Differential Power and Indian Child Welfare: Part Two

Carol A. Hand

Following is the second installment of one of the exam papers I wrote to complete a university degree (Hand, 1999). I am sharing the essay in installments, with minor edits and illustrations added, in hopes that it might be of interest and stimulate thoughtful dialogue. (Part One defined theory and discussed some of the relevant general theories that continue to guide research, policies, and practice paradigms that limit the exercise of sovereignty by tribal governments over the welfare of their citizens, lands, and resources.)

It does seem fitting to share this essay in pieces because that’s how it was written. At the time, I lived off the grid and could only afford to run a generator four hours in the morning to power my computer. (Yes, I did have a laptop, but as life happens, it arrived with a faulty battery that couldn’t hold a charge and I didn’t have the time or money to have it fixed.) Every afternoon and evening, I would read and outline for the next day’s work. And because the evening grows dark early in the northwoods’ winter where I lived then, I read by the light of candles and oil lamps.


How Dominance is Established/Maintained. The processes through which particular groups are able to maintain domination over other groups from one generation to the next are explored by a number of theorists. Theorists differ on the degree of emphasis they place on coercion versus socialization, as the following discussion indicates.


Photo: Prisoners of US “Indian Wars” – 1868 (Source)

Force and Ideology.

According to Diamond (1997, p. 277), force and ideology are the processes used to quell resistance by subaltern groups.

“Kleptocrats throughout the ages have resorted to a mixture of four solutions [to the problem of resistance]:

1. Disarm the populace, and arm the elite….
2. Make the masses happy by redistributing much of the tribute received, in popular ways….
3. Use the monopoly of force to promote happiness, by maintaining public order and curbing violence…
4. [C]onstruct an ideology or religion justifying kleptocracy…, central authority, … [the] transfer of wealth, … [and to] maintain peace between unrelated individuals.”

Diamond stresses the importance of religion as a unifying ideology. It links unrelated strangers together in the absence of kinship ties, or in Diamond’s (1997, p. 278) words, “religion helps solve the problem of how unrelated individuals live together without killing each other…” Religion also provides people with “a motive, other than generic self-interest, for sacrificing their lives on behalf of others” in order to defend their nation state or attempt to conquer other nations (Diamond, 1997, p. 278). Despite the importance attributed to force and religion, Antonio Gramsci and Michel Foucault point to the ways in which power maintenance is embedded within the every day operations of ideologies and institutions throughout the macrosystem, reducing the need for pervasive military or police action to assure continuing dominance.

Nationalism and Cultural Hegemony.

Within the United States, even during colonial times, religion was not a unifying force among different settlements of immigrant French and Spanish Catholics and British and Dutch Protestants who were the initial colonizers. Anderson (1991) argues that “nationalism” arose to fill this void: the American-born descendants of European immigrants, “creoles” in Anderson’s language, developed an awareness of nation-ness “well before most of Europe” (p. 50, emphasis in original). These “creole” descendants were viewed as inferior to those who were born in the “metropole” (i.e., mother country), and were barred from positions of power in both the colonies and the metropole. The development of print journalism and newspapers in the “new world” during the eighteenth century enabled resistance to coalesce among the creole class. The blueprint for nationhood and nationalism emerged as the creole class in the American colonies organized and fought for their independence from European control. After their victory, these “nation-builders” turned their attention to indigenous populations and were able to establish and retain dominance. “The sheer size of this immigrant community, no less its overwhelming military, economic, and technological power vis-a-vis the indigenous populations, ensured that it maintained its own cultural coherence and local political ascendancy” (Anderson, 1991, p. 189).

pre discovery us map

Photo: Indigenous Peoples before European “discovery” (Source)

Three institutions of power — “the census, the map, and the museum” — were used to subdue indigenous peoples and shape “the way in which the colonial state imagined its dominion — the nature of the human beings it ruled, the geography of its domain, and the legitimacy of its ancestry” (Anderson, 1991, p. 164). The systematic quantification and classification of populations and the demarcation of the geographic boundaries of empires were powerful tools for administration and control.

Yet, through the excavation of ancient monuments and the creation of museums to house artifacts, the creole rulers were able to establish a link to the past and denigrate native populations at the same time (Anderson, 1991). As the guardians of monuments and artifacts, as the namer of places and landmarks, as curators of natural history museums, the new state could view the new world’s past as its own, while relegating native societies to merely one part of that past (Anderson, 1991; Haraway, 1994). The creoles were also the writers of the history texts which interpreted the creation of a new nation, glorified the triumphant victory over the metropole (England), and romanticized the conquest and domination of indigenous peoples (Berkhofer, 1979).

“Out of the American welter came these imagined realities: nation-states, republican institutions, common citizenships, popular sovereignty, national flags and anthems, etc., and the liquidation of their conceptual opposites: dynastic empires, monarchical institutions, absolutisms, subjecthoods, inherited nobilities, serfdoms, ghettoes, and so forth” (Anderson, 1991, p. 81).


Photo: US “territorial acquisitions” (Source)

Nationhood and nationalism are potent unifying tools for those in leadership positions. Gramsci (1999, p. 12) identifies two crucial “superstructural” levels within nations: “civil society” and “the State.” The State refers to the governmental and juridical sectors, while civil society “is the ensemble of organisms commonly called ‘private’.” According to Gramsci (1999, p. 12):

“… the supremacy of a social group manifests itself in two ways, as ‘domination’ and as ‘intellectual and moral leadership’. A social group dominates antagonistic groups, which it tends to ‘liquidate’, or to subjugate perhaps even by armed force; it leads kindred and allied groups.”

Force and coercion are the function of the State sector, while intellectual and moral leadership emerge primarily from civil society. Both levels are controlled by the dominant group, with intellectuals serving as their “deputies” to carry out the functions of political governance and cultural hegemony. The force of the State is embodied in constitutions, laws, and the military, while schools and public media are the major tools for building the type of national consensus necessary for the exercise of hegemony (Gramsci, 1999). National governments need to balance force and consent.

“Indeed, the attempt is always made to ensure that force will appear to be based on the consent of the majority, expressed by the so-called organs of public opinion — newspapers and associations — which, therefore, in certain situations, are artificially multiplied.” (Gramsci, 1999, p. 80, footnote 49)

Every state “tends to create and maintain a certain type of civilisation and of citizen (and hence of collective life and of individual relations), and to eliminate certain customs and attitudes and to disseminate others” (Gramsci, 1999, p. 246). Through the processes of education, socialization, and mass communication, the citizens of nations are programmed to accept the prevailing social order, to spontaneously consent “to the general direction imposed on social life by the dominant fundamental group” (Gramsci, 1999, p. 12). Through education, and the political and economic structures in which education occurs, individuals within a given society gradually accept, often quite unconsciously through everyday activities, the dominant ideologies and institutions from which all of the lower levels of the macrosystem spring (Gramsci, 1995). It is through such processes that the compelling appeal of the ideologies and symbols on which the new United States was built have assumed dominance, or “cultural hegemony,” over competing ideologies, and were woven throughout “the institutions in civil society, such as schools, churches, [and political] parties, etc.” (Bellamy, 1994, p. xxxviii).

menominee children

Photo: Menominee Children Enacting Wedding – 1931 (Source – Raynor Memorial Libraries, Marquette University)

The concept of hegemony draws attention to the interconnectedness of “institutions,” “forms of consciousness,” and “political and cultural practices” (Williams, 1994, p. 587). According to Williams (1994, p. 595), the concept of hegemony goes beyond ideology in that it is “not only the conscious system of ideas and beliefs, but the whole lived social process as practically organized by specific and dominant meanings and values.” Formal institutions are a powerful component of hegemony. As Williams (1994, p. 602) points out all societies rely on the process of socialization, but it is in the “selected range of meanings, values, and practices which, in the very closeness of their associations with learning, constitute the real foundations of the hegemonic. In a family, children are cared for and taught to care for themselves, but within this necessary process fundamental and selective attitudes to self, others, to a social order, and to the material world are both consciously and unconsciously taught.” Education, institutions, and communications systems all reenforce particular views, meanings, values, and activities. Yet, training and social pressure alone are not truly hegemonic.

“The true condition of hegemony is effective self-identification with the hegemonic forms: a specific and internalized ‘socialization’ which is expected to be positive but which, if that is not possible, will rest on a (resigned) recognition of the inevitable and the necessary. An effective culture, in this sense, is always more than the sum of its institutions: not only because these can be seen, in analysis, to derive much of their character from it, but mainly because it is at the level of the whole culture that the crucial interrelations, including confusions and conflicts, are really negotiated” (Williams, 1994, p. 603, emphasis in original).

Like Gramsci and Williams, Foucault also underscores education and “the crucial role of ‘expert’ forms of power/knowledge in sustaining the commonsense order of things” (Scheper-Hughes, 1992, p.171). Both Foucault and Gramsci are concerned with “the capillary nature of diffuse power circuits in modern states” (Scheper-Hughes, 1992, p. 171). Similar to Bronfenbrenner’s assertion that power is located in roles and power settings, Foucault argues that domination is exerted by all of society’s institutions through “disciplines” and a “series of localized strategies” (Kritzman (1988, p. xvi).

“Discipline” and “Normalization.”

Foucault’s concept of “discipline” evolved over the course of his diverse studies. Initially, Foucault described discipline as a noun which meant “groups of statements that borrow their organization from scientific models, which tend toward coherence and demonstrativity, which are accepted, institutionalized, transmitted and sometimes taught as sciences …” (Foucault, 1972). p. 178). In his later works, discipline was described both as a verb (surveiller), and a noun which can be characterized by the outcome of a normalizing “supervision” or “surveillance” (Sheridan, 1979; Atkins et al., 1990 ). It is this latter meaning which is most salient in the discussion the continuation of Euro-American cultural hegemony.

Disciplinary power is applied through “the use of simple instruments; hierarchical observation, normalizing judgement and their combination in a procedure that is specific to it, the examination” (Foucault, 1979, p. 170) in order “to produce a human being who could be treated as a docile body” (Dreyfus & Rabinow, 1983, p. 134). Documentary techniques recorded the observations of those charged with the application of disciplinary techniques, creating a record of each individual’s comparative progress (Foucault, 1979).

“The technology of discipline developed and was perfected in workshops, barracks, prisons, and hospitals; in each of these settings the general aim was a ‘parallel increase in the usefulness and docility of individuals’ and populations. The techniques for disciplining bodies were applied mainly to the working classes and the subproletariat, although not exclusively, as they also operated in universities and schools” (Dreyfus & Rabinow, 1983, p. 135).

ojibwe children in costume

Photo: Ojibwe Students in Costumes (WI) – 1933 (Source – Raynor Memorial Libraries, Marquette University)

The perfection of these techniques was tied to the rise of capitalism as a dominant ideology in Europe.

“Foucault …contends that it was the disciplinary technologies which underlay the growth, spread, and triumph of capitalism as an economic venture. Without the insertion of disciplined, orderly individuals into the machinery of production, the new demands of capitalism would have been stymied. In a parallel manner, capitalism would have been impossible without the fixation, control and rational distribution of populations on a large scale.” (Dreyfus & Rabinow, 1983, p. 135)

Or, as Foucault (1979, p. 164) explains,

“Discipline is no longer simply an art of distributing bodies, of extracting time from them and accumulating it, but of composing forces in order to obtain an efficient machine. The individual body becomes an element that may be placed, moved, articulated on others…. The body is constituted as a part of a multi-segmentary machine.”

The mechanisms of disciplinary power run throughout all of the institutions of society. From the eighteenth century onward, Foucault (1980b) argues that the role of families is increasingly regimented and medicalized to produce healthy, docile adults.

“It is no longer just a matter of producing an optimum number of children, but one of the correct management of this age of life. New and highly detailed rules serve to codify relations between adults and children…. [A] whole series of obligations [are] imposed on parents and children alike: obligations of a physical kind (care, contact, hygiene, cleanliness, attentive proximity), suckling of children by their mothers, clean clothing, physical exercise to ensure proper development of the organism: the permanent and exacting corporal relation between adults and their children. The family is no longer to be just a system of relations inscribed in social status, a kinship system, a mechanism for the transmission of property. It is to become a dense, saturated, permanent, continuous physical environment which envelops, maintains and develops the child’s body (Foucault, 1988, pp. 172). (See endnote 2 for an important comment from one of the faculty reviewers.)

Families have increasingly become morally responsible for assuring the health of children, and at least partially responsible for bearing the economic cost of medical care (Foucault, 1988).

Techniques of discipline are also embodied in education, and each successive generation is normalized.

“A relation of surveillance, defined and regulated, is inscribed at the heart of the practice of teaching, not as an additional or adjacent part, but as a mechanism that is inherent to it and which increases its efficiency. Hierarchical, continuous and functional surveillance may not be one of the great technical ‘inventions’ of the eighteenth century, but its insidious extension owed its importance to the mechanisms of power it brought with it” (Foucault, 1979, p. 176).

The economy of this new power technique could not be matched by older technologies. Foucault (1980b, p. 155) notes that:

“There is no need for arms, physical violence, material constraints. Just a gaze. An inspecting gaze, a gaze which each individual under its weight will end by interiorising [sic] to the point that he is his own overseer, each individual thus exercising this surveillance over and against himself. A superb formula: power exercised continuously and for what turns out to be a minimal cost.”

 weaving class 1933

Photo: Weaving Class – Holy Family Mission (WI) – 1933 ( Source – Raynor Memorial Libraries, Marquette University)

By means of surveillance techniques, disciplinary power pervaded all aspects of the macrosystem (Foucault, 1979).

“The workshop, the school, the army were subject to a whole micro-penality of time (lateness, absences, interruptions of tasks), of activity (inattention, negligence, lack of zeal), of behaviour (impoliteness, disobedience), of speech (idle chatter, insolence), of the body (‘incorrect’ attitudes, irregular gestures, lack of cleanliness), of sexuality (impurity, indecency). At the same time, by way of punishment, a whole series of subtle pressures was used, from light punishment to minor deprivations and petty humiliations” (Foucault, 1979, p. 178).

The application of these disciplinary measures was referred to by Foucault as “dressage,” translated from French as “taming” or “breaking in” (Atkins et al., 1987, p. 232), or in English usage, “the art or method of training a horse in obedience and precision of movement” (Webster’s Dictionary, 1989, p. 435). According to Foucault (1988, p. 105): “What developed, then, was a whole technique of human dressage by location, confinement, surveillance, the perpetual supervision of behavior and tasks, in short, a whole technique of ‘management’ of which the prison was merely one manifestation or its transposition into the penal domain.” Discipline effectively “normalized,” or homogenized, individuals. Foucault (1979, p. 193) notes that: “In a system of discipline, the child is more individualized that the adult, the patient more than the healthy man, the madman and the delinquent more than the normal and non-delinquent. In each case, it is towards the first of these pairs that all individualizing mechanisms are turned in our civilization.”

Through the application of these mechanisms of dressage, individuals are ranked vertically according to their performance and abilities in relation to the prevailing needs and ideologies embodied in the capitalist macrosystem (Foucault, 1979). Thus, the power exerted over individuals transcends specific institutions, although the technologies of exerting and maintaining power “find a localization with specific institutions (schools, hospitals, prisons, when they ‘invest’ these institutions…” (Drefus & Rabinow, 1983, p. 185). Thus, power is not located solely within the State apparatus (Foucault, 1980). The points of power are diffuse and operate “on a much more minute and every day level” (p. Foucault, 1980a, p. 59).

“Power is not something that is acquired, seized, or shared, something that one holds on to or allows to slip away; power is exercised from innumerable points, in the interplay of nonegalitarian and mobile relations…. One must suppose rather that the manifold relationships of force that take shape and come into play in the machinery of production, in families, limited groups, and institutions, are the basis for wide-ranging effects of cleavage that run through the social body as a whole…. Major dominations are the hegemonic effects that are sustained by all these confrontations” (Foucault, 1990, p. 94).

What this means, then, is that there is no one person or institution intentionally dominating others, although individuals and institutions can make use of the technologies of discipline for their own aims (Foucault, 1990).

In complex societies, power has become vested in a proliferation of emerging organizations (Foucault, 1979; Bronfenbrenner, 1979; Scott, 1987; Perrow, 1986). These organizations, nested within the exostructure and macrostructure, embody the dominant ideologies that are operative within a given culture at a given time. Characterized by bureaucratic structures, organizations have assumed a tremendous importance in the everyday lives of individuals, families, communities, societies, and the world at large (Scott, 1987; Zey-Ferrel, 1981). Charles Perrow (1986, p. 5) argues that bureaucratic organizations “legitimize the control of the many by the few, despite the formal apparatus of democracy, and this control has generated unregulated and unperceived social power.”

“As bureaucracies satisfy, delight, pollute, and satiate us with their output of goods and services, they also shape our ideas, our very way of conceiving of ourselves, control our life chances, and even define our humanity…. We grow up in organizations; to stand outside them is to see their effect on what we believe, what we value, and, more important, how we think and reason.” (Perrow, 1986, p. 5)

According to Foucault (1979, 1980a, 1980b, 1988, 1990), disciplinary techniques and differential power are interwoven throughout the institutions and organizations of politics, law, production, education, and social welfare. With the tremendous influence organizations have, it becomes crucial to understand who controls them and for what purpose (Pfeffer & Salancik, 1978; Zald, 1981). This is one of the central concerns of the resource dependency and political economy theorists.

Political Economy and Resource Dependency.

From the perspective of the political economy and resource dependency models which emerged in the late 1970s, organizations are nested within and constrained by the larger socio-political and economic environment (Pfeffer & Salancik, 1978; Pfeffer, 1982). According to Benson (1975, p. 229):

“The interorganizational network may be conceived as a political economy concerned with the distribution of two scarce resources, money and authority. Organizations, as participants in the political economy, pursue an adequate supply of resources. Interactions and sentiments of organizations are dependent upon their respective market positions and power to affect the flow of resources.”

One of the crucial constraints is the existing social structure in which organizations are nested, since those individuals and organizations in powerful positions “tend to occasion the reproduction of the existing social structure” (Benson, 1977b, p. 3). Internal organizational operations are also constrained by “constitutions” (Zald, 1981, p. 225), or by “paradigms,” which in “normal times” are “taken for granted as the framework of purposes, means, strategies and structures within which organizational behavior is directed” (Benson, 1977a, p. 7). While these “norms set the limits for behavior, … it may be rare for participants even to be aware of the norms” (Zald, 1981, p. 227).

Organizations engage in transactions with their environments in order to increase the likelihood of their survival through the dual processes of organizational adaptation and environmental change efforts (Cook, 1977; Scott, 1987; Pfeffer, 1982). Since organizations are dependent upon their environments for resources (raw materials to transform into products, markets in which to sell products for profit, personnel, information access, and legitimacy), power disparities emerge within and among organizations (Pfeffer, 1981; Pfeffer, 1982). Those organizations which better reflect the ideologies of a given society (e.g., in terms of organizational structure, technologies, products, and professions) have a stronger power base and are able to dominate other organizations, exert greater influence on their environments (e.g., on state and federal governments), and are more likely to survive and expand (Pfeffer & Salancik, 1978; Benson, 1977a & 1977b). Those organizations with a poorer fit have less power, and hence become more dependent upon other organizations within the interorganizational network.

“Dependence … measures the potency of the external organizations or groups in the given organization’s environment. It is a measure of how much these organizations must be taken into account and, also, how likely it is that they will be perceived as important and considered in the [focal] organization’s decision making” (Pfeffer & Salancik, 1978, p. 52).

Pfeffer and Salancik (1978) found that those organizations which are more dependent upon government resources in order to survive, were more vulnerable to governmental demands and pressures.

st. josehp school

Photo: St. Joseph’s Indian School (WI) – 1920? 1935? (Source – Raynor Memorial Libraries, Marquette University)

Austin (1988, p. 70) points out that the trend in both capitalist and socialist societies has been the “concentration of economic and political power,” and the concomitant “development of a system of social control which has as its objective the support and protection of the particular structure of power concentration in that society.”

“These controls take the form of laws and regulations, and the use of both economic power and political authority, to limit, or eliminate the impact of dissenters. Even more important is the development of symbols, and intensive processes of socialization about the significance of those symbols, that serve to establish and maintain among the majority of citizens in both types of societies the legitimacy of the concentration of power.” (Austin, 1988, p. 70)

Like Foucault and Gramsci, Zey-Ferrel (1981) asserts that the invisibility of the power exerted by the ruling elite to define what is valuable, meaningful, and legitimate, actually increases the symbolic force of the political and economic power which is embedded throughout the macrosystem and interorganizational networks.

Within the context of the complex interplay of these multifaceted forces, past and present, Native American peoples have continued to survive. It is within the present-day legacy of this overwhelming socio-historical context that the thoughtful Ojibwa youth, cited at the beginning of this paper, developed his theory to make sense of the causality of child maltreatment. A number of scholars have also attempted to describe the experiences and present situations of Native American peoples within theoretical frameworks.

Table 1 – Key Events and Their Impacts on Tribal Nations within the United State

prelim 2 table 1 a

prelim 2 table 1 b

prelim 2 table 1 c

prelim 2 table 1 d

prelim 2 table 1 e

The Impact of Domination for Native Americans. Two perspectives explicitly relegate a central position to differential power: captive nations/internal colonies (Snipp 1986a, 1986b, 1988, 1990; Snipp & Summers, 1990) and incorporation (Cornell, 1988). Cast in an economic framework, both theoretical perspectives recount the evolving strategies of domination used by colonial metropoles and the U.S. government to exert an increasing amount of control over indigenous peoples within the United States. While both perspectives explicitly note the significant differences among tribal cultures and the unique challenges each tribe faced at the hands of colonizers, certain similarities can be identified. Table 1 highlights key political and economic events, and the impact of these events for Native American peoples. The captive nations/internal colonies theoretical approach focuses on processes and impacts of economic domination and exploitation ( Snipp 1986b). Cornell’s (1988) approach views the process of political and economic incorporation of Native peoples into the dominant U.S. structure as transactional, although the balance of power is unequal. Native resistance, from Cornell’s perspective, has enabled Tribal peoples to survive as distinct political entities.

To be continued…


1. Table 1 summarizes the work of a number of authors (Fleras & Elliott, 1992; Cornell, 1988, p. 14; O’Brien, 1989, p. 258; Snipp, 1986b, 1988; Diamond, 1997; and Armitage, 1995). While the dates of the periods included in Table 1 correspond to the six periods Cornell identified, Table 1 expands the historical time period and includes different labels for some of the periods to more clearly characterize the socio-political context within each timeframe.

2. Faculty comment: “Of course, prior to this time, in Western culture, children were largely treated as property to be dealt with by their parents as would any other form of property” (emphasis in original).

3. Table 1 is adapted from a number of sources: Armitage (1995); Cornell (1988, p. 14); Diamond (1997); Fleras & Elliot (1992, p. 136); O’Brien (1989, p. 258); and Snipp (1986b, 1989)

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27 thoughts on “Differential Power and Indian Child Welfare: Part Two

  1. Wikipedia – Foucault:

    “Foucault is sometimes criticized for his prominent formulation of principles of social constructionism, which some see as an affront to the concept of truth. In Foucault’s 1971 televised debate with Noam Chomsky, Foucault argued against the possibility of any fixed human nature, as posited by Chomsky’s concept of innate human faculties. Chomsky argued that concepts of justice were rooted in human reason, whereas Foucault rejected the universal basis for a concept of justice. Following the debate, Chomsky was stricken with Foucault’s total rejection of the possibility of a universal morality, stating “He struck me as completely amoral, I’d never met anyone who was so totally amoral” … “I mean, I liked him personally, it’s just that I couldn’t make sense of him. It’s as if he was from a different species, or something”

    Chomsky strikes one as light on universal morality – for example was surprised when he mentioned in a recent talk that because of his age, he’s become concerned about the future generations. Chomsky seems entirely focused on factual academic discussion, while rarely conveying thoughts on universal morality, so for him to say that Foucault was completely amoral is something.
    Wikipedia Foucault page (Wikipedia is controversial in the view of some) also mentioned criticism of Foucault for not providing solutions, and in that hes like (the name escapes, he’s been on Bill Moyers, from Canada, writes 4-5,000 word posts) ah, Henry Geroux, who brilliantly describes society’s problems but never any solutions.
    I suppose asking which of your sources rose to become your preferred by offering the most positive ideas would spoil the end post/conclusion of the series. Anyway the name Foucault and Gramsci were familiar, (having only seen the names elsewhere but never read their writings) so there’s my two cents. The writing certainly digs into and dissects the subject in an interesting way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for such thought-provoking and important comments, Jerry. I promise to respond in a more substantive way after I have a chance to reflect 🙂

      One thing I can say now is that I share your concern with most theorists and scholars – few offer concrete, feasible suggestions for, or examples of, solutions – the most important point of research and scholarship from my perspective 🙂


    2. I do so appreciate your thoughtful comments, Jerry. I just wanted to add a few observations about Foucault. His work is not easy reading, but it’s hard for me to conclude that he was immoral or without a sense of justice based on his writing. Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison (1979) is such an important critique of violence and oppression. He carefully chronicles the history of punishments and prisons and concludes with an observation that seems to be based on a clear sense of social justice: “… it is perhaps more important to ask … how were people made to accept the power to punish, or quite simply, when punished, tolerate being so (p. 303). His other works raises similar concerns about the complexity of power and oppression, acceptance and resistance.


  2. Masterfully done, Carol, so much of what I could only claim latent and half knowledge you’ve clarified quite eloquently. , excellent and thank you.

    “. . . the census, the map, and the museum” What, the museum? Never saw that coming, and yet, what an elite tool. “the new state could view the new world’s past as its own,”

    Regarding number one of the four solutions of Diamond, although they have yet to disarm the populace here in the U.S., though there are those who desire and try such. What they have done is the successful registration all “law abiding” citizens who own and buy guns. And so they know whose door to knock on or rather knock down when they do come and take our firearms, at 4 am. That’s around the preferred time for such things you know. But then what resistance can our guns offer their militarized forces? Perhaps the point is mute.

    And what can I say about religion that I haven’t already said before, the grand intoxicating hoax.

    It is so very interesting to read here how the white man perpetuates his supremacy; so very incredible, so very shameful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your thoughtful comments are so appreciated, Peter. I realize that these essays are complex and go against the grain of what makes a popular post 🙂

      As you point out, the use of museums is quite a clever tool for oppression. Native Americans have been relegated to natural history exhibits (you know, with extinct animals and objects), not holocaust museums. As such, it is a powerful way to reframe the nation as an inheritor, not the perpetrator, of the massive indigenous population loss and a liberator of those oppressed by other (evil) regimes.

      Your insights about disarming the populace are very interesting and astute. (And Zimmerman is still allowed to carry a weapon!)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m all about the right to self-defense and the use of necessary force, but also about turning my back and walking away when it’s the right thing to do. Fortunately, few and long gone are my situations that call for either. Funny how that works, eh, when one doesn’t go looking for trouble. But aggression isn’t self-defense, it’s being a bully looking for trouble. And Zimmerman is a bully on the prowl for trouble whose time, like all bullies, will catch up to him.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on randomthoughts and commented:
    “How Dominance is Established/Maintained.” a phrase from this blog. Very good and interesting reading for any and all that question what the hell is going on in the world today? Take a few minutes to read this insightful piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a treat to read a post discussing big ideas.

    It is funny another commenter mentioned Chomsky because as I was reading this I thought his theories would make a good add-on to Foucault. But as I read more I realized that I was perhaps seeing the issue through my own privilege. One thing Chomsky has pointed out in his propaganda model is the importance of the middle class to keep the system rolling. They are the mediators between the oppressed and the elite and pretty much unaware of that role. I have been shaped much more by propaganda and privilege than by violence. But I have seen that the case is not so for other people. I remember very well what happened in Wounded Knee in the 1970s. For many years I couldn’t understand why the richest most powerful naion in the world responded to a relatively small protest with -all- its available force. I think I get it now. The state wanted to keep on robbing the first nations and it was fueled not only by greed but also by hatred. Like any other bully it did what it could because it could.

    It is true that social critics like Giroux and Chomsky seem short on solutions. Mostly because that isn’t their role. But both have offered ideas: speak out, remember, organize.

    I do have a problem with Diamond’s conclusion on people being inherently violent. People socialized into a capitalist system might be but the evidence seems pretty clear that that is not a cross-cultural thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I so appreciate your thoughtful and engaging comments, Debra. Actually, it’s exciting to read such substantive responses. I promise to reply in more depth tomorrow morning. (I have been working outside all day getting ready to plant gardens, and hauling wagons of dirt to create new ones – the only way I can clean up and repair the concrete landfill I just discovered on one side of my yard.)


    2. I have to admit that I’m not as familiar with Chomsky’s work as I am with Foucault, Gramsci, Fanon, Freire, and Bourdieu, so I appreciate your discussion.
      What happened at Wounded Knee does symbolize the deep emotions that continue to influence how the descendants of colonizers and immigrants view indigenous peoples. It would be better if they really had all disappeared to be remembered only at Thanksgiving, Halloween, and in museums. But I’m not sure if it’s hatred as much as fear and guilt – and maybe annoyance that indigenous people continue to get in the way of “progress” when they protest against environmental destruction and historical injustice.

      Ideas are important. They help illuminate dynamics that are taken for granted. Like Diamond’s notion of humankind’s inherent violence that you so eloquently critique that is perhaps associated with capitalism rather than human nature. It’s probably part of the European Judeo-Christian belief in the doctrine of original sin that filters Diamond’s understanding of the world. Your discussion reminded me of a Sufi story that John McKnight relates: http://inclusionnetwork.ning.com/forum/topics/john-mcknights-sufi-story. “The moral of the story is that you will only learn what you already know.” It’s how indoctrination (or hegemony, dressage, paradigms) works.

      Thank you for wonderfully thoughtful and incisive comments, Debra 🙂


      1. Thank you for the link! Great story. It reminds me of an experience my husband had the last time he visited our local traditional Chinese medicine guy. To my husband he said: I don’t need to tell you what to do. Everyone already knows this stuff. heh.

        I do think there is hatred is at the heart of racism. And sexism. Child abuse. And environmental destruction. And so many other problems. But then I’ve been reading a lot of stuff by Derrick Jensen lately. His argument is tough to dispute. If there is a flaw in it I haven’t parsed it out.

        Are deep emotions behind the continued robbery of the people and their land in South Dakota? It just looks like greedy bullies doing whatever the hell they please to me. It is such a shame that Peter Matthiessen’s documentation of what happened seems to be pretty much ignored. Even today if you look for stuff written about in The Spirit of Crazy Horse one mostly finds stories about his censorship battles. The message — that the army got involved to protect the extraction of natural resources and to block first nation’s attempts at sovereignty seems to have gotten buried.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. As always, important comments Debra. Peter Matthiessen’s work is so important. South Dakota is especially anti-Indian. But I think it’s more than greed, and more than hatred. I honestly think settlers don’t want to acknowledge that their ancestors, perhaps desperate and perhaps unknowingly, illegitimately benefited from theft and genocide. The land they have called home – maybe for many generations – will never feel like a legitimate home as long as the living presence of the Lakota reminds them daily of things they really don’t want to think about.

          Often, the people who live in communities that border reservations tend to be those who have less education and few employment options elsewhere – not all that different from many reservation residents. It’s something I noticed when I lived in Lac du Flambeau. Residents in the nearest towns tended to be extremely anti-Indian, and felt that Indians got a free-ride from the federal government. They were jealous, and angry about treaty rights that allowed Ojibwe people to hunt and fish at times and places denied to whites. Anti-Indian groups arose in the 1980s – Equal Rights for Everyone (ERE), and Protect Americans Rights and Resources (PARR) arose to protest the exercise of spear-fishing rights. The 1980s and 1990s were ugly times in northern Wisconsin.

          I remember an opportunity I had to get to know one of the students in a private college where I taught who was a member of PARR. She lived in a border community, and had had a hard life of poverty. She really believed Indians had it easy. PARR gave her a sense of belonging and purpose – it was easy for them to play on her fears, vulnerability, and ignorance about history. I’m sure that’s the case for many people who feel their lives are hard and hopeless and unfair. I’m glad that she had a chance to go on for an education – and I hope she was able to finish without crushing debts for student loans.

          Education and bridging divides are the only solutions I can think of, but they’re not easy to implement. It’s so much easier for those in power to divide the rural poor and Native Americans and foment intergroup conflict.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Maybe if the larger society hadn’t destroyed so much wilderness everyone would now be able to hunt and fish. Even that tiny right ‘granted’ to first nations’ people is constantly being eroded through people’s planet-killing policies and practices. Can’t the state keep even one promise? I taught reservation kids for about ten years early in my career. Another teacher and I did a home visit once and the teacher who was with me was completely shocked at the living conditions of the kids there. For days she kept talking about how shocked she was. I was shocked that this was news to her. It gets worse. The people we were working for were relatively wealthy and powerful. The community had developed a profitable trade with Japan and were active in the courts. I can’t even imagine what that other teacher’s response would have been if she had seen what life is like on the prairies.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Thank you for sharing this experience, Debra. It’s amazing how little people know about history or present day reality for Native people, or the global connections that support extreme economic inequality.


        4. “I honestly think settlers don’t want to acknowledge that their ancestors, perhaps desperate and perhaps unknowingly, illegitimately benefited from theft and genocide.”

          Even if they were desperate or ignorant the fact remains that this whole society’s wealth was built on the suffering of the first nations and slave labour. That’s a pretty horrific thing to face and so I suppose denial might be a way of dealing with the shame.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. I love it that I hear Euro/American intellectuals talk about traditional and tribal societies as having no individuals but rather parts of a collective entity. Hmmm. Wait a minute. That’s capitalism. “Dressage” – thank you for that. Glad to be back and I will bit by bit catch up on your posts. These are important and so very well worth reading.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your lovely comments, Diane. I’m glad you’re back! Yes, I’m working on a post about the “one story” in ethnographic literature, although it changes depending on the paradigm of the times.

      (And speaking of paradigms, the concept of dressage fits so well with the banking model of education and the normalizing forces built into all of our institutions.)

      Liked by 1 person

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