This brief essay means to compare and contrast the practices used when creating and maintaining a docile body within the scope of the classroom and the supermarket. From a theoretical standpoint, it is clear to see that there are many physical and mental similarities and differences, where the docile body is concerned, that can be drawn between the classroom and the supermarket. Both the classroom and the supermarket are clear examples of ideas such as disciplinary power, though they achieve those differently. And yet both have their individual practices of making their docile customer or student. Even the creation of a docile body is a means unto itself. The shared experiences of individuals within each of these spaces also ???normalizes??™ what takes place, creating the desire to be a docile body, whether we notice it or not (Gore, 1998). However, it is crucial to emphasise that these experiences are not accidental. Schools and supermarkets both intend to make their customers and students ???docile bodies??™ in order to make money, teach effectively and control. This article is a way to explore the ideas behind creating a docile body, and the technologies and attributes which help to make it so.
In order to understand how the supermarket and the classroom construct a docile body from their students and customers, it is necessary to examine the rituals they encourage and their characteristics as buildings. Firstly, the supermarket is spacious, but has confined the customer to rows of products which aren??™t in logical order. This technology is used to keep the customer looking and buying for longer periods. The classroom also restricts movement of the body with rows or groupings of tables in order to better keep a watchful eye on the students. The architecture is subtle in the way that it directs us in the way that it wants, it
disciplines the body to move in ways of which we are not aware (Pillow, 1997, p.355). It all comes down to this disciplinary power, which is far easier to impress upon students and customers than sovereign power because there is no where to direct scrutiny (Covaleskie, 1993, p.79). This is further exercised with the use of surveillance. Surveillance in the case of the supermarket is enacted through cameras, however slightly different because we know that they are there. But they still manage to influence us because we will move with more caution and are less likely to do anything deemed inappropriate. In the classroom it is also obvious where the surveillance lies, with the teacher. The teacher is also responsible for watching our movements and more. A teacher is usually placed between the only door and the rest of the class, restricting our movement outside the area. Whether we realise it or not, both areas create the docile body by restricting movement.
???Foucault also argues that the distribution of bodies in space ??“ arranging, isolating, separating, ranking ??“ contributes to the functioning of disciplinary power??? (Gore, 1998, p.240). It is where we are placed that is key, but it is also how they get us there. In the classroom posters are used to direct the body how to behave and how to learn. However, it is based on the fact that a person is literate (which in itself is a discourse to control) (Brandon and Hamilton, 2000, as cited in Dixon, 2004, p.50). For example, as described by Dixon, there are classroom posters that tell the student ???how??™ to listen. By reading it, the poster directs the body into compliance, by implying that listening actually encompasses the entire body (Dixon, 2004, p.51) therefore creating the docile body, ready to learn. This is
also what is known as ???subjectification??™, the creating of the individual. The supermarket does this in a similar way, though it does not directly tell a person how their body should behave. The signs in the aisles tell us where to go to buy certain products, and even have cooking tips. There is a sense of ease when we are told what to do and how. And we are willing to conform because it is understood that a supermarket is an authority on these matters. That is also clear in the classroom where one takes direction from the authority; the teacher. And this is not just because they are the ones standing at the front, but because that this power is embodied deeply in the space of the classroom (McGregor, 2004, p.18).
This essay has only scratched the surface. Especially when we consider that there are so many influences going on in our lives. The classroom and the supermarket are only two modern institutions to explore when it comes to disciplinary power and the docile body (Foucault, 1977 as cited in Gore, 1998, p.232). And there are so many ways in which they are linked. Also, we are increasingly interacting with the world around us via communication technologies, which presents further challenges for the docile body (McGregor, 2004). So it is not just the classroom and supermarket that seek to make us a docile body. There are ways in which to behave and learn in every institution that we use. And they all use similar methods which are becoming more and more unknown to us as the individual. Though it is not something to be concerned about, it is necessary in it??™s way to prevent chaos in our society. Although these discourses should not be exempt from evaluation.
Covaleskie, J.F. (1993). Power goes to school: Teachers, students and discipline. Philosophy of Education Yearbook. 79-85.
Dixon, K. (2004). Literacy: Diverse spaces, diverse bodies Literacy Learning: The Middle Years/English in Australia (Combined Issue). 12(1), 50-55.
Gore, J.M. (1998). Disciplining bodies: One the continuity of power relations in pedagogy, In T.S. Popkewitz & M. Brennan (Eds.), Foucault??™s challenge: Discourse, knowledge and power in education (pp. 231-251). New York, Teachers??™ College Press.
McGregor, J. (2004). Space, power and the classroom. Forum, 4(1), 79-85.
Pillow, W.S. (1997). Exposed methodology: The body as de-constructive practice. Qualitative Studies in Education, 10 (3), 349-363.