Power in Play: A Foucauldian Reading of A.O. Soyinka’s The Trials of Brother Jero

Mahboobeh Davoodifar, Moussa Pourya Asl


This work utilizes Foucault’s articulations on the power strategies of our contemporary society. To him the subject’s constitution is never a purely passive effect of power on the subject but requires the subject’s own activity. This necessitates the existence of a dynamic, mutually affecting relationship, implying that one can be both dominated and dominate at different times and in different contexts. This article aims to analyze the Nigerian Noble Laureate, Wole Soyinka’s play The Trials of Brother Jero, a prophetical play that criticizes the ills of society through its satirical depiction, in the light of Foucault’s conceptualizations on power. To do this, the article first clarifies Foucault’s mature understanding of the operation of power and then attempts to provide an in-depth analysis of the structure of the power regime and its relations in the play, tactics of domination, and more importantly, the characters’ relations to the existing system of power. The study of the language and the dialogue of the main characters, Brother Jero, Amope, Chume and a Member of Federation House not only exposes the sources of operating power relations, but it also highlights the characters’ desire for power and the way it flows and slips from one character to another. The findings of the paper reveals that power is not concentrated on merely one character or institution within the play, rather, it circulates, and through the active resistance of the dominated characters, it constantly engenders new meanings within the structure of the play. In The Trials of Brother Jero, different characters have the desire to use power against each other and the resistance of each of them indicates that power is neither possessive nor repressive.

Keywords: Michel Foucault, Power, Pastoral Power, Resistance, Wole Soyinka

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