Theorising power and resistance among "travellers"

Karner, Christian (2004) Theorising power and resistance among "travellers". Social Semiotics, 14 (3). pp. 249-271. ISSN 1035-0330

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This paper (re-)examines the literature on Traveller communities in the United Kingdom by combining parts of Michel Foucault's and Michel de Certeau's theoretical legacies. Following an ethnographic summary, I demonstrate the relevance of Foucault and Certeau for a critical understanding of the Travellers’ structural predicaments and ideological resistance in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. I argue that Foucault's outline of modern power, surveillance and classification sheds new light on the impact of social control agencies and the implementation of legislative changes, such as the 1968 Caravan Sites Act, on (semi-)nomadic and/or self-employed groups. The implications of more recent legal developments are discussed as symptoms of postmodernity and the further ideological marginalisation of “non-consuming nomads”. I then argue that some of Certeau's key concepts, including the “strategies/tactics” distinction, illuminate the Travellers’ modalities of resistance and symbolisms of difference. Completing a two-way dynamic between theory and data, the article also shows that existing empirical material on Travellers highlights some of the weaknesses in Foucault's and Certeau's respective thought. Finally, I turn to Foucault's “analytics” to account for intra-group power and resistance, and hence to challenge the common portrayal of Foucault as a “theorist of domination” in juxtaposition to Certeau as a “theorist of subversion”.

Additional Information:cited By 7
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Social & Political Sciences
ID Code:39534
Deposited On:17 Jan 2020 11:16

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