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   a Foucauldian Discourse of Power

Rosa Mercado Bustamante 

Knowledge is power… so in order to get this power we should learn how to accumulate it, how to reproduce it, how to avoid being on the side of the oppressed.

But what is it knowledge? Where do we get it? Not everyone has it, what's more… not everyone has access to it, there are people who do not even know there is a "good" knowledge. It is "us", the western middle-class educated white males, that posses it. It is in our hands to decide if we share it or not, with whom and in what amounts and qualities.

We can send in missionaries, we can build schools and train teachers, we can teach them, the non-western lower-class uneducated non-white masses, how to live and what to believe in, we can share with them the ways to salvation and paradise, we should be merciful and show some compassion for those poor people who do not "know". We can even grant them scholarships to come here to our first world universities and learn from us, not only about science and technology, but also about our culture and modern lifestyle, so that later -if they have enough courage- they might go back and become an example to their people.

Because knowledge is, of course, to be found in books, in writings, in records… where else if not? Sitting next to the sea following its waves and rhythm, listening to the wind… that is unproductive, it cannot teach you anything. But if you spend some time reading a treaty on oceanography, then you can learn! And even better… you could get a doctorate about it! Measure, compare, schematise, classify, take notes, now you have something useful, you can file it in an archive, you can come back to revise it and discuss it.

Being silent among people, feeling their warmth, which tickles your skin and knots your throat… what's that? Only emotions. It would be better to ask something interesting, observe around you, try not to miss a detail, and at least make mental notes, so that you can analyse them later and get some meaning out of it, try to see the contradictions, the motivations, the psychological backgrounds, the economic conditions, the historical components…

Make a report about it, publish something. These people you are with right now might be the last generation of their culture, it could be lost forever, so… save them, be a hero and make them visible, unforgettable, immortal. Once the report is made and the underlying structures have been broken down into theories, if they disappear… well, too bad, it had to happen anyway… but we will still have the learning, the knowledge, the power. It would be much better if we could have some pictures of them, maybe a film which shows how they interacted and behaved.
And what about that piece of clothing? Or one of those pots where they cook their strange but appropriate food? And the colourful masks which carry so much meaning? Yes! Lets label them, put them behind a glass exhibit in a museum so that people can learn from them!

There is a lecture next week; the professor is really an important person, well known in academic circles, respected and trusted. The students are eager to learn, they have been preparing themselves and reading a lot about the subject. We will all sit down in a big auditorium with good acoustics so that we don't miss a word. Notes will be taken, artefacts will be shown, and a video showing dancing and crying people will help to illustrate the theories. The People studied give us an understanding about far away places, other ways to see the world and different behaviours. We will be surprised, with mouths agape and busy pens. At the end we might even talk about it and share some impressions, we will end up as better and more open-minded people!

The exam is coming and we should learn a lot of stuff we should be able to express! To make thoughtful commentaries, to enounce theories, to recapitulate the experience of others, to analyse cases using different points of view, to strongly defend our positions, to prove we are strong and confident… If we are good… and lucky students, then we will get our diploma, a confirmation of the knowledge we gained, a paper for our identities, a validation of our skills.

Those people from the video will still be dancing and crying, and a new generation of students will be sitting in the auditorium, listening to their professor and taking notes.


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