‘Surveillance and cultural Panopticism’: situating Foucault in African modernities

  • P Mungwini


In philosophical terms, the African encounter with Western modernity
defines the context within which much of what unfolds in postcolonial Africa can be understood, including even its ethical and social problems. This work utilizes Foucault’s theory of panopticism to reflect on the challenges of social control and harmony in contemporary African society. It establishes the link between panopticism and indigenous African cultures from the fact that indigenous societies deployed mechanisms of instituting social control and harmony similar to the phenomena of panoticism and the technologies of control that it symbolizes today. African metaphysical thought, its beliefs, and mythological paraphernalia played the important role of providing an overarching framework within which questions of social
control, relations, ethics and even harmony with nature were defined and understood in the past. Modern institutions and technologies of surveillance, whilst crucial to social control, may need to be supported
by re-strengthening indigenous interpretive and normative cultural frameworks that promoted elements of self-surveillance and responsible
being in traditional communities.

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eISSN: 0258-0136