Silencing Colonialism: Foucault and the International
Marta Fernandez and Paulo Esteves
Postcolonial perspectives are indebted to Foucault’s writings in many important ways. In fact, since the publication of Edward Said’s major work Orientalism, postcolonial thinkers often invoke Foucault’s notion of the power-knowledge nexus. Drawing on Foucault, they argue that the way we frame events necessarily involves relations of power that serve dominant interests.1 Although Foucault wrote extensively about, and certainly contributed to refine our conceptions of power, he remained quite silent about the ways in which power operated in the colonial arena.2 Our aim in this contribution is to further explore the political implications of such an omission for a critical understanding of how politics have come to develop under “modernity.” Mainly, we argue that the intervention of the colonial in the genealogical exploration of the European modern3 complicates Foucault’s account of the emergence of a “European international society.” In this purpose, the chapter is divided into three parts. In the first part, we suggest that when Foucault came to approach the issue of an “international society” in his work,4 he overlooked the role played by the colonial world in its constitution. As we argue in the second section, it appears that Foucault also regarded Europe as a homogeneous
M. Fernandez (*) • P. Esteves
© The Author(s) 2017 137
P. Bonditti et al. (eds.), Foucault and the Modern International,
The Sciences Po Series in International Relations and Political Economy, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-56153-4_8
space merely ordered by a unique temporality. In our concluding remarks, we suggest that while taking the European frontiers of international society for granted, Foucault had in fact ignored crucial bifurcations (a term we shall further explain below) that came to be constitutive of the world divided into a center—a system of sovereign states regulated by the balance of power—and a periphery—an unchecked group of belated societies articulated as a civilizational or developmental space.