- The Reorder of Things: The University and Its Pedagogies of Minority Difference by Roderick A. Ferguson
The Reorder of Things: The University and Its Pedagogies of Minority Difference by Roderick Ferguson, builds on Michel Foucault’s theorization of power. This theory argues that power is not simply individualistic but systemic, as it encompasses a network of relationships in constant flux (Foucault et al., 1997). Ferguson argues, that the university is more than an institution serving in the absolute interest of the state and that power should be conceived of as a “multiplicity of forced relationship” (p. 7).
This means that power is not static. Rather, it reconfigures as an effect of the context presented: expectations, demands, obligations, class, status, gender, and race have relationship values that can be express through a power dynamic. Moreover, the author investigates how the state, capital, and the academy (terms he does not specifically define) began to acknowledge minority insurgence and difference as positives that “could be part of their own series of aims and objective” (p. 6). The Reorder of Things assesses the diverse and interlocking ways in which the state, capital, and the academy produced an adaptive hegemony where minority difference was concerned.
Throughout the monograph, Ferguson analyzes how dominant institutions have attempted to reduce the initiatives of oppositional movements to the terms of hegemony. For example, he details student movement groups advocating for culture centers, ethnic studies programs, and intellectual as well as physical space within the academy; however, these groups eventually worked out compromises, which ultimately limited the radical or transformative elements of their demands. Consequently, more often the institution became the dominant benefactor of these power negotiations.
Foucault’s theory of power does not engage issues of race specifically. As a result, Ferguson diverges from Foucault by relying on racial formation as the genealogy of power’s investment in various forms of minority difference and focuses more precisely on the productive capacities of power rather than being simply repressive (p. 8).
Ferguson’s work is thoughtfully partitioned into seven chapters, including an introduction and conclusion. The introduction provides reasoning for the implementation of a variety of theoretical frameworks, which are explored to articulate the various themes throughout the text. The author relies primarily on the works of Foucault, Kant, and Derrida to explain power relationships and define institutions.
The theory-intensive introduction, “Affirmative Actions of Power,” includes an insightful and metaphorical analysis of Adrian Piper’s Self-Portrait 2000. Ferguson’s use of this piece is an example of his many stylistic efforts to illustrate and capture the essence of the book.
In Chapter 1, “The Birth of the Interdisciplines,” Ferguson discusses the nature of the archive, representing the place where official documents are housed and placed under specific jurisdiction, consigned to prescribed areas, and gathered under a certain set of meanings. Within this context, Ferguson asserts that the United States, as an archival entity, is the “fabled home that promises to put different peoples in their rightful places and the infamous regime that disciplines in the name of freedom” (p. 19). He attempts to demonstrate the managing of difference through chronicling U.S. [End Page 269] governmental responses to civil unrest; although not specifying the civil rights movement, his time frame is 1954–1968, making it the most likely post-World War II internal social movement that he has in mind.
It functions as an example of the U.S. struggle to maintain positive international relations. Ferguson suggests this new mode of “biopower—one that affirms minority difference and culture— would emerge . . . to simultaneously activate and disenfranchise minorities, subjects, and communities, forming and re-forming institutions according to the advancement and regulation of minority difference” (p. 40).
Chapter 2, “The Proliferation of Minority Difference” is a great transition as it explores how minority difference was “constituted as an affirmation for revolutionary forces within the United States as well as for capital...