From Mar 27 15:03:11 1996
Date: Thu, 7 Mar 1996 12:35:28 +0800
From: Dave Rindos []
To: Multiple recipients of list ARCH-L [ARCH-L@TAMVM1.TAMU.EDU]
Subject: Power, Textuality and the Double Bind [long-ish]

Funny how these things work. I've just been re-reading David Halperin's lovely little book, Saint Foucault, and I log in to find a series of posts on, of all things, Power [both theory and applied :{) ].

I had been waiting to hear from Hugh (who as we all now know has been waiting for a reply from UWA) before posting an update on the rather remarkable developments occurring here in Western Australia, but it seems that Professor Tonkinson's reply to Hugh's post raises issues of no small anthropological importance (again in both theoretical and applied terms).

So rather than an update (which would be out of date by the time it appears in any case -- that's how fast things are going here, what with almost daily news-reports, radio coverage, etc.), I'd like to look how Professor Tonkinson's posting intersects with my recent reading (admitting that I sometimes cannot shake the notion that some of the people at UWA have been using Foucault like a cook-book).

Halperin's comments on Foucault, while wide-ranging, point to several exceedingly important issues on the nature and application of Power in social settings, issues which seem to have been well developed by Professor Tonkinson. And while his text is quite dense, and should be subjected to a *detailed* deconstruction, that full task will have to be put aside for a more formal occasion. For now, I will attempt only to comment on one particular point, one highlighted by Halperin (pg 34):

"Homophobic discourses are incoherent, then, but their incoherence, far from incapacitating them, turns out to empower them. In fact, homophobic discourses operate strategically *by means of* logical contradictions. The logical contradictions internal to homophobic discourses give rise to a series of double binds which function -- incoherently to be sure, but nevertheless effectively and systematically -- to impair the lives of lesbians and gay men."

While Halperin here is placing Foucault's understanding of power into the context of "queer theory," and speaking to the experiences of a disempowered caste, one which has only recently discovered its community in the context of a recognition of shared experiences as individuals, the general observations of the mode of operation of Power-texts remains valid.

The reason that Halperin's comments have a general applicability is easily understood when one recognises that all theories of power and liberation start with a similar understanding: that the contradictions (whether material/physical or ideological/conceptual) implicit in an individual's experiences may lead her or him to recognise that these are SHARED experiences, and therefore are not one's "fault," but instead have a cultural/social basis. From this insight arises the social reinterpretation of individual experience and the development of a class or caste which is capable of confronting the power which is newly seen to be the cause of oppression.

Turning now to Hugh's post and the UWA reply, we can note the following:

On Tue, 5 Mar 1996, Bob Tonkinson wrote:
| as Professor and Head of the Anthropology Department at The
| University of Western Australia, which has administrative responsibility for
| the Centre for Archaeology,

thereby providing full institutional identification, a position which implies he is in the *proper* *position* to speak about
| the subject of yet another posting by Hugh Jarvis.

Yet does he? Clearly not (as has already been noted by others who have replied publicly to his post). Instead he appears, from the beginning, to attempt to more-or-less daemonize Hugh.

This is done by portraying him as the kind of person who, merely by quoting and commenting upon factual matters in the public domaine has produced a
| particularly reprehensible communication.

Personalities already under attack, we begin to develop the discourse of incoherence:

| The
| remarks made about Professor Bowdler in that posting were derived from
| selected documents tabled in the Western Australian parliament. These
| statements were protected by parliamentary privilege,
[what is said thus far is true, but then the text uses a turn, an interpretative slight of hand, as it were and continues]

| which means that,
[but does it????]

| according to Australian law, Professor Bowdler cannot respond to them
| legally or by any other means.


Sorry. Professor Bowdler, or any other party, including Professor Tonkinson is perfectly free to comment or respond to the comments as made in the Parliament. Indeed, the University has responded to the comments on numerous occasions (including the rejoinder by Professor Tonkinson itself). And each case, they have used the same language of ambiguous finger-pointing indulged by Professor Tonkinson here ("innacurate" "misleading" "scurrulous" "protected" &c &c). But as we shall note, this approach provides a necessary part of the development of a power-filled, incoherent, discourse.

First, we see (again) ritualistic inovcation of the Power Posture, a social gesture somewhat akin to the inflation of the probiscus by an elephant seal:
| As I write, the University's Senior Legal
| Advisor is testing the posting for possible libel and defamation in the
| context of the appropriate legal frameworks.

Then, we finally get to the general claim, the "rejoinder" as it were to Hugh's post:

| Most of the conclusions drawn from the tabled documents are patently
| misleading, as is Hugh Jarvis's version of events at this University in
| relation to the Centre for Archaeology.

"Most" conclusions ("which conclusions?" one might ask) drawn from a given data base are not only "misleading" but "patently" so. The same is true of Hugh's "version" of the events. Of course, we do not know which "version" stands in counter-point to "his" versions, but incoherence as a tool of power requires just such discourse. (This incoherence, in part, arises, as Foucault has discussed, from the close connection between secrecy and power, but consideration of this aspect of the text is here largely put aside).
| The comments by Hugh Jarvis pertaining to missing files are misleading and
| erroneous. These files contained basic administrative documents relating to
| such matters as leave and conditions of employment. They contained no
| documents relevant to the tenure review process or to Dr Rindos's academic
| performance. These are stored in a separate set of files, and Dr Rindos has
| already gained access to most of them under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.

This is a particularly delicious bit of flummery where obfuscation meets pontification leading to incoherence most profound.

The written regulations of the University go into immense detail regarding the Personal Files of staff members, highlighting their importance, providing the manner in which they may be viewed by the staff member, listing who else in the University may see them, providing clear regualations on what may be included in this file, how sheets are to be numbered, and even going so far as to give the conditions governing their transport from one office to another. In brief, the Personal File is SUPPOSED to contain the full university case regarding the treatment of a staff member.

And, for almost a year, now, the University at least ACTED as if this file is a VERY significant one. I found it essential to access the whole file in order to finalise an appeal (now accepted) to the State Ombudsman regarding my treatment, and to work on my appeal to the University Visitor (long story there, but not relevant here). After many months of stalling, the University hired a Private Detective (no, ladies and gentlement, I am *not& making this up!), who spent an immense amount of time attempting to locate my file, without success (by the by, his Report to the University concluded that the file was most likely hidden or destroyed by a party or parties unknown either the "embarass" the University or to cause me "concern").

And the Freedom of Information Commissioner also seemed to think the contents of the file might be pretty important too. When I had what would normally be confidential documents released to me last July, this happened, in large part, because the University could produce no convincing evidence from my Personal File for poor performance or counselling for same.

So why the sudden and extreme devaluation of this file? What FUNCTION could this shift serve in terms of the discourse?

It would seem that, especially given the rather supercilious tone adopted, Professor Tonkinson would seem to have us believe that Jarvis doesn't know what the hell he is talking about. It's rather as if the text were saying "Jarivs is so out of touch with the way things are REALLY done at UWA that he doesn't even understand the oh so very insignificant nature of the Personal File."

This, of course, should come as no surprise since Jarvis, unlike Tonkinson, is unable to draw upon the wealth of knowledge (only) available to a Person With Power.

The allegation that (the already somewhat demonized) Jarvis is totally misinformed permits the creation of the double bind (one that has already been given sharp teeth by the invocation of threats of legal action against him).

| Our earlier protests to Hugh Jarvis via the anthro-l list, regarding his
| failure to crosscheck any of his information or to attempt to provide a
| modicum of balance, went unheeded. Jarvis is a willing participant in what
| appears to be an orchestrated campaign aimed at destroying both the career
| of an excellent scholar and the good name of this University.

Here the subtext reads to this effect:

"We've already tried, again and again, to show this poor uninformed Jarvis the errors of his ways. We've been oh so polite yet he keeps passing on mis-information. He is the kind of guy who doesn't value our *shared* *academic* *values* -- important values like the need to crosscheck information or provide a balanced treatment in what he writes. You really can't blame us for protesting this kind of behaviour, can you? You must agree with us, right?"

Yet, this very stance leads to a problem (and here is where the double-bind comes in). Given that Jarvis (and others like him) are so willing to act against the basic, universally-held, High Standards of academic discourse, then he must have a hidden agenda! He must be a "willing participant" in an "orchestrated campaign". One that has as its goal the destruction of The Good Things We All Value (like fair discourse, balanced treatment, academic careers and the reputations of innocent people).

Here, an analogy to the attack by the radical right on lesbians and gay men seeking equal treatment under the law would not be misplaced: rather than accepting the simple explanation (that many people believe that ALL people should be treated in the same manner under the law), a secret and distasteful "Gay Agenda" is proclaimed. This, of course, serves as a means to protect the existing power structure of inequality. The alternative is to accept that an allegedly shared value (equality under the law) has led to a serious contradiction in the face of society's treament of some of its members.

Now the double bind becomes apparent:

Many people believe that events at UWA over the past 5 years or so seem to lead a contradiction -- The data cannot seem to be made to fit with UWA's continual claims that they have done everything properly and that, by means of full due process, a result fully in keeping with justice has been been obtained.

Now if you do not attempt publicly to speak to this issue, you can never be sure if, in fact, you have understood the issues clearly. You are stuck with the very problems of "balance" and "cross-checking of information" noted by Professor Tonkinson. You simply cannot be sure WHAT is happening.

Yet, if you DO speak publicly, and speak to very observable contradictions, then Power gains even more Power by displaying its Superior Knowledge of the events ("if you only knew the WHOLE story").

Here, Power displays its knowledge of your ignorance of its knowledge. Its power is maintained by a steadfast unwillingness to part with any of the "facts" of the case, such facts being, of course, the privilege of power, and therefore unnecessary to share. That anyone should dare to point to contradictions merely provides an opportunity to increase this same power -- "Well, of course, it might LOOK like that to YOU, but those of us who have the FULL story know otherwise [wink, wink]."

By means of this process, Power turns any open display of questioning into something that MUST of NECESSITY be tied to some other kind of secret -- here membership in a covert organisation with an agenda most disreputable indeed. Given that knowledge is power, and power must know, it is logical that those in power should also know the secret agendae of those who stand in opposition to it. Hence, the double bind becomes complete.

If one remains silent, one remains trapped in their explanations, in their textuality, and the incoherence and contradicitions which reside therein. But if one opens up and starts to question, then Power can claim, once again, to know the REAL reason for said public displays of opposition. Their control over knowlege and the "facts" is actually increased.

The idea that Hugh Jarvis is a member of some sort of secret society dedicated to the overthrow of decent academic standards and basic social standards like fair play is certainly bizarre. "Nutty," one might even say. But it is just such incoherence, as we have already noted, which serves to reinforce the text that "The Powers Must Know All Such Things."

And therefore cannot be surprised to we read the warning, one which must be given to any and all who would abandon the Proper High Academic Standards of the University of Western Australia and think of joining themselves with those who would question the Power that Knows.

| I appeal to the international archaeological and anthropological scholarly
| community for a continued exercise of good sense in assessing what appears
| to this University to be a biased and ill-informed representation of a
| complex set of issues.

Having show what will happen to those who speak out publicly, full credit is here given to those who have remained silent thus far. They are recruited into, and claimed, by implication, to have been supporting UWA's public position. They have show "good sense," the "continued exercise" of which is clearly desirable.

The alternative, the one already meted out to Hugh Jarivs, is clearly undesirable (and will reflect poorly upon you should you dare to publicly speak). The bottom line is that invoked by Power in all situations which threaten it: Trust me. Don't fall into the trap of "biased and ill-informed representations." Trust the Powers which have the ability to understand what a "complex set of issues" are being dealt with here.

It is a lovely business indeed!

Dave --

           Dave Rindos  
    20 Herdsmans Parade    Wembley   WA    6014    AUSTRALIA
    Ph:+61 9 387 6281 (GMT+8)  FAX:+61 9 387 1415 (USEST+13) 

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