In Uma Kothari’s Power, Knowledge and Social Control in Participatory Development, she delves into the Foucaultian world of participatory power-play and limits of social-power and how the pattern of judgment and punishment becomes a strategic weapon that is supported by a said and unsaid network of sign systems everywhere. She begins by quoting Foucault and argues how the processes of canonization affect those individuals and who are often marginalized by their separation and isolation from the production of knowledge and the formulation of policies and practices, to be included in decisions that affect their lives. She focuses on participatory techniques as methods of knowledge accumulation and attempts to unravel the sorts of power that are reproduced at the micro-level through the use of these approaches, and how participants and participatory development practitioners are themselves conduits of power. The arguments she presents presented are how participatory development can encourage a reassertion of control and power by dominant individuals and groups, that it can lead to the reification of social norms through self-surveillance and consensus-building, and that it ‘purifies’ knowledge and the spaces of participation through the codification, classification, and control of information, and its analysis and (re)presentation. The chapter also explores the limitations of participation in terms of how it demands certain kinds of performances to be enacted. It is suggested here that individuals and groups can and do subvert the methodology and, in doing so, gain control by shaping the form of their participation through their ‘performances’ on the PRA stage and in their selection of the information they conceal or choose to disclose.
Kothari shows that an individual’s behavior, actions, and perceptions are all shaped by the power embedded and embodied within society, something which Friedmann will call habitus. But, whereas, Friedmann offers a more detailed analysis of transnational migration and the corresponding effects on the loci of the migrants and the lands they are migrating to, Kothari tries to chart out the power structure of individuals and groups that are often selected for participation because of their disadvantaged position vis–vis, for example, their access to resources and services, or their control over decision-making. She upholds Foucault’s idea that all individuals are most certainly affected by macro-structures of inequality (such as gender, ethnicity, class), and that even when individuals think that they are most free, they are in fact in the grip of more insidious forms of power, which operate not solely through direct forms of repression but often through less visible strategies of normalization (Foucault 1977, 1980). Power is cappilary and difficult to locate as it runs through notions and practices, can be enacted by individuals who may even be opposed to it, and localized through its expression in everyday practices – through, for example, self-surveillance.