Questions for Thought and Discussion
“Panopticism,” by Michel Foucault
Directions: Use these study questions to help you think about the article in a variety of ways. Use these questions to test yourself!
1. According to Foucault, how were plague-stricken societies organized to combat the plague’s deadly effects? Describe the key features necessary to combat the plague. What are the benefits or organizing society in these ways? What are the limitations?
2. What distinctions can be made between the ordering and controlling of leprosy and the plague?
3. What does Foucault mean by “rituals of exclusion” and “”disciplinary projects”?
4. How does the panoptic mechanism differ from a dungeon? What are the principal characteristics of each? What are the goals of each?
5. What importance does Foucault attribute to “visibility”? What role do visibility and invisibility play in panoptic structures of power?
6. Foucault states, “The plague-stricken town, the panoptic establishment – the differences are important.” What are those differences and how are they important?
7. In describing Panopticism, Foucault is meticulous in tracing the historical evolution of the panopticon as a disciplinary mechanism. What is his purpose in doing so? Why is he so careful?
8. Outline the major historical events Foucault cites. With what example(s) does Foucault begin? With what does he end?
9. What does Foucault mean when he says that disciplinary projects moved from the margins of society to the center? What is meant by “margin”? What is meant by “center”? What is the significance of this transition of discipline from the margins to the center?
10. What does Foucault mean when he says that societies of antiquity were “societies of spectacle” and modern societies are “societies of surveillance”? What are the differences? What historical events created such differences?...