Foucault News

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

Pritzker, S.E., Duncan, W.L.
Technologies of the Social: Family Constellation Therapy and the Remodeling of Relational Selfhood in China and Mexico
(2019) Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, 43 (3), pp. 468-495.

DOI: 10.1007/s11013-019-09632-x

In this article, we investigate how an increasingly popular therapeutic modality, family constellation therapy (FCT), functions simultaneously as a technology of the self (Foucault, Technologies of the self: a seminar with Michel Foucault, University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, 1988) as well as what we here call a “technology of the social.” In FCT, the self is understood as an assemblage of ancestral relationships that often creates problems in the present day. Healing this multi-generational self involves identifying and correcting hidden family dynamics in high-intensity group sessions where other participants represent the focus client and his/her family members, both alive and deceased. Drawing on ethnographic data collected in multiple FCT workshops in Beijing, China and Oaxaca City, Mexico, we show how FCT ritually reorganizes boundaries between self and other in novel ways, creating a collective space for shared moral reflection on troubling social, historical, and cultural patterns. By demonstrating the ways in which FCT unfolds as both a personal and social technology, this article contributes to ongoing conversations about how to effectively theorize sociality in therapeutic practice, and problematizes critical approaches emphasizing governmentality and commensuration (Mattingly, Moral laboratories family peril and the struggle for a good life, University of California Press, Oakland, 2014; Duncan, Transforming therapy: mental health practice and cultural change in Mexico, Vanderbilt University Press, Nashville, 2018; Matza, Shock therapy: psychology, precarity, and well-being in postsocialist Russia, Duke University Press, Durham, 2018; Pritzker, Presented at “Living Well in China” Conference, Irvine, CA, 2018; Mattingly, Anthropol Theory, 2019; Zigon, “HIV is God’s Blessing”: rehabilitating morality in neoliberal Russia, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2011).

Author Keywords
China; Family constellation therapy; Mexico; Self; Sociality

Index Keywords
adult, article, California, China, controlled study, conversation, drawing, drug combination, female, human, human experiment, Human immunodeficiency virus, insulin coma therapy, male, Massachusetts, mental health, Mexico City, morality, nonhuman, psychology, Russian Federation, wellbeing

Rasker, Maya. “A Letter to Foucault.” In Artistic Research and Literature, edited by Caduff Corina and Wälchli Tan, 35-46. Boston: Brill, 2019.

Open access

Investigating in what way some aspects of Foucault’s work can be fruitful to ‘think’ writing-as-research, a letter to Foucault as academic fiction unravels and valuates the paradoxes that emerge from connecting a dead philosopher’s work with the actuality of writing to him. It becomes clear that the Self cannot not be addressed when relating to a foreign (beautiful and intimidating) corpus of knowledge. Simply appropriating the philosopher’s words was working the wrong way around. In turning to the ‘master’ for clearance, the position of the ‘apprentice,’ the one presently speaking, must also be defined. How to investigate oneself from the position of the Self, while opening up for the work one admires? How to relate to what moves the heart?

Griffin, R. J. (2019). The Profession of Authorship. In A Companion to the History of the Book (eds S. Eliot and J. Rose), Wiley

This chapter is an overview of methodologies and scholarship on authorship that discusses the influence of Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault in the context of the history of the book, with case studies on Homer, Shakespeare, and women authors, and the impact of digital publishing.

Andrew Scull, Psychiatry and Its Discontents. University of California Press, July 2019

Written by one of the world’s most distinguished historians of psychiatry, Psychiatry and Its Discontents provides a wide-ranging and critical perspective on the profession that dominates the treatment of mental illness. Andrew Scull traces the rise of the field, the midcentury hegemony of psychoanalytic methods, and the paradigm’s decline with the ascendance of biological and pharmaceutical approaches to mental illness. The book’s historical sweep is broad, ranging from the age of the asylum to the rise of psychopharmacology and the dubious triumphs of “community care.” The essays in Psychiatry and Its Discontents provide a vivid and compelling portrait of the recurring crises of legitimacy experienced by “mad-doctors,” as psychiatrists were once called, and illustrates the impact of psychiatry’s ideas and interventions on the lives of those afflicted with mental illness.


1. Introduction: The Travails of Psychiatry

PART 1. The Asylum and Its Discontents
2. The Fictions of Foucault’s Scholarship: Madness and Civilization Revisited
3. The Asylum, the Hospital, and the Clinic
4. A Culture of Complaint: Psychiatry and Its Critics
5. Promises of Miracles: Religion as Science, and Science as Religion

PART 2. Whither Twentieth-Century Psychiatry?
6. Burying Freud
7. Psychobiology, Psychiatry, and Psychoanalysis: The Intersecting Careers of Adolf Meyer, Phyllis Greenacre, and Curt Richter
8. Mangling Memories
9. Creating a New Psychiatry: On the Rockefeller Foundation and the Rise of Academic Psychiatry

PART 3. Transformations and Interpretations
10. Shrinks: Doctor Pangloss
11. The Hunting of the Snark: The Search for a History of Neuropsychiatry
12. Contending Professions: Sciences of Brain and Mind in the United States, 1900–2013

PART 4. Neuroscience and the Biological Turn
13. Trauma
14. Empathy: Reading Other People’s Minds
15. Mind, Brain, Law, and Culture
16. Left Brain, Right Brain, One Brain, Two Brains
17. Delusions of Progress: Psychiatry’s Diagnostic Manual

Andrew Scull is Distinguished Research Professor of Sociology and Science Studies at the University of California, San Diego. He is past president of the Society for the Social History of Medicine and the author of numerous books, including Madness in Civilization, Hysteria, and others.

David Langwallner, Public Intellectual Series: Michel Foucault, Cassandra Voices, December 7 2019

Alone among Post-Modernists, Foucault’s methodology was empiricist and historicist. Rather than relying on incomprehensible prose and bizarre generalisations he adopted inductive reasoning. As an historian of ideas, we don’t simply find him inventing absurd abstractions, but analysing real existing data.


For Foucault: ‘[M]madness was an invention, a product of social relations and not an independent reality.

Of course that point can be expanded to our present age, with concepts of rationality and ideas on mental health shifting, augmented by social media, message management and outright thought control. The paradigm shift is towards an all-consuming neo-liberalism, and conformity reconfiguring human identity itself. Soon, I fear, even moderate liberalism might be deemed mad, recalling Chile in the 1970s, or even 1930s Germany.

In my practice as a London-based barrister, increasingly, I find clients in disassociated and derealised states. Social alienation is leading many to perceive themselves as passive onlookers in lives not truly their own. The ills of social dissatisfaction and structural curtailment of achievement leading to moderate or even severe depression.


materiali foucaultiani
volume VII, number 13-14 (January-December 2018)


Il cantiere archeologico e la questione della critica (pp. 4-8)
Laura Cremonesi, Orazio Irrera, Daniele Lorenzini, Martina Tazzioli

The final Foucault and Education

Introduction. The final Foucault and Education (pp. 9-27)
Roberto Serpieri, Emiliano Grimaldi, Stephen J. Ball

Foucault and Neoliberalism. A response to recent critics and a new resolution (pp. 28-55)
Mark Olssen

Foucault, Trump and Free Speech. Democracy and True Discourse (pp. 56-74)
Michael A. Peters, Tina Besley

The Culture of Education. Ancient Cynicism and “the scandal of the truth” (pp. 75-92)
Ansgar Allen

Foucault et la métamorphose éducative (pp. 93-112)
Didier Moreau

School, pedagogy and Foucault’s undefined work of freedom (pp. 113-133)
Maarten Simons, Jan Masschelein

Education as a dispositif, subjectivation and the late Foucault (pp. 134-148)
Francesco Cappa

Post-Education and Ethical Government (pp. 149-187)
Roberto Serpieri

Il coraggio della verità. Per una critica parresiastica del sistema d’istruzione (pp. 188-208)
Eleonora de Conciliis

Il governo di sé e del sapere fra valutazione e parrhesia (pp. 209-231)
Emiliano Bevilacqua, Davide Borrelli


Confession and Avowal in Foucault’s early work, 1954-1972 (pp. 232-252)
Andrea Teti

Foucault lecteur de saint Augustin (pp. 253-272)
Ákos Cseke

Dall’Antropologia all’«ontologia critica di noi stessi»: l’eredità kantiana in Foucault attraverso le figure di Heidegger e Nietzsche (pp. 273-288)
Anna Ceschi

Logica e pratica dell’inchiesta. Romano Alquati e Michel Foucault (pp. 289-303)
Matteo Polleri

Arthur Bradley, Unbearable Life. A Genealogy of Political Erasure, Columbia University Press, 2019

In ancient Rome, any citizen who had brought disgrace upon the state could be subject to a judgment believed to be worse than death: damnatio memoriae, condemnation of memory. The Senate would decree that every trace of the citizen’s existence be removed from the city as if they had never existed in the first place. Once reserved for individuals, damnatio memoriae in different forms now extends to social classes, racial and ethnic groups, and even entire peoples. In modern times, the condemned go by different names—“enemies of the people;” the “missing,” the “disappeared,” “ghost” detainees in “black sites”—but they are subject to the same fate of political erasure.

Arthur Bradley explores the power to render life unlived from ancient Rome through the War on Terror. He argues that sovereignty is the power to decide what counts as being alive and what does not: to make life “unbearable,” unrecognized as having lived or died. In readings of Augustine, Shakespeare, Hobbes, Robespierre, Schmitt, and Benjamin, Bradley asks: What is the “life” of this unbearable life? How does it change and endure across sovereign time and space, from empires to republics, from kings to presidents? To what extent can it be resisted or lived otherwise? A profoundly interdisciplinary and ambitious work, Unbearable Life rethinks sovereignty, biopolitics, and political theology to find the radical potential of a life that neither lives or dies.

Arthur Bradley is professor of comparative literature at Lancaster University. His books include Originary Technicity: The Theory of Technology from Marx to Derrida (2011).

A Time for Critique, Edited by Didier Fassin and Bernard E. Harcourt
Columbia University Press, 2019

In a world of political upheaval, rising inequality, catastrophic climate change, and widespread doubt of even the most authoritative sources of information, is there a place for critique? This book calls for a systematic reappraisal of critical thinking—its assumptions, its practices, its genealogy, its predicament—following the principle that critique can only start with self-critique.

In A Time for Critique, Didier Fassin, Bernard E. Harcourt, and a group of eminent political theorists, anthropologists, sociologists, philosophers, and literary and legal scholars reflect on the multiplying contexts and forms of critical discourse and on the social actors and social movements engaged in them. How can one maintain sufficient distance from the eventful present without doing it an injustice? How can one address contemporary issues without repudiating the intellectual legacies of the past? How can one avoid the disconnection between theory and action? How can critique be both public and collective? These provocative questions are addressed by revisiting the works of Foucault and Arendt, Said and Césaire, Benjamin and Du Bois, but they are also given substance through on-the-ground case studies that treat subaltern criticism in Palestine, emancipatory mobilizations in Syria, the antitorture campaigns of Sri Lankan activists, and the abolitionism of the African American critical resistance and undercommons movements in the United States. Examining lucidly the present challenges of critique, A Time for Critique shows how its theoretical reassessment and its emerging forms can illuminate the imaginative modalities to rejuvenate critical praxis.

Introduction, by Didier Fassin and Bernard E. Harcourt

Part I: Critique as Practice
1. How Is Critique?, by Didier Fassin
2. Critique as a Political Practice of Freedom, by Linda M. G. Zerilli
3. Critique Without a Politics of Hope?, by Ayşe Parla
4. The Usefulness of Uncertain Critique, by Peter Redfield
5. Human Rights Consciousness and Critique, by Karen Engle
6. Critique as Subduction, by Massimiliano Tomba
7. What’s Left of the Real?, by Vanja Hamzić

Part II: Critique in Practice
8. Subaltern Critique and the History of Palestine, by Lori Allen
9. Critical Theory in a Minor Key to Take Stock of the Syrian Revolution, by Fadi A. Bardawil
10. Pragmatic Critique of Torture in Sri Lanka, by Nick Cheesman
11. Dispossession, Reimagined from the 1690s, by David Kazanjian
12. Crisis, Critique, and Abolition, by Andrew Dilts
13. Law, Critique, and the Undercommons, by Allegra M. McLeod
14. Critical Praxis for the Twenty- First Century, by Bernard E. Harcourt

Didier Fassin is the James Wolfensohn Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study and a director of studies at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. The author of several books, including most recently Life: A Critical User’s Manual, he was the first social scientist to receive the Nomis Distinguished Scholar Award.

Bernard E. Harcourt is the Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law and professor of political science at Columbia University and a director of studies at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. Founding director of the Columbia Center for Contemporary Critical Thought at Columbia University, he is the author of several books, including most recently The Counterrevolution: How Our Government Went to War Against Its Own Citizens.

Valerie Larroche, The Dispositif: A Concept for Information and Communication Sciences, Wiley, 2019

The notion of the dispositif (dispositive) is particularly relevant for understanding phenomena where one can observe the reproducibility of distributed technical activities, operational or discursive, between human and non-human actors.

This book reviews the concept of the dispositive through various disciplinary perspectives, analyzing in turn its technical, organizational and discursive dimensions. The relations of power and visibility enrich these discussions.

Regarding information and communication sciences, three main uses of this concept are presented, on the one hand to illustrate the heuristic scope of issues integrating the dispositive and, on the other hand, to demonstrate its unifying aspect in this disciplinary field. The first use concerns the complexity of media content production; the second relates to activity traces using the concept of the “secondary information dispositive”; finally, the third involves the use of the dispositive in contexts of digital participation.

Valérie Larroche is a senior lecturer at the École nationale supérieure des sciences de l’information et des bibliothèques (Enssib) in France. As a researcher at Elico she studies professional digital recognition technologies, innovation organization and open data.

Part 1. Epistemological Foundations
1. Techne-Poiesis and the Dispositive.
2. The Dispositive, Organization and Collective Action.
3. Discursive Productions and the Dispositive.

Part 2. The Dispositive and ICS
4. Complexity of Media Productions.
5. Data, Activity Traces and the Dispositive.
6. Digital Participation and Work.

Barry, Laurence & Fisher, Eran. Digital audiences and the deconstruction of the collective, Subjectivity (2019) 12: 210.

DOI: 10.1057/s41286-019-00073-w

This paper aims at characterizing the change that occurred in audience conception with the advent of big data technologies. We argue that a good place to analyze this change is in the marketing techniques geared to capturing the characteristics of consumers of contents and goods. Some of these techniques are existing statistical tools applied to new kinds of data, others, like predictive analytics, are radically new. Our contention is that online individual actions are now studied, predicted, and managed in the way macroeconomic parameters were analyzed in the past. By changing the perspective on the individual and the group, these new technologies further transform the manner in which an audience is imagined. The conceptions of modern collectives once defined by top-down, broadly defined demographic categories, are therefore transformed or, rather, deconstructed.

Imagined audiences Digital audiences Big data Algorithms Predictive analytics

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