Governmental Power and Positioning of Marginalized People
This chapter extends Rom Harré’s positioning theory to a critical topic in conflict analysis, that is, the ways in which governments exert disciplinary controls over the governed. In particular, I examine a menacing kind of governmental power to manipulate vulnerable population groups by distorting their sense of self, generating a feeling of their inferiority and diminishing their social or political standing in the nation. This is the power to humiliate systemically. Such power can be exercised, for example, through certain governmental directives, verdicts, policies, decisions and norms that foster debasement, disgrace or denigration. The purpose of this chapter is to analyze the power-positioning interface of such controls. I argue that underlying such governmental power of consciousness-distortion are systems of positioning that state agencies carefully craft and strategically deploy. A case study of the current immigration policies and discursive practices of the United States government is presented. Underpinning the intense polemics over “the immigration problem” in the United States are contested systems of positioning of immigrants and native-born Americans.
KeywordsPositioning theory Conflict analysis Governmental power Disciplinary control
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