An encounter with Foucault’s thought

– Zafar (M A Development, 2011-13)

It was August 2011, I was in Mumbai and watched new released Body-guard movie there, enjoyed with old friends and had good non-veg food. But one thing was creating trouble to me and that was my first Assignment which was on Foucault’s reading Truth and Power and a reading of Steven Lukes on power. These reading were given to all of us by our faculties of political philosophy, Sudhir Krishnaswamy, Sailen and Vikas Kumar. It was a crucial subject for everyone, I don’t know if it was because of content or because of faculties ;). I reached Bangalore on the day of the assignment’s deadline. Just one thing was in my mind to finish that 1000 words’ essay in just one night. The topic was Does Lukes’ three dimensions of power anticipates Foucault’s concept of disciplinary power? For me, this subject (political philosophy), economics and sociology, every subject was creating trouble. I first heard names Foucault, Lukes etc., in those days only. And then reading “Truth and Power” and writing assignment on it was really a challenge and more than that the Mumbai visit’s enjoy at crucial time, these all were factors which influenced me or enhanced me to read Foucault’s “Truth and Power” and Lukes’ view on power, in one night and also to write 1000 words on it.

11 PM at night or in railway language 23:00, Pixel Park B, Room no. 306, I entered in the room. Three-four students were already present there. “Hey Zafar! You are back, nice to see you, how was Mumbai trip?” one person asked. I replied “it was awesome; actually the main purpose was to bring stuff from the old Hostel”. “Okay buddy enjoy” some friends left and walked for the Hostel. I opened my netbook and saw that reading. In classroom and also in tutorials, we all had heard about Foucault but it was this reading and assignment which provoked me to read more about Foucault. I searched on Wikipedia and found that Foucault’s date of Birth was before the date of Birth of Lukes. I was struggling to collect “writing like” stuff from both readings, also the burden of Paraphrasing on it and then this confusing issue of date of births was creating more hurdles for me. There were three more brave students behind me in that room, Surya Prakash, Kapil and Dogra. I shared to Surya, “Hey Surya how could be this possible … “yahan to Foucault ki paidaish pahle dikh rahi hai to Lukes ka view Foucault ko kaise anticipate karega” but all were busy and nobody took me seriously. Then I thought if it was given by faculties then must be there is something special or perhaps being more aged doesn’t mean that someone had worked earlier than someone, I searched again about their (Foucault and Lukes) writings but didn’t get some concrete output to confirm that Foucault had published earlier or Lukes was his predecessor. Perhaps the time was also working as a bad guy for me because it was 12:30 or 1 AM when I was searching and reading about readings and their writers.

I thought it doesn’t matter because faculties won’t give us a wrong question therefore it’s better to start writing. I marked half of the sentences in yellow color and wrote it as paraphrased sentences (half cooked paraphrased). That time I was not at all aware about Chicago manual style or APA style, I was only aware about Bollywood movie STYLE ;). Anyway, I managed to write those thousand words by mixing half of Luke’s key points and half of Foucault’s key points and at the end I concluded that “Yes finally we can conclude that Lukes view on power anticipates Foucault’s view on Power.” I shouted at 3:45 AM, “Yes I have completed it buddies” Surya said “wow I am also just going to finish please wait for few minutes”. I said “sure” and checked my mail and Facebook accounts.

After four ‘o clock morning, we marched to Hostel. All three of us were watching beautiful dawn of Bangalore. The sun was showing its extreme beauty and color effects, and the cool breeze of the dawn was waving us. It was an open space at that time, where now we can see a white stylish wall. We all felt very comfortable after the submission of assignment.

After two three days, faculty (Vikas) called us for feedback on our assignments. I saw my marks, 1.75 out of 12. Other friends had also got almost similar marks; the highest I think was 6 or something near to 7. But I was laughing on it. Then Vikas was trying to convince us because the whole answer was wrong and giving 1 mark in it was also a kind thing. It’s because we all tried to argue on the wrong points on tricky or confusing question. He (Vikas) said that how can Foucault’s view was anticipated by Lukes view if Foucault was born earlier than Lukes. You people should have read first about the author and writer but you just answered the question.

The same day I went to meet Vikas for deep feedback and I waited outside his room not less than 45 minutes because one of our batch-mates “Kumudkant” (his name is Kumud Kant but he was famous in friends as Chacha), was arguing Vikas on the same issue. he said “This I could have written in only one line that Foucault’s view had come earlier than lukes, then how can it be possible that it anticipates his view. Then why there was a limit of 1000 words?” Vikas replied “see Kumud it was maximum limit and in minimum if you will write right thing in only one sentence and if it would make me satisfied then it’s also okay”.  Kumud replied “But this question was wrong, this was confusing, u should give right question”. Vikas replied “It was just to check your own study and efforts and to know whether you are reading or searching about philosophers or just answering question”. My number came very late and Vikas sir was also tired of discussions and he just gave me two three lines’ feedback.

That was my first encounter with Foucault and that night I just wrote and my learning from that writing was like camphor, not a single idea about that reading was in my mind but in second Semester I again visited those readings and read it (truth and power) and then I found importance of Foucault in critical schools of thoughts and also in first semester’s course. Understanding Foucault’s thoughts are not so easy but understanding him as a critical philosopher and an interesting human is not so tough, as I read more about him I am more and more surprised by his personality. Perhaps that haunting introduction of him in first semester has provoked me more to know about him. I still laugh on this assignment that without exploring more about authors I wrote and framed that assignment. Probably this assignment was also a reason for composing that song “Foucault ne foonk diya Lukes ne maar diya”.

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