Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Returning to Reims by Didier Eribon review – can you escape your upbringing?
Steven Poole, The Guardian, Fri 3 Aug 2018


This book is also a touching memoir of sexual awakening, and a gallery of philosophical ideas and characters, as Eribon explains with passion what inspired him as a teenager about the writings of Jean-Paul Sartre, and later those of Pierre Bourdieu and Michel Foucault. He is terrifically, amusingly rude, meanwhile, about the conservative philosopher Raymond Aron, whom he once met: “The very moment I set eyes on him, I loathed his ingratiating smile, his soothing voice … he was a soldier in the service of those in power helping them to maintain their power.”

Marina Benjamin, Didier Eribon’s Returning to Reims is a potent memoir about the cost of changing class, New Statesman, 8 August 2018

It has taken Eribon 35 years to emerge from the “class closet” and acknowledge that spring-vaulting himself out of poverty into the starry heights of French intellectual life might have entailed losses. Thirty-five years – over the course of which he fashioned himself into a successful journalist; professor of sociology; friend, confidant and acclaimed biographer of Michel Foucault; and protégé of Pierre Bourdieu, famed theorist of how bound we are to our habitus, that social niche to which multiple signifiers peg us. In 2008, Eribon was awarded Yale University’s prestigious Brudner Prize for his work on “intellectual history, on homosexuality, on minoritarian subjectivities”.

10 artists to watch at SummerWorks 2018



One of the city’s original site-specific ensembles, this fiercely eclectic company – which now splits its time between Toronto and Brooklyn – always uses movement, text, design and setting in intriguing ways. Their latest, Café Sarajevo Episode 1, takes its inspiration from a debate between theorists Michel Foucault and Noam Chomsky that aired on Dutch television in 1971. Whoa.

The show will use that year – in which the Vietnam War was raging, the Doors ruled the airwaves and people were taking psychedelic drugs and engaging in free love – to reflect on our own tumultuous times. The use of a smartphone app – the show is being billed as a live podcast experience – will add another fascinating layer to the experience.

August 11 to 19 at Toronto Media Arts Centre – Main Gallery

Progressive Geographies

EF18.jpegIt’s taken longer than anticipated for me to return to the work on The Early Foucault. The last update was back in April. Through the spring the book on Canguilhem was drafted, revised and then submitted to Polity Press on 4 May. Following the reader reports the revision was sent off on 13 July, and the book is now in production with a scheduled publication in early 2019. Much of the research time in May and June was taken up with work on Shakespeare, part for some summary pieces about Shakespearean Territories (here and here), and some the continuation of a side-project of putting Foucault and Shakespeare in relation. It was only in late July, following a holiday, that I was really able to return to the work on the early Foucault.

The materials I’d drafted were in fairly good shape, although some sections are more…

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‘What I wanted to do was in the order of philosophy: can one reflect philosophically on the history of knowledge as historical material rather than reflecting on a theory or a philosophy of history. In a rather empirical and clumsy fashion, I envisaged a work as close as possible to that of historians, but in order to ask philosophical questions, concerning the history of knowledge. I hoped for the good will of historians.’

Michel Foucault, “Le style de l’histoire,” in In Dits et Ecrits vol IV. Paris: Gallimard, p. 652. (This passage trans. Clare O’Farrell)

Holligan, C.
Exploring a taboo of cultural reproduction
(2018) British Journal of Sociology of Education, 39 (4), pp. 535-550.

DOI: 10.1080/01425692.2017.1367270

Cultural reproduction is rarely, if ever, theorised through clandestine practices of sexual offending by teachers in the gendered hierarchies of state schools. Drawing upon Freedom of Information requests and other official qualitative data provided by a U.K. teaching council, this article endeavours to explain the form of a gendered cultural reproduction by reference to the diversity of ways in which identities are constructed and ‘contracted’ for female student victims. The article begins by looking at this taboo subject matter in the context of a historical patriarchal order and cultures of heterosexuality in schools, followed by a feminist perspective through which empirical theorisation is documented. Michel Foucault’s work on the micro-physics of power and normativity informs the emphasis of the contemporary feminist prism. It is argued that this offending occurs under the auspices of the professional teacher–student hierarchy and produces distinctive and damaging power effects. © 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Author Keywords
Feminist; gender; heterosexual; identity; schools; sexual

Call for chapters: Would Foucault have read Harry Potter? Unlocking social theory with popular culture

Naomi Barnes, Amanda Heffernan and  Shirley Steinberg are calling for abstracts for an edited book, tentatively titled Would Foucault have read Harry Potter? Unlocking social theory with popular culture. After initial consultation, the book is intended for Palgrave Publications.

Below is the preliminary abstract of the book:

Can we use popular culture to explain complex theoretical concepts? In our edited book we want to explore how we understand theory by examining how theories are romantic, horrifying, science fiction, dystopian, magical, or have dragons and quests. In this book we want to present an argument for popular culture being used to work through the complexities of critical and post structural theories. For example, can Pretty Little Liars help us understand Foucault? Can the Marvel Universe shed light on colonialism? Can Ursula Le Guinn help us understand political theories? If I read Stephen King could I better understand democracy? In this transdisciplinary edited book, we are calling for contributions from scholars who have used popular culture to comprehend complex theoretical concepts they have used in their disciplines.

Theories represent the “canon” of social research and many theorists have used works of literature (eg Deleuze and Kafka, Sara Ahmed and Virginia Wolfe, or Donna Haraway and Science Fiction) to develop their theoretical frameworks and students trying to understand theories often read those works to better develop their understanding. This book is embedded in the literary theory that tapping into students’ background knowledge is a key step in helping them engage with new and difficult texts and acknowledging the important role of popular culture in developing comprehension. As theory takes a considerable amount of time and energy to read and understand, this book will make visible comprehension strategies that experienced readers of theory use to understand the texts they read.

We are particularly interested in ensuring the book contains both well known concepts of the theoretical “canon” that a student will come across on a regular basis but they will also develop a clear understanding that the canon is contested. Furthermore, we are interested in chapters which provide a diverse understanding of popular culture and/or unlock key ideas in feminist, critical race, LGBITQA+, and critical disability studies.

We anticipate that this book will have an international audience and that authors will come from a range of international backgrounds and locations.

Chapters would be fairly short—approximately 4000-6000 words/16-24 double-spaced TNR pages—and aimed at being relevant to scholars and students. While we would encourage creativity in each author’s response, to keep the overall book coherent, each chapter must include the following:

  • Introduction: Please try and engage the reader right away with an overview of your chapter and something that immediately grabs their attention. We want a readable text, so please use accessible language and define any technical terms that students with a basic understanding of your theoretical concept might not know. You will also need to overview your chosen popular culture reference with the assumption that not all readers will be familiar with all popular texts.
  • What are the most important ideas embedded in your chosen theoretical concept? We urge you to think about what students need to know about the theoretical concept. You might think of this as a list of essential knowledge that should be the foundation for applying the theory to research. What are the big debates around the concepts? Do multiple theorists use the concept in differing ways? How can popular culture tease those differences apart? What myths are important to debunk?
  • How can aspects of popular culture be used to explain the complex ideas? Here, you should make visible what transferable strategies you use to connect the popular cultural reference to the theoretical concept. This might involve drawing inferences, comparing and contrasting, how conclusions are drawn, self-reflection and questioning of own practices, how problems are solved, distinguishing between ideology and fact, unlocking the text via exegesis, or another strategy you might use. It is important that you reflect on your skill and make visible how you developed that skill.
  • Conclusions and Recommendations. Please suggest and discuss the importance of the theory you unlock with popular culture.
  • References

We plan to follow a set of generous deadlines that make the project very do-able:

* Invitation to (and confirmation from) potential authors

* Submission of 250 word abstract: 1 November 2018

* Submission of DRAFT chapters: 1 May 2019. PLEASE NOTE that in agreeing to contribute to the edited collection, you agree to peer review two other chapters. This understanding will be notionally divided between co-authors but you may be asked to review two per author.

* Review of DRAFT chapters and feedback to authors by 1 June 2019

* Submission of FINAL chapters: 1 August 2019

* Submission to publishers: 1 October 2019

* Expected publication date: January 2020

Please send your abstract to Naomi Barnes by the due date. We are more than happy to discuss ideas in advance.

Looking forward to hearing your ideas.

Naomi, Amanda and Shirley

Hinchliffe, G.
Epistemic freedom and education
(2018) Ethics and Education, 13 (2), pp. 191-207.

DOI: 10.1080/17449642.2018.1438150

First of all, I define the concept of epistemic freedom in the light of the changing nature of educational practice that prioritise over-prescriptive conceptions of learning. I defend the ‘reality’ of this freedom against possible determinist-related criticisms. I do this by stressing the concept of agency as characterised by ‘becoming’. I also discuss briefly some of the technical literature on the subject. I then move on to discuss Gramsci’s concept of hegemony and Foucault’s idea of ‘productive power’: I argue for the need of a counter-narrative of freedom that takes the form of a genealogy. Finally I discuss in more detail the nature of epistemic freedom and briefly discuss the ethical implications of the concept. © 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Author Keywords
agency; domination; Freedom; hegemony; power

Pembroke, S.
Foucault and Industrial Schools in Ireland: Subtly Disciplining or Dominating through Brutality?
(2018) Sociology, . Article in Press.

DOI: 10.1177/0038038518763490

Industrial Schools run by Catholic Religious Orders in Ireland were a form of institutionalised child-welfare that incarcerated children in need for most of the 20th century. During the last decade, Industrial Schools were one of the most controversial elements of Ireland’s recent history; the abuse scandal associated with such places has led to a state apology, the setting up of an inquiry and redress process, with its final report (the Ryan Report), published in 2009. Although a fast growing literature exists on Industrial Schools, they do not analyse the precise nature of the regime inside these institutions. This article contributes to understandings of Foucault by looking at the regime and practices imposed on children incarcerated in Industrial Schools in Ireland in the 20th century, and exploring why they were used. Twenty-five interviews were conducted with male and female Industrial School survivors and analysed using a grounded theory approach. © 2018, The Author(s) 2018.

Author Keywords
Catholic Church; child abuse; Foucault; Industrial Schools; institutionalisation; Ireland

‘What is philosophy if not a way of reflecting, not so much on what is true and what is false, as on our relationship to truth? … The movement by which, not without effort and uncertainty, dreams and illusions, one detaches oneself from what is accepted as true and seeks other rules – that is philosophy.’

Michel Foucault. (1997) [1980]. ‘The Masked Philosopher’. In J. Faubion (ed.). Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth. The Essential Works of Michel Foucault 1954-1984. Volume One. Tr. Robert Hurley and others.Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, Allen Lane, p. 327. Translation modified.

Editor: Reflections on my blog

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