Macquarie University

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Corporeal tracings: visuality, power and culture

posted on 2022-03-28, 10:30 authored by Kate McFarlane
The conception of visuality within what Jacques Derrida understands as the 'metaphysical epoch' demands revision in order to produce a fully post-metaphysical theory of visuality. Drawing upon the corporeal phenomenology of perception in Maurice Merleau-Ponty, the politico-cultural conception of visuality in Michel Foucault and the trace philosophy of vision in Jacques Derrida, visualities are theorised here as dynamic 'corporeal tracings' immanently bearing politico-cultural forces. Elements of these three major thinkers are here brought into generative dialogue and welding which, for instance, relocates the corporealism of Merleau-Ponty in terms of the trace dynamics conceived by Derrida and which in turn insists upon the visio-corporeality of general writing that Derrida largely elides. A rereading of Rene Descartes on vision is advanced in the light of this theory that deploys Derrida's deconstructive method to detect the aporias and self-deconstructions within a characteristic metaphysical discourse of pure visuality that overtly elides both corporeality and the trace (understood in the theory of corporeal tracings as inseparable). -- Merleau-Ponty is critiqued from a post-dualist position on the role of the mind and the body in the experience of visuality, Foucault's ideas on bodies, visualities and diffuse powers are developed through the notion of'visio-govemmentality' and Derrida's conceptions of grammatology and the trace are redefined in terms of an emphasis on visiocorporeality. New terms and concepts emerge from these engagements that extend and elaborate visuality theory in terms of fully post-metaphysical domains of understanding. There is a commitment throughout to three theoretical positions: corporealism, culturalism and holism or what is termed here 'total contextualism'. These positions enable the fully post-metaphysical theorisation of visualities as dynamic and complex corporeal tracings encompassing both human bodies and total visio-corporeal contexts.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- Aporias and openings in the architecture of the mind's eye: deconstructing pure visuality in Descartes -- Visuality, universal flesh and phenomenal circularity: visio-corporeal generality with Merleau-Ponty -- Corporeal envisionings as power-knowledge: Foucault and diffuse visio-governmentality -- The grammatology of visuality: visio-corporealising Derrida's "science" of the trace -- Conclusion.


Bibliography: p. 315-327 "2004".

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD), Macquarie University, Division of Society, Culture, Media & Philosophy, Department of Critical and Cultural Studies

Department, Centre or School

Department of Critical and Cultural Studies

Year of Award



Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Kate McFarlane 2005. Complete version is not available due to copyright restrictions. However, on receipt of a Document Supply Request, placed with Macquarie University Library by another library, we will consider supplying a copy of this thesis. For more information on Macquarie University’s Document Supply, please contact




327 p

Former Identifiers

mq:6413 1349050