When power looks weak: acts of appropriation inside government
Paper short abstract:
Critiques of neo-liberal agendas show how fusions of knowledge and technology can have unintended consequences on local communities. The paper examines this ‘governmentality’ from the perspective of working inside government where discourses fragment and knowledge is unexpectedly appropriated.
Paper long abstract:
Over the last decade considerable critical work has examined the effects of Western neo-liberal strategies on communities around the globe. These have focussed on the production of neo-liberal discourse, the structuring and valuing of particular kinds of knowledge, the effects these have on community relations, and the associated technologies and applications of power. Much of this work has taken forward Foucault's analysis of the relations between power, knowledge and their disciplining results, into notions of 'governmentality' and the unintended results of attempts by government bodies, NGOs and other agencies to change things on the ground. This has included strong critical strands in the anthropology of development and environmentalism. In previous work I have analysed the roles and effects of government and NGO discourses on a community of fishers in Jamaica, arguing that these had unintended consequences on the community, and that power itself was fragmentary and multifaceted. I now work for the Civil Service developing research to underpin communication advice on countering terrorist threats. This paper examines how power and knowledge are understood and communicated inside a 'powerful' organisation. How are ideas negotiated and communicated internally and to different public 'audiences'? What are the relationships structuring the ownership of knowledge, and their limitations and possible effects? The paper concludes by outlining how research might best shed light on these relationships.
Audible anthropology: anthropologists in government