Power and Knowledge Then and Now


I was interested in the Clarence Thomas Hearings before Anita Hill came forward with her allegations of sexual harassment. As I watched the hearings in the early 1990s, I was already a PhD student in the religion department at Temple University. My initial question was: why do people fight wars in the name of God? As I took the foundational courses required in the program I became interested in hermeneutics which led me to think about how people find meaning inside texts. As I watched the Thomas hearings, it occurred to me that what was happening was a matter of text interpretation. Texts inside texts. Contexts, pretexts, and subtexts collided.
When Anita Hill’s allegations came to light and the hearings were reopened, new facets of a clash of interpretations became visible. Issues of race, class, and sex made a complicated situation even more complicated. I believed Anita Hill then, and I believe her now. However, I must confess that before I started to study the hearings in depth, before I began to study women’s history, existential feminist theory, and womanism, I did not understand the daily struggle for respect that most women experience or the trauma of sexual harassment and assault. I may be one of the few women in the United States of America who do not have a “me too” story.
However, when I did begin to study these issues, I began to see that what Anita Hill experienced then and what Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is living through now is of a piece with women’s history that dates back centuries. One thing that remains the same is evidence that French philosopher Michel Foucault was correct when he helped us to understand the relationship between power and knowledge. There is a common saying that knowledge is power. However, Foucault taught that power determines what knowledge is. Power determines what we will know and what will remain unknown or at least uninvestigated.
Then, Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of speaking to her about pornographic material in the workplace and inappropriate sexual advances. Thomas issued a categorical denial of the accusation and called the proceeding a “high-tech lynching” invoking an emotionally charged racial trope. Hill testified. Thomas testified. Witnesses came forward to support Thomas, including women with whom he had worked. People came forward to support Hill. There was at least one witness who claimed that Anita Hill was given to delusions about whether or not a man was attracted to her. This was in keeping with the narrative that the Republicans wanted to advance that Hill was crazy. Women who dare to cause trouble for men have been called crazy for centuries.
However, there were women who had experiences with Thomas in the workplace similar to that which Anita Hill described. The powers that be on the Senate Judiciary Committee did not allow this testimony to be heard publicly. It is a part of the record of the hearings, but the general public did not have access to this information.
Fast forward to 2018. As I write this, Dr. Ford has not said whether or not she will appear before the committee. Her lawyers have said that she wants an FBI investigation before she agrees to appear, and she wants other witnesses called. Both are reasonable requests. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), chair of the judiciary committee has said that he will not ask the White House to order an FBI investigation and that he will not call additional witnesses. We shall see what happens. This is another example of power making a determination about what kinds of knowledge the general public and the senators who are duty bound to say yes or no to this nomination will have.
It seems that the Republicans plan to rush a vote on Judge Kavanaugh no matter what Dr. Ford decides. They will very likely have their hearing on Monday and then call for a vote. When I wrote my dissertation twenty years ago, (Reading the Clarence Thomas Hearings: Ideology, Context, Discourse and Meaning) I started with the presumption of good faith on all sides of the public discourse. My work in discourse ethics was intended to show how miscommunication happens, that the meaning of a text is found in the meanings of a text. Everything open to interpretation is open to multiple interpretations. People who disagree with us are not lazy, crazy, stupid, ignorant or evil. They just disagree.
That was then.
Now, I no longer presume good faith. The Republicans in the United States Senate under the leadership of Mitch McConnell stole a Supreme Court seat and lied about a so-called Biden rule. This is a lie that Republicans continue to perpetrate, and far too many people in the media do not call them out on this lie. Now they are saying that the kind of investigation that Dr. Ford wants is not necessary. This is false and they know it since at least two of the GOP members of the judiciary committee – Grassley and Hatch (R-UT)– were members when Anita Hill came forward, and they applauded an FBI investigation.
The good news is that just as Foucault helps us to understand the relationship between power and knowledge, he also helps us to understand that power is everywhere. The truth will out. There is no doubt that there are people in the media who will chase this story until they find the truth. People who do not want their lives upended now, may very likely speak up once this particular moment has passed.
It may be too late to keep Judge Kavanaugh off the Supreme Court. We may have to live with another member of the highest court in the land accused of sexual misconduct, but we have yet another reason to remember in November and vote for people who will conduct their constitutional duties with integrity, not with hypocrisy and lies.
Valerie Elverton Dixon is founder of JustPeaceTheory.com and author of “Just Peace Theory Book One: Spiritual Morality, Radical Love, and the Public Conversation.”

2 thoughts on “Power and Knowledge Then and Now

  1. Thank you for this excellent analysis. Speaking of the various layers of interpretations of important and powerful texts – (the Bible comes to mind first….) – my experiences as a woman revealed to me how deep and extensive is a culture many men grew up with that assumes that “flirting” with women includes what we now, finally, have put into law, that is sexual harassment. I’m always shocked and amazed to hear from men how poorly they still understand the difference between flirting and harassment.
    Following the news, it is deeply discouraging to see how many women still accept that ancient male interpretation of behavior which is actually simply bullying, another behavior seen within hierarchies where men are historically and still on top.
    Sometimes I wonder if in this fundamentalist climate there will ever be a change towards true human dignity and accepting women as fully human.

  2. “Countless numbers of candles can be lit from a solitary candle, and the lifestyle of the candle will not be shortened. Contentment never decreases by getting shared.” The BuddhaCandles are an age old classic component of Buddhist rituals. In conjunction with incense and bouquets, they are put in entrance of Buddhist shrines or statues and images of the Buddha as a mark of regard. They are typically accompanied by choices of foodstuff and drink. The light-weight of the burning candle flame represents the light of the Buddha’s teachings. Candles and incense also evoke the point out of impermanence and adjust.Their mild can also be explained to symbolize the enlightenment of the Buddha.Thailand Buddhist Candle Competition”Just as a candle can not burn without fireplace, guys can not dwell with no a religious life.” The BuddhaBuddhist Lent Day in Thailand, an overwhelmingly Buddhist country is in July every 12 months and is primarily practiced by recognized monks. The day before the start of Lent, the Candle Pageant is celebrated by Thai folks. This Festival is celebrated appropriate throughout the region, but the most notably celebrations get place in Ubon Rachathani north-jap Thailand (Isaan).According to tradition, Buddhist Lent Working day commenced as a result of villagers complaining to the Buddha. It is explained that a team of ordained monks had been creating benefit (tamboon) and had walked via soaked rice fields. At this time the rice fields were at the peak of their growth and by going for walks in them they experienced ruined the crop. As a consequence the legend has it that the Buddha advised all monks to exercise producing advantage while only keeping inside of the confines of their temples. Nowadays Buddhist Lent stipulates that all monks have to continue being confined to their temples for a period of three months throughout the wet year, beginning on the initial working day of the eighth waning moon.Thai individuals offer you a selection of fundamental merchandise to their monks and this providing also contains candles and this of course consists of the popular Candle Pageant. In previous moments most temples experienced no electrical power and so candles had an critical symbolic significance for ceremonies but also more virtually for illumination in daily use. Furthermore they are said to represent knowledge as divine gentle for the duration of the Candle Pageant the Buddhist laity apply their beliefs by providing massive and usually extravagantly adorned candles to the monks.Candle Pageant Celebrations: “There are two techniques of spreading mild: to be the candle or the mirror that demonstrates it.” Edith WhartonOn the working day just before Lent, huge teams of men and women get with their wonderfully decorated candles and march with them on elaborate and gorgeous parades. The prosperous, luxuriously sculpted decorations on these beautiful functions of artwork portray willpower, unity, and the beliefs of that local community. The candle parade procession includes the broadest cross part of the community all in their finest clothes. In Ubon Ratchathani this also contains several groups of neighborhood Isaan performers, musicians and dancers who accompany the candles as they make their way through the town. There is also a popular elegance contest to decide on Miss Candle (who is regarded as the most beautiful lady of that community).Through the nation, there are celebrations of the Candle Competition. Whatsoever the climate in Thailand the folks have fun and expressing their religion on July 8, the starting of Buddhist lent.”How much that minor candle throws its beams! So shines a great deed in a naughty planet.” William ShakespeareCandle MeditationSit a tranquil tranquil area and mild a candle. It could be of any colour but some prefer a blue or a white a single. Now stare deep into the burning flame of the candle and concentrate on it. Never enable your eyesight of the candle flame turn into blurred. As you stare at the burning flame your mind will turn out to be stuffed with the sound of everyday considering, worries and trivial considerations. These should just begin to drift away and soon after a brief while, you might begin to get pictures and ideas that will not look to arrive from you. Take these as your religious guides and attempt to interpret them.Keep staring at the burning flame do not be distracted and attempt to interpret the visions you are acquiring. 1 widespread instance is that of ‘seeing’ a peeled onion. At very first this might seem to be senseless but in this illustration it could signify that as you journey more together on your life’s route, the levels are getting peeled absent enabling you to see and expertise the final core of you existence.As you development even more with your candle meditation try to find out to trust your own examination and understanding of these thoughts that the candle provides to your brain. This form of meditation hence acts as a strong way of focusing your focus.Try out to develop up your knowledge of candle meditation from five minutes a day to 20 minutes and do this over a number of months. Your eyes will need to have to adapt to the dim light-weight and over time, you will be able distinguish amongst which views are your own and which can act as your religious guides.”Far better to light-weight a candle than curse the darkness” Chinese proverb”As a white candle in a holy area, So is the attractiveness of an aged confront” Joseph CampbellWhere is the World’s Most significant Candle?”We say God and the creativity are 1… How substantial that maximum candle lights the dark.” Wallace StevensDigressing somewhat from the use of Candles in Buddhism in my research I diverted to see what human creativity could provide to the planet of candles – this is what I discovered.”A very good trainer is like a candle – it consumes by itself to gentle the way for other people.” AnonThere are numerous contenders and a prolonged historical past of the lookup for the world’s most significant candle. The initial contender for the world’s greatest candle is the Usa – the Warm Glow Candle Outlet in Centreville, Indiana exactly where they assert to have the world’s biggest candle. Nevertheless At the Stockholm Exhibition of 1897 what has been explained as the world’s premier candle on file went on screen. This substantial candle is mentioned to have been eighty toes large and measuring eight and a 50 percent toes in diameter.The prolonged proven company of Ajello Candles is one more contender for the historic title of the world’s largest candle. In 1921 it developed the Enrico Caruso Memorial Candle.This candle calculated 5 ft in circumference and tapered at the top to eighteen inches. This candle stood an remarkable eighteen feet tall and when the candle was burning the business claimed it could keep on for 1800 years, burning 1 working day every single yr on the anniversary of Enrico Caruso’s death.In 2005 in Jerusalem they created the world’s largest Hannukha candle. This huge candle was more than eight and a half metres in height and 85cm vast. It was situated in the Pisga mall in the town. These are just some illustrations of what assert to be or have been the world’s biggest candles.”Nirvana is not the blowing out of the candle. It is the extinguishing of the candle’s flame since day is occur.” Rabindranath Tago

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