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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The confessions of augustine's flesh: Counter-conducts overwhelming to pastoral power in Christian conversion
by Migan, Darla Senami, M.A., State University of New York at Stony Brook, 2012, 37; 1553279
Abstract (Summary)

In his 1978 lectures at the College de France, Security Territory Population, Michel Foucault shifts his analysis of power by arguing for pastoral power as both the prelude to governmentality and as the decisive moment in the constitution of the Western subject. If the history of the Christian pastorate involves "the entire history of procedures of human individualization in the West (184)," then, Foucault argues, there has never been a revolt against pastoral power because such a revolt would be a revolt against the constitution of the self, that is to say against self-consciousness. If the revolt against pastoral power is a revolt against self-consciousness, then I argue that the psychagogic-spiritual, as opposed to rhetorical-theological, practices of religious conversion may be where counter-conducts (already understood to be subsumed within Christian pastoral power) may also overwhelm the Christian pastorate. In his conversion to Christianity Augustine employs techniques that are `overwhelming' to pastoral power, but are never actually an attempt to overcome pastoral power. In the specific experiences recalled by Augustine in his Confessions, through the various non-discrete phases of his conversion he takes up what Foucault calls counter-conducts. Through asceticism (especially in the author's struggle with conscupience); through the establishment of a new religious community (as a Manichean catechumen) through mysticism (in the doctrine of `inner illumination)'; through the exegesis of scripture (significantly in the voluntary reading of Romans 13:12-14 prior to becoming a catechumen of the Christian Church); and through eschatological belief (specifically in the a-millennial conception of the return of Christ), Augustine, author of the Confessions, emerges as a convert to Christianity. Towards Foucault's call for genealogies of pastoral power and towards the call of philosophy understood as ethico-poetic praxes of Eros captured in the phrase epimeleia heatou, this thesis will investigate Augustine of Hippo's conversion to Christianity as an enactment of Foucault's `counter-conducts.' I will argue, through exegesis of Augustine's Confessions, that this parrhesiatic document is simultaneously a narrative of psychagogic practices which reflects Augustine's profound ascesis towards Christian subjectivation as well as a document of the counter-conducts that overwhelm Christian pastoral power while never revolting against it. As a result of his pluralistic and deeply personal approach towards conversion, Augustine's recorded experiences exemplify how `new' technologies (or at least new modalities of old technologies) are established within the Christian pastorate. It is in and through the event of his conversion that Augustine also emerges as a leader of the orthodox Church and simultaneously as an instigator for later revolts against it--arguably, for example, as an inspiration for the leaders of the Protestant Reformation. If there can be no revolution against pastoral power because it is always instituting, circumscribing, and subsuming new forms of resistance on its own, then perhaps we can best understand where counter-conducts are most dangerous to the practices of power by understanding where some practices actually fail to resist power-effects, while simultaneously transforming power-relations.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Mendieta, Eduardo
Commitee: O'Byrne, Anne
School: State University of New York at Stony Brook
Department: Philosophy
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: MAI 52/05M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Philosophy, Aesthetics
Keywords: Augustine, Care of the self, Christian conversion, Christian pastoral power, Ethico-poetic praxis, Michel foucault
Publication Number: 1553279
ISBN: 978-1-303-78309-8
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