Education and the Docile Body

This brief essay means to compare and contrast the practices used when creating and maintaining a docile body within the scope of the classroom and the supermarket. From a theoretical standpoint, it is clear to see that there are many physical and mental similarities and differences, where the docile body is concerned, that can be drawn between the classroom and the supermarket. Both the classroom and the supermarket are clear examples of ideas such as disciplinary power, though they achieve those differently. And yet both have their individual practices of making their docile customer or student. Even the creation of a docile body is a means unto itself. The shared experiences of individuals within each of these spaces also ‘normalizes’ what takes place, creating the desire to be a docile body, whether we notice it or not (Gore, 1998). However, it is crucial to emphasise that these experiences are not accidental. Schools and supermarkets both intend to make their customers and students ‘docile bodies’ in order to make money, teach effectively and control. This article is a way to explore the ideas behind creating a docile body, and the technologies and attributes which help to make it so.

In order to understand how the supermarket and the classroom construct a docile body from their students and customers, it is necessary to examine the rituals they encourage and their characteristics as buildings. Firstly, the supermarket is spacious, but has confined the customer to rows of products which aren’t in logical order. This technology is used to keep the customer looking and buying for longer periods. The classroom also restricts movement of the body with rows or groupings of tables in order to better keep a watchful eye on the students. The architecture is subtle in the way that it directs us in the way that it wants, it

disciplines the body to move in ways of which we are not aware (Pillow, 1997, p.355). It all comes down to this disciplinary power, which is...