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Foucault and "Technologies of the Self"

In the theory.org.uk quiz, there is a question about Foucault's term 'technologies of the self', which (in the answer) I said 'basically refers to ways in which people put forward, and police, their "selves" in society; and ways in which they are enabled or constrained in their use of different techniques by available discourses'.

However I also suggested that if anyone felt that they could summarize it any better, they should send me suggestions. 'Funnily' enough, I have actually received several replies to this plea.....

[If you're mid-quiz and want to
go back, follow this link].

Jason Mittell from the University of Wisconsin- Madison wrote to me and suggested this: "Technologies of the self are the specific practices by which subjects constitute themselves within and through systems of power, and which often seem to be either 'natural' or imposed from above".

And Jennifer Webb of Queensland Art Gallery sent me this: "Technologies of the self are a series of techniques that allow individuals to work on themselves by regulating their bodies, their thoughts and their conduct".

Suzanne Bachman suggests: "Technologies of the self are self-conscious moments of behavior, thought and action precipitated by one's simultaneous awareness of their relation to the interior of the exterior and/or the exterior of the interior".

Ernst Buchberger from the University of Vienna says: "Technologies of the self' are methods employed by people resulting in how they will be perceived as 'selves' by 'others' and them'selves'".

Jessica Matthews of Sarah Lawrence College suggests: "Technologies of the self are the mechanisms employed by individuals and society, for better or worse, which perpetuate the public consumption of and regulation of individuality".

Mary Hudock of Allegheny College chips in with: "Foucault's phrase 'technologies of the self' refers to ways in which people put forward, and police, their 'selves' in society; and the ways in which they are enabled or constrained in their use of different techniques by available and disenchanting discourses where the geometric flux abdicates the signifier, leaving us even further removed from any coherent sense of "self" and with our heads on the floor after downing a whole bottle of Jack Daniels in search of the ever-elusive transendental signifier that just might, just might, lead to a sense of self". [Maybe she's joking with the 'geometric flux' bit, but the Jack Daniels part must be spot-on].

Meanwhile, Camilo Nascimento explains: "When being in an environment for an extended period of time under which a structured set of policies is lived, the nuances of living in this environment fall into nuances of this "technological" structure which was made by man with the image of a certain type of environment, be it positive and/or negative in relation to the discourse between people living in this structure".

Simon Kweeday of Liverpool Hope University offered this explanation: "We try to portray our personality in the best possible light, when in fact our personality is not fixed, is always in flux and may not even exist at all, in any realistic sense. Society and its power constraints, rules and regulations, as well as many other contrasting and complementary factors all gel into forming technologies of the self. Our portrayal of these facets from within projected towards society and from outside projected within ourselves determines who we are to ourselves and to other people".

Mucahit Bilici of Istanbul Bilgi University Turkey suggests this: "Technologies of the self refers to the act(s) of inserting a consciousness, not necessarily, of a concrete bodily existence into a collectivity, not necessarily, of an abstract distance through employment of free floating empowerment/resistential instruments in unceasing encounter with ununited colors/forms of power".

Charlie Webb, UK, sent this definition: "[Technologies of the self are] the continuously evolving mechanics of our very 'nature' that dictate what we think say and do, based on our daily experiences".

G.N.Unger provided the briefest answer: "Holistic civil bondage techniques", he says.

Lesley Davies, from Swansea, South Wales, was also concise: technologies of the self means "watching one's Ps and Qs," she says.

Thank you to all of the above contributors. Naturally I cannot tell you which is the "correct" answer -- all of these are meaningful in different ways!
 

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