California State University Panopticon and Disciplinary Power Discussion

Hi Everyone,

Please Read pp. 174 – 185 in Chapter 6.

Then watch the following 3 clips in the order they are presented:

Foucault’s Power, Knowledge, and Self:


Bentham’s Prison Design:


Squirrel Cage Jail (located in my hometown!):


Now, respond to each bullet point of information given below with at least 4 sentences per point as it relates to your opinion, as well as Bentham and Foucault’s interpretation of the systems of encarceration/imprisonment.

Also, give details and examples that also relate to the Youtube clips.

Foucault’s (1979) work on the history of prison systems reveals how contemporary penal discourses articulate and create the “subject” of punishment—namely, the prisoner.

  • The prisoner becomes defined and controlled through communication about, and practices related to, punishment.
  • Discourse establishes the prisoner’s relationship to society.
  • He suggests a central feature of current modes of power is surveillance, or constant supervision.
  • Such supervision is a structural feature of modern power systems, epitomized by the panopticon, a type of institutional building designed by the English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late eighteenth century.
  • For Foucault, discourse involves the interactions which occur between people—is itself always a site of struggle over competing meanings, varying ideas of what is true or real.

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