Societas Classica

Knowledge and Power in a Chinese Post(Semi)Colonial Context

Павел Петков

Страници: 258-267


An important part of postcolonial critical discourse – which originated in the work of Michel Foucault and which I find rather useful for analyzing the images of China produced by twentieth-century travel writers – is the complex relationship between knowledge and power. Foucault himself declares that one of the main goals of his archaeological endeavors is “to rediscover on what basis knowledge and theory became possible” (Foucault 1973, xxiii) and develops the argument that power and knowledge are invariably and inseparably connected in a way that is by no means innocent. To Foucault, knowledge always bestows to its bearer a certain kind of power over the entity that is being ‘known’ or over the very discourse that produces ‘truths’ about this entity. “[P]ower and knowledge directly imply one another. There is no power relation without the correlative constitution of a field of knowledge, nor any knowledge that does not presuppose and constitute at the same time power relations” (Foucault 1973: 27). The two notions clearly depend on each other: they seem to be indispensable parts of the same discursive paradigm. Said states that “[k]nowledge gives power, more power requires more knowledge, and so on in an increasingly profitable dialectic of information and control” (Said 1978: 36).

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