Educational research: ‘games of truth’ and the ethics of subjectivity

Michael A Peters


In an interview a year before his death, Foucault confessed that his real quarry was not an investigation of power but rather the history of the ways in which human beings are constituted as subjects; a process that involved power relations as an integral aspect of the production of discourses involving truths. His work dealt with three modes of objectification in our culture that transform human beings into subjects: modes of inquiry which try to give themselves the status of the sciences; the objectivisation of the subject in ‘dividing practices’; and the way a human being turns him or herself into a subject. For Foucault, ‘games of truth’ are sets of procedures that lead to certain results which, on the basis of the principles and rules of procedures, may be considered valid or invalid. And he asks, ‘How did it come about that all of Western culture began to revolve around this obligation of truth?’ In this paper, I begin by examining Foucault’s approach to truth-telling (parrhesia) in relation to the changing practice of educational research. Foucault’s notion of ‘games of truth’ is applied to educational research, and used to investigate the politics of knowledge and the ethics of the researcher’s identity.

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