Stoler, Ann Laura. 1995. Cultivating Bourgeois Bodies and Racial Selves.

In Race and the Education of Desire: Foucault’s History of Sexuality and the Colonial Order of Things. Pp. 95-136. Durham: Duke University Press.

Stoler returns to The History of Sexuality to re-examine Foucault’s account of the history of European bourgeois sexuality, and today’s ongoing inquiry into the “work of race and the place of empire in the making of Europe’s bourgeois world” (95). Stoler does not focus on the affirmation of the governing of the bourgeois bodies as discussed in History, but on the “uncertainties and porous boundaries that surround them,” and on how “racial discourse reverberated between metropole and colony to secure the tenuous distinctions of bourgeois rule” (97). Stoler begins her discussion with a critique of how anthropology has studied empire as a relationship between colonizer and colonized, rather than “as constructions that need to be explained” (98). Colonialism was “not a secure bourgeois project,” rather it was about the “making of middle-class sensibilities in the colonies (99) – not targeted only at the native Other, but also at the destitute white population in the colonies and the growing numbers of mixed-blood persons in these territories. As she writes, the “’civilizing mission’ of the 19th century was a bourgeois impulse directed not only at the colonized as often assumed, but at recalcitrant and ambiguous participants in imperial culture at home and abroad” (108-9) (e.g. inlandsche kinderen). For example, the survival guides written for the Europeans in the colonies included instructions on how colonial life is supposed to look. Stoler critiques Foucault for not considering enslavement and exploitation. Stoler argues that this cultivation of the bourgeois self was “not contingent on the will to self-affirmation alone,” and that instead, it required other gendered and racialized bodies that would administer these bourgeois ambitions. Stoler writes that “by marginalizing the link between nationalism and desire,” Foucault downplayed the “key discursive site where subjugated bodies were made and subjects formed” (136).


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