ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

A+| A| A-

To Flog an Elephant

Foucault and South Asia

South Asian Governmentalities: Michel Foucault and the Question of Postcolonial Orderings edited by Stephen Legg and Deana Heath, New Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 2018; pp 269, ₹595.

The various writings of Michel Foucault have been significantly applied to the histories of South Asia and India in particular, in the past few decades. His writings on governmentalities in particular, from his lecture series Security, Territory, Population (1978) have been used as a framework on varied studies in India ranging from environmental regulation, birth control, economic policy, land acquisition and prostitution. This Foucauldian preoccupation with the problem of governance can be understood by evaluating what we think of governance, and situating ways in which governance happens in practice. Foucaults lectures understand this in a tiered waythe moral question of self-government, the economic governance of the family, and the political nature of governance by rule of the state. South Asian Governmentalities is a compendium of perceived governmentalities that tries to break away from conventional European analysis. It adapts and applies Foucault to varied historical cases read in the context of colonial history and postcolonial theory.

Stephen Legg and Deana Heath acknowledge the existing rich scholarship that Foucault has spawned in South Asian studies at the same time recognising Foucaults allusions to European expansionism and colonial experiences in both historical and contemporary contexts. They recognise this legacy not only in the evolution of the Subaltern Studies group, but also in the studies on modernity, sexuality, science, caste and institutions in scholarship outside the group. Similarly, the editors contextualise the reader about the debates within and between these studies such as the preoccupation with colonial discourse. Taking on from David Scott, they suggest that their volume attempts to uncover the diversities of governmentalities in various colonial experiences, rationalities, institutions which would be located within the configurations of (il)liberalism, violence, social, political, economic and communal.

Dear Reader,

To continue reading, become a subscriber.

Explore our attractive subscription offers.

Click here


To gain instant access to this article (download).

INR 59

(Readers in India)

$ 6

(Readers outside India)

Published On : 12th Jan, 2024

Support Us

Your Support will ensure EPW’s financial viability and sustainability.

The EPW produces independent and public-spirited scholarship and analyses of contemporary affairs every week. EPW is one of the few publications that keep alive the spirit of intellectual inquiry in the Indian media.

Often described as a publication with a “social conscience,” EPW has never shied away from taking strong editorial positions. Our publication is free from political pressure, or commercial interests. Our editorial independence is our pride.

We rely on your support to continue the endeavour of highlighting the challenges faced by the disadvantaged, writings from the margins, and scholarship on the most pertinent issues that concern contemporary Indian society.

Every contribution is valuable for our future.