretical umbrella of “governmentality,” I examine the ways in which discourses of risk, responsibility and empowerment come to be internalized by women and translate into practices of self-regulation. Through the construction, production, and dissemination of medical, scientific, and public health discourses, the HPV vaccine garners a type of cultural legitimacy, thus making women’s self regulation normal and difficult to challenge at the level of the social. Further, I explore the ways in which public health acts as a vehicle for the dissemination of a majority of discourses surrounding the HPV vaccine. Finally, and what is imperative to address, is the glaring absence of men within almost of the medical, scientific and popular discourses around the HPV vaccine and how this further implicates women’s bodies as sites of moral, sexual and reproductive contestation.

Performativity and Mary Frith (Lauren Petrino)

Public Minds and Private Bodies: Knowledge as Power in Berhnard Schlink's "The Reader" (Francesca M. Marinaro)

In The History of Sexuality, Michel Foucault defines power as "the multiplicity of force relations imminent in the sphere in which they operate…as the process which, through ceaseless struggles and confrontations, transforms, strengthens, or reverses them…and…as the strategies in which they take effect" (92-3). By defining power in terms of "force relations," Foucault argues that we cannot view power as issuing from a single "source of sovereignty" wherein one individual dominates, but rather as a continuous struggle between opposing forces wherein the balance of power constantly shifts (93). When we explore the social and sexual battleground of gender relations, we can explain this never-ending struggle for dominance not as one's strength versus the other's weakness, but rather in terms of the heterogeneity of power by identifying two types of knowledge that operate as forms of power within this relationship: knowledge of the body as female power and intellectual knowledge (knowledge of the mind) as male power. These "weapons"—body and mind—are not instruments of power in and of themselves; rather it is the knowledge of how to use these instruments—Foucault's "strategies" for exercising power—that renders them effective.

Bernhard Schlink's novel The Reader examines this power dynamic through the relationship between Hanna Schmitz and Michael Berg. To explore the struggle for power between these two opposing forms of knowledge, Schlink locates each character within the traditional gendered paradigm of the mind/body binary. Woman, traditionally associated with motherhood, is inextricably linked to the body, and as knowledge—according to Platonism—is only attained by transcending the body, only man can gain access to Truth and knowledge. Hanna Schmitz, as an illiterate woman, represents the notion of woman as body, while Michael Berg, the well-educated son of a professor of Philosophy, represents the notion of man as mind.

To consider how these two forms of knowledge-power operate in opposition to one another, we must situate Hanna within the realm of "private" or domestic knowledge (knowledge of the body and the domestic space) and Michael within the realm of "public" knowledge (knowledge of the mind). Viewed within this dynamic, knowledge is defined not merely as intellect, but as an awareness of how to use one's strengths as a vehicle of power. Hanna is able to dominate Michael through seduction only because she comprehends the power of her body and her sexuality in the face of Michael's sexual inexperience. Similarly, only when Michael fully understands the extent of Hanna's intellectual disempowerment as a result of her illiteracy can he utilize his own literacy as an instrument of power. I wish to consider these two forms of knowledge-power within the framework of Foucault's theory that "force relations" are "imminent in the sphere in which they operate"; that is, Hanna's power is effective only within her own body (the domestic space), and she can wield her power over Michael only when he is located within this space. Conversely, Michael can exercise his power only when he steps beyond this sphere—when he transcends the body and the reach of Hanna's contact to enter the public realm and the exchange of intellectual ideas.