Foucault News

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

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What would it be to re-sculpt the projects of human life and social government without “freedom” or “liberty”? The terms are decidedly overdetermined, rising (unsurprisingly) during the configurations of the nation state and in the wake of the French Revolution (see accompanying Ngrams). The assumptions and calls for freedom after the 1790s remain caught in the gooey conundrums of those 17th and 18th century white Europeans seeking an end to their “enslavement” to the tyranny of monarchy and wealth. “Freedom” shaped the totems of political existence and social desire and became the obvious rallying cry for 19th century abolitionists and anti-imperialists and 20th century postcolonialists and oppressed identities (feminists, civil rights activists, gay liberation activists).

I think of Foucault’s famous line at the end of “What is Enlightenment?” when he gives readers permission to dissociate critical work from “faith” (la foi)in Enlightenment, and yet…

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Michel Foucault, Sexuality The 1964 Clermont-Ferrand and 1969 Vincennes Lectures, Foreword by Bernard E. Harcourt. Translated by Graham Burchell. Columbia University Press Forthcoming August 2021.

Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality —the first volume of which was published in 1976—exerts a vast influence across the humanities and social sciences. However, Foucault’s interest in the history of sexuality began as early as the 1960s, when he taught two courses on the subject. These lectures offer crucial insight into the development of Foucault’s thought yet have remained unpublished until recently.

This book presents Foucault’s lectures on sexuality for the first time in English. In the first series, held at the University of Clermont-Ferrand in 1964, Foucault asks how sexuality comes to be constituted as a scientific body of knowledge within Western culture and why it derived from the analysis of “perversions”—morbidity, homosexuality, fetishism. The subsequent course, held at the experimental university at Vincennes in 1969, shows how Foucault’s theories were reoriented by the events of May 1968; he refocuses on the regulatory nature of the discourse of sexuality and how it serves economic, social, and political ends. Examining creators of political and literary utopias in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, from Sade to Fourier to Marcuse, who attempted to integrate “natural” sexualities, including transgressive forms, into social and economic life, Foucault elaborates a double critique of the naturalization and the liberation of sexuality. Together, the lectures span a range of interests, from abnormality to heterotopias to ideology, and they offer an unprecedented glimpse into the evolution of Foucault’s transformative thinking on sexuality.

Michel Foucault (1926-1984), a French philosopher, historian, and social theorist, was one of the most important figures in twentieth-century thought.

Bernard E. Harcourt is a chaired professor at Columbia University and the École des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris and has edited a range of works by Foucault in French and English.

Graham Burchell is coeditor of The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality (1991) and has translated a range of works by Foucault, including his lectures at the Collège de France.

Cités N° 84/2020 : Biopolitique du coronavirus (2020)
Date de parution 06/01/2021

RÉSUMÉ
Jamais sans doute le concept de biopolitique, inventé par Michel Foucault en 1975, il y a donc quarante-cinq ans, n’aura mieux prouvé sa pertinence que dans la période actuelle. La biopolitique chez Foucault se caractérise en particulier par deux dimensions : la prise directe du pouvoir sur le vivant (la natalité, l’alimentation, la reproduction, la mortalité, etc.) et l’application de ses procédures aux populations (et non plus aux individus en tant quel tels).

Ces deux dimensions sont exercées par le pouvoir politique aujourd’hui en une sorte de biopolitique du coronavirus, qui peut aller jusqu’à menacer les libertés individuelles (contrôle électronique de la population sous différentes formes). Il va de soi qu’elle ne consiste pas qu’en un exercice des procédures du pouvoir, elle a besoin, comme on vient de le voir, d’un discours pour produire et reproduire la croyance et donc l’ordre.

Donner crédit au discours du pouvoir est le rôle joué en France par ledit ” conseil scientifique ” (réunion de médecins et autres personnalités choisies en raison de leurs compétences supposées) : quelle que soit la compétence de chacun de ses membres, son fonctionnement sous l’oeil du pouvoir n’a rien de neutre ou d’anodin. Pour crédibiliser le récit du gouvernement, le conseil en question doit dire sur l’essentiel ce que le pouvoir veut entendre.

Il devient par nature, et malgré quelques divergences, l’instrument du pouvoir qui l’instrumentalise. Se forme ainsi le noeud du savoir et du pouvoir qui produit le récit (le récit de récits) du pouvoir.

DOSSIER : BIOPOLITIQUE DU CORONAVIRUS
Yves Charles Zarka, Présentation
Frédéric Gros, Le biopouvoir selon Foucault
Eric Garandeau, Les commissions d’experts
Michel Béat, L’épidémie, le corps et la relation à l’autre
Gaël Giraud, Le coronavirus et l’écologie
Franck Fischbach, L’épidémie et la question sociale
Wolfgang Streeck, L’Europe face au coronavirus
Jeremy Adelman, L’épidémie aux Etats-Unis
Danilo Martuccelli, Le coronavirus en Amérique latine
VIE POLITIQUE
Serge Audier, Le coronavirus et la mondialisation en question
VIE INTELLECTUELLE
Marc Le Glatin, Le coronavirus et la vie culturelle
Isabelle Barbéris, L’épidémie et la question identitaire

Sotiris, P.
Thinking beyond the lockdown: On the possibility of a democratic biopolitics
(2020) Historical Materialism

DOI: 10.1163/1569206X-12342803

Abstract
Covid-19 is not only a health emergency but also a strategic challenge for any politics of resistance, struggle and transformation. Understanding the social and political dynamics associated with morbidity and mortality and the many ‘ecologies of disease’ associated with the pandemic is necessary if we want to think beyond the limits of the lockdown strategy. It is here that the possibility of a democratic biopolitics emerges as part of a broader strategy for communism.

Author Keywords
Biopolitics; Communism; Covid-19; Foucault; Lockdown; Public health

Stricklin, R.B.
“I have nothing to say”—John Cage, biopower, and the demilitarization of language
(2020) Journal of Modern Literature, 43 (3), pp. 98-115.

DOI: 10.2979/jmodelite.43.3.06

Abstract
In 1975, John Cage read from his chance-generated piece, Empty Words, at the Schizo-Culture conference held at Columbia University. The conference connected Cage with post-1968 theorists like Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, and Félix Guattari. Cage’s experimental literary compositions are analogous to Foucault and Deleuze’s analysis of a new developing power that they name biopolitics and control. For both Foucault and Deleuze, this new power depends on clear communication in order to monitor and regulate populations. Cage’s attempts to “demilitarize language” with his chance-generated and rule-based writing, then, suggest a new weapon against this new power that demands constant communication and connection.

Author Keywords
Biopolitics; Gilles Deleuze; John Cage; Michel Foucault; Schizo-Culture

Al-Rustom, H.
Internal orientalism and the nation-state order: Turkey, armenians, and the writing of history
(2020) Ariel, 51 (4), pp. 1-31.

DOI: 10.1353/ari.2020.0026

Abstract
This essay reads Edward Said’s Orientalism not only as a history of the idea of the Orient in Europe but as a book of oppositional history that challenges institutions of power and reflects Said’s critical project as a future-oriented practice. Said develops his critical theory of history by synthesizing Michel Foucault’s determinism and Giambattista Vico’s emphasis on human agency in order to argue that, despite great power imbalances, there are always spaces for human agency to remake history, oppose power, and create an alternative future to the status quo. The essay investigates the writing of history in post-Ottoman Turkey by addressing two aspects in Orientalism: The first is that the representation of otherness is not only spatial but also temporal, and the second highlights that while otherness is often represented in binary opposites such as West/East, Said speaks of “intra-Oriental spheres” that constitute “internal Orientalism” as a discourse of representation within regions and nation-states. This essay examines how Turkey constructed an internal Orient and the effects this had on the writing of historical accounts of the republic s treatment of Ottoman Armenians, and the ways in which the Armenian genocide denial is framed within an Orientalist discourse.

Author Keywords
Armenians; Bernard Lewis; Edward Said; Internal Orientalism; Nationalist historiography; Temporality; Turkey

Pandemic Education and Viral Politics
By Michael A. Peters, Tina Besley, Routledge, 2020

Book Description
Viral modernity is a concept based upon the nature of viruses, the ancient and critical role they play in evolution and culture, and their basic application to understanding the role of information and forms of bioinformation in the social world. The concept draws a close association between viral biology on the one hand and information science on the other to understand ‘viral’ technologies, conspiracy theories and the nature of post-truth. The COVID-19 pandemic is a major occurrence and momentous tragedy in world history, with millions of infections and many deaths worldwide. It has disrupted society and caused massive unemployment and hardship in the global economy. Michael A. Peters and Tina Besley explore human resilience and the collective response to catastrophe, and the philosophy and literature of pandemics, including ‘love and social distancing in the time of COVID-19’. These essays, a collection from Educational Philosophy and Theory, also explore the politicization of COVID-19, the growth of conspiracy theories, its origins and the ways it became a ‘viral’ narrative in the future of world politics.

Table of Contents
1. Introduction: education, philosophy and viral politics
2. Viral modernity? Epidemics, infodemics, and the ‘bioinformational’ paradigm
3. A viral theory of post-truth
4. On the epistemology of conspiracy
5. Love and social distancing in the time of Covid-19: the philosophy and literature of pandemics
6. The Plague: human resilience and the collective response to catastrophe
7. Philosophy and pandemic in the postdigital era: Foucault, Agamben, Žižek
8. The disorder of things: quarantine unemployment, the decline of neoliberalism, and the Covid-19 crash
9. ‘Reality is an activity of the most august imagination’. When the world stops, it’s not a complete disaster – we can hear the birds sing!
10. The Chinese dream encounters COVID-19 11. Biopolitics, conspiracy and the immuno-state: an evolving global politico-genetic complex

Authors

Michael A. Peters is Distinguished Professor of Education at Beijing Normal University and Emeritus Professor at the University of Illinois. He is the Executive Editor of the journal Educational Philosophy and Theory. His interests are in education, philosophy and social policy, and he is the author of over 100 books, including The Chinese Dream: Educating the Future (2019), Wittgenstein, Education and Rationality (2020) and Wittgenstein: Antifoundationalism, Technoscience and Education (2020).

Tina Besley is Distinguished Professor in the Faculty of Education at Beijing Normal University. She is Founding President of the Association for Visual Pedagogies (AVP) and Immediate Past President of the Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia (PESA). She has published over 12 books and many articles and is Deputy Editor of Educational Philosophy and Theory and the Video Journal of Education and Pedagogy, and an Associate Editor for the Beijing International Review of Education. She works closely with Professor Michael A. Peters and with a wide international network of scholars.

Screens of Power: Ideology, Domination, and Resistance in Informational Society (paperback)
by Timothy W. Luke
With a Foreword by Ronald J. Deibert
Telos Press, Coming December 1, 2020. New edition. First published in 1989

This new edition of Screens of Power: Ideology, Domination, and Resistance in Informational Society, first published in 1989, reintroduces the innovative critique of informational culture, politics, and society outlined by Timothy W. Luke in Telos and other publications during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Working with insights derived from the Frankfurt School, Christopher Lasch, Michel Foucault, Guy Debord, and Jean Baudrillard, Luke maps out decisive conflicts and contradictions that leading modern economies and societies faced during the Cold War. At stake here is how to organize effectively the challenging political, social, and cultural transitions from industrial to informational institutions, practices, and values—a far-reaching transformation that continues to unfold today. The original edition has influenced research in the fields of visual studies, sociology, rhetorical analysis, politics, mass communications, government, information studies, economics, and cultural studies. During the COVID-19 pandemic of the 2020s, far more people are reconfiguring key aspects of their everyday life to flow across billions of screens. As they connect through the signs and systems of application platforms, computer networks, data centers, and software servers, this new edition highlights the significance of Luke’s original explorations of the politics behind informatics as well as Telos‘s ongoing project of developing “a critical theory of the contemporary.”

Gordon Hull, Foucault on Public Opinion, New APPS: Art, Politics, Philosophy, Science, 29 October 2020

If you’re like me, you spend too much time – way too much time – these days looking at polling data.  I ran across some interesting remarks by Foucault on opinion yesterday, which I’ll share here as a technique of distraction.  He makes them in the context of a 1976 conversation with J. P. Barou and Michelle Perrot (whose work on resistance to disciplinary power he favorably cites near the end of the conversation) that was published as the preface to an edition of Bentham’s Panopticon writings.  It appears as “L’oeil du pouvoir” (D&E #195, pp. 190-207 in my 2 volume edition) and is translated in Foucault Live (=FL).   For context, then, the conversation appears in the year after Discipline and Punish.  It covers a range of topics, including Foucault’s own path to discovering the panopticon (initially via hospital architecture, which had the dual need to see patients and keep them physically separated to avoid the spread of disease).

[…]

Special Issue: Foucault Before the Collège de France, Theory, Culture and Society, Online November 17, 2020

Special issue Co-edited by Stuart Elden, Daniele Lorenzini and Orazio Irrera

Foucault on Raymond Roussel: The Extralinguistic Outside of Literature
Azucena G. Blanco

Foucault’s Critique of the Human Sciences in the 1950s: Between Psychology and Philosophy
Elisabetta Basso

Foucault and the History of Anthropology: Man, before the ‘Death of Man’
Arianna Sforzini

Foucault as Translator of Binswanger and von Weizsäcker
Stuart Elden

Foucault in Hamburg. Notes on a One-Year Stay, 1959–60
Rainer Nicolaysen

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