Postscripts: The Journal of Sacred Texts, Cultural Histories, and Contemporary Contexts, Vol 4, No 3 (2008)

From Technologies of Power to Technologies of the Self: Spirituality as Resistance in Christopher Isherwood’s Life and Writing

Jamie Carr
Issued Date: 10 Dec 2010


This essay examines Christopher Isherwood’s resistance to normative narratives of homosexuality and pacifism and Western culture’s attitude toward Eastern spirituality, each of which get constructed in the 1930s and beyond as passivity and developmental failure and ultimately as regression from modernity. I read this resistance in light of Michel Foucault’s notion of “governmentality,” which involves both technologies of power over individual subjectivity and technologies of the self. The latter, in which a subject works to transform the self, becomes a form of “spirituality” for Foucault that strikingly resembles Isherwood’s response to discursive power made possible through his practice of Vedanta, the religious philosophy based on the ancient Indian scriptures the Vedas. Vedanta becomes at once a counter-discourse for Isherwood in opposition to Western notions of subjectivity and a mode of “intentional living.”

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DOI: 10.1558/post.v4i3.323

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