Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Zhao, W. ‘Observation’ as China’s civic education pedagogy and governance: an historical perspective and a dialogue with Michel Foucault, Discourse
Volume 40, Issue 6, 2 November 2019, Pages 789-802

DOI: 10.1080/01596306.2017.1404444

Abstract
This paper examines China’s civic education discourses from a historical and cross-cultural perspective. It unpacks observation as a political–cultural–spatial pedagogy, underpinning Confucius’ educational envisioning, Mao’s domination in the Cultural Revolution Movement, and Xi’s China/ese Dream propaganda. Drawing upon Foucault’s provocation of the Western gaze, this paper historicizes Confucius, Mao, and Xi’s discourses to explicate a Chinese observation diagram. With Confucius, observation works as an onto-hermeneutic principle, grounding China’s cosmology and sovereign-subject governance. With Mao, observation becomes a panoramic domination-surveillance mechanism, which, coupled with a Confucian punitive shame, empowers the proletarian mass in excluding-purging the bourgeois as class enemies. With Xi, observation turns into a symbolic governing technology of self, subjecting its citizenry to re-branded Confucian values toward realizing a participatory China/ese Dream. In so doing, this paper shows the parallels and contradistinctions between the Chinese observation and the Western gaze in historically and structurally ordering knowledge production and social-educational governance.

KEYWORDS: Observation, civic education, Foucault’s gaze, Confucius’ vision, Mao’s Cultural Revolution Movement, China/ese Dream

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