Foucault News

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

Stephen Reicher, God save the Queue: how the wait to see the Queen’s coffin transformed people, The Conversation, Tue 20 Sep 2022

strange thing has happened since last week, when I wrote about how myself and other social psychologists were studying the crowds of people queueing to watch the ceremonials following the death of Queen Elizabeth – finding out the many reasons and motivations for taking part in this mass event. It seems the Queue itself – and what it supposedly tells us about the state of our nation – has become as big a story as the ceremonies. We stopped watching the pageantry and started watching ourselves watching the pageants.

Most of the discussion of the response to the Queen’s death has focused simply on what it tells us about ourselves as a society. But that is to miss the importance of how these events actively change people. We do not come out of the last 10 days as we went in. But that is the whole point of such ceremonials. They are technologies for engineering souls. And by investigating them, we gain crucial insights into how that process works.

Stephen Reicher is a professor of psychology at the University of St Andrews, a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and an authority on crowd psychology

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