The question as to how narratives as implementsmight contribute to the making and re-making of a nation and its society is notsomething new. As African poet and socialist Leopold Sedar Senghor oncecharacteristically pointed out, narrative was a vital ingredient in thebuilding of a nation. He defines the nation as a “communion of souls”1,collectivist in nature, rather than simply an aggregate of individuals.Benedict Anderson would play on the same concept and call the nation an”imagined community”2,while Jean-Ernest Renan would touch upon this quality and dub it as”large-scale solidarity”3.Across all three definitions, one glaring similarity appears: all put stock onthe idea that it is the people that make a nation and establish it.
Jumping offfrom this, the social function of narratives then becomes clear: it is tofoster a sense of and instill an awareness of communion amongst the people. TheState, in a Foucaldian sense, therefore is an institution of power thatlegitimizes itself by continuously fostering this sense of communality uponwhich the survival and sustainment of a nation is premised upon. In itsendeavor to manufacture the sentiment of communion, the narrative proves itselfto be a necessary tool that gives the State power. This paper seeks to shedlight on the power relations between state and people, particularly in the contextof the Philippines, (inspired by Michel Foucault’s philosophy regarding power),the use of narratives (inspired by Jean-François Lyotard’s discussion of the metarécits and petit récits in ThePostmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge) as manifestations of power(Foucauldian perspective), and the necessity of a grand historical narrative infostering communion geared towards the building of a nation.
Establishing power in a country like the Philippinesarguably has never been (and still proves to not be) an easy feat toaccomplish. Aside from the archipelagic terrain that makes for a challenge whentrying to centralize bureaucratic operations, 384 years under three majorcolonial powers has put it in the position of the “decolonized”, defined by itsconstant attempts to assert itself as a legitimate national presence after thedeparture of its colonizers. On top of that, it must be recognized that thePhilippines is, as Homi K. Bhabha points out, an entity of hybridity4 asa result of the anxiety its colonial past has produced. Due to the diversity ofculture it already has (as displayed by the various indigenous groups thatpopulate it) as well as the cultures of its colonizers that have beenincorporated and appropriated into its own, the idea of unifying such a sundrypopulace and being aware that the odds are stacked unfavorably against thisdesire for unification is a legitimate concern.
The surfacing of a governing,political body therefore would make sense to proceed from this. And for thatreason, so emerges the state.As appealing an entity the state is, understandingit in the Foucaldian sense of power and relations proves to be a challenge.According to Sawyer, Foucault “consistently pushed the state to the peripheryof his investigations in order to gather a fresh perspective on its place inthe generation, deployment and maintenance of power”5.For the purpose of this paper, however, we will attempt to give a definition toit based on remarks given by the philosopher himself across his lectures givenat Collège de France during January 10 and 31 in 1979. To begin with, he says, “The state is at oncethat which exists, but which does not yet exist enough6.””The state is not a cold monster,” he adds, “it is the correlative of aparticular way of governing7.” “Thestate is not a universal nor in itself an autonomous source of power.
The stateis nothing else but the effect, the profile, the mobile shape of a perpetualstratification (étatisation) or statifications,in the sense of incessant transactions which modify, or move, or drasticallychange…8″He then ends it by saying, “The state is nothing else but the mobile effect ofa regime of multiple governmentalities.9” Fromall of these remarks, we can say that: (1) the state is not a fixed, coherentbody and is dependent on a process (statification) or multiple processes(statifications) in order to maintain itself; (2) the state is not an object,but a body and it does not stand outside or determine the deployment of power,but is rather embedded in, as well as tied to, other possibly larger networksof power; and lastly, (3) the state can only be understood within the basis ofwhat it does and not what it is, and it is through examining powerrelations and investigating where it emerges that this can be done. Upon relating the state to the nation, the misguidednotion that it is that which assert itself as a dominant institution of poweris already glaringly problematic. In a supposedly democratic society wherepower is stressed to be something afforded to the people, to willingly subjectone’s self to the authority of the self seems to be contradictory. Butaccording to Foucault, this consensual subordination is precisely what happensand is what legitimizes the presence of the state. This, he says, is amanifestation of the power technique known as the pastoral power – unlike withsovereign power that has visible figures of authority blatant in their exerciseof power and therefore prone to resistance, it is more subtle and appeals tothe subjects desire for “salvation” in the form of security, order, structure,etc., which are promised provided they acquiesce to surrender10.
So as to bestow these perceived benefits and administer rights that thesubjects can enjoy, it is then necessary for the nation to be established inorder to grant the state’s subjects the privileges of citizenship. Seeing asthe very backbone and foundation of a nation is its people, the staterecognizes the need for communion amongst the populace. A tool then is requiredby the state to evoke communality and create unity. This is now where narrativecomes in.
1Leopold Sedar Senghor. Nationhood and theAfrican Road to Socialism, 1962, p. 24.2Benedict Anderson.
“Introduction.” Imagined Communities: Reflections on theOrigin and Spread ofNationalism, 2006, p. 6.3Jean-Ernest Renan. “What Is A Nation?”. BecomingNational: A Reader, 1966, p. 41-55.
4 “…thediscriminatory effects of the discourse of cultural colonialism, for instance,do not simply or singly refer to a ‘person’… or to a discrimination betweenmother culture and alien culture…the reference of discrimination is always to aprocess of splitting as the condition of subjection: a discrimination betweenthe mother and its bastards, the self and its doubles, where the trace of whatis disavowed is not repressed but repeated as something different—amutation.” Homi K. Bhabha.
The Location of Culture, Routledge, 1994. 5 Stephen W. Sawyer. “Foucault andthe State.” La revue Tocqueville,vol.
36, no. 1, 2015, pp. 143.6 Michel Foucault. Birth of Biopolitics. PalgraveMacmillan, 2008, p. 4.
7 ibid. p. 6.8 ibid. p.
77.9 ibid. p. 7710 Michel Foucault.
“The Subjectand Power.” Michel Foucault: BeyondStructuralism and Hermeneutics, 1983, pp. 208-226.