Resistance is Not Futile: Frederick Douglass on Panoptic Plantations and the Un-Making of Docile Bodies and Enslaved Souls


Frederick Douglass describes vividly how his sociopolitical identity was scripted by the white other and how his spatiotemporal existence was constrained through constant surveillance and disciplinary dispositifs. Even so, Douglass was able to assert his humanity through creative acts of resistance. In this essay, I highlight the ways in which Douglass refused to accept the other-imposed narrative, demonstrating with his life the truth of his being—a human being unwilling to be classified as thing or property. As I engage key events from Douglass's narrative, I likewise explore the ways in which the resistance tactics he performed complement Foucault's elaboration of power relations and resistance possibilities, as well as Bakhtin's notions of authoritative and internally persuasive discourse.