On the Political Ontology of the Dispositif

Panagia jpeg

The Rhetoric Fall Colloquium Series presents Davide Panagia:

The ambition of this paper is to show the extent to which the turn to the language of dispositif in Foucault’s writings regards an explicit attempt to develop a critical mode for thinking about the politicality of media objects that isn’t reducible to the model of coercion typically associated with the tradition of ideology-critique. This suggests that a study of the Foucaultian dispositif offers insights into Foucault’s attempt to rethink the function, form, and effectivities of mediation in political life. The Foucaultian dispositif, in other words, is not an object or force of reification. It is, rather, an aesthetic power of radical mediation. Part I of the essay introduces and engages some of the more influential studies on Foucault’s dispositif in recent years, while Part II constructs the parallels between Foucault’s treatment of Manet’s canvasses and his subsequent readings of the Panopticon. Part III draws out the theoretical stakes of the shift from the apparatus to the dispositif or, what I am calling the political ontology of the dispositif. The focus here is on the nature of dispositional powers, their indirectness, and what modality of cause we might imagine from medial objects if the vector model of influence is insufficient to attending to their modes of existence. 

With Hans Sluga, discussant.