A Foucauldian Critique of Sexualized Neo-Imperialism and the U.S. War on Terror
The U.S.’s intercession into the affairs and crises of the developing world appears to stem from motivations of benevolence, or an assumed responsibility to take on the role of “policeman” on the global stage. Often, the U.S. justifies its costly intercessions into the affairs of other countries, squandering tax payer money and putting citizens’ lives in jeopardy, by appealing to democratic values and human rights. However, rather than imagined magnanimity, Western interventions are characterized by intersections of power and dominance, exoticization, and othering marked by the Western imperial past (Abu-Lughod). As the U.S. continues to make its presence known in the developing world, feminist theories and conceptions of the gaze shed light on the racist, gendered, and sexualized discursive construction of the third world subject as the target of the Western civilizing mission. The male gaze is a form of violence structured by power relations and rooted in an imperial past that continues to shape race relations surrounding the gaze. Foucault’s analysis of Bentham’s panopticon and matrices of power, knowledge, and discipline reveal the transformative effect of the gaze in carrying out the Western agenda. Understanding this contemporary moment requires a look back into the past. In what follows I will ask how the patterns of historical imperialism have been reconfigured in the modern day, and how the application of Foucault’s theories can help us understand these elements. I will interrogate the dynamics around spectacle and visuality that have persisted from the colonial period into the neo-colonial period, and argue that in this critical juncture, Foucualt’s concept of the gaze sheds light on the extreme ways representational power is mobilized to colonial and neo-colonial ends.
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