Foucault News

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

Maynard, Kevin, Foucault on the Wards. Rediscovering Reflection as a Social Pediatrician in Training, Academic Medicine: October 15, 2019

DOI: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000003042

Open access

The author states that as a second-year medical student with a liberal arts degree, it is often difficult for him to reconcile his former education with the current demands of his training. Although the medical curriculum acknowledges the importance of a biopsychosocial model, the prioritization of knowledge remains the same: know your biological, pharmacological, and anatomical facts. However, the author’s experience with a social pediatrics research summer studentship moved him beyond this basic sciences mindset and provided a practical framework for the application of his liberal arts training. The experience was twofold: he worked on a research project while simultaneously shadowing a pediatrician twice a week. His project applied a Foucauldian critical discourse analysis to an archive of texts that sought to better characterize the term social pediatrics. The author concludes that the thought-changing reflection, mentorship, and concrete clinical experiences made possible by the summer studentship expanded his worldview.

İbrahimhakkıoğlu, F.
A Feminist Genealogy of the Lived Body? Rethinking the Gendered Body as a Site of Excess and Indeterminacy
(2019) Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology, 50 (4), pp. 324-336.

DOI: 10.1080/00071773.2019.1610830

This essay offers a rethinking of the gendered body as both lived and historically constituted. These two dimensions are sometimes seen as irreconcilable, especially by some proponents of post-structuralism who are critical of phenomenology. My contention is that when approaching gender, Merleau-Ponty’s paradoxical formulation of the body as “always something other than what it is” can accompany a genealogy of the body. The body, as excessive, indeterminate, and ambiguous in Merleau-Pontian phenomenology, is at the same time the very object and product of certain techniques and procedures developed since the nineteenth century, as Foucault documents. Not only are phenomenology and genealogy compatible in this context, but thinking them together is necessary in order to illuminate the multi-faceted complexity of the embodiment of gender. The weight of this necessity is especially felt when approaching sexual violence, which tends to take place at the very intersection of the body-as-lived and the body-as-constituted. © 2019, © 2019 The British Society for Phenomenology.

Author Keywords
Foucault; gender; Merleau-Ponty; Phenomenology; the body

Alan Ingram, Viral geopolitics: biosecurity and global health governance, In Biosecurity: The Socio-Politics of Invasive Species and Infectious Diseases, Edited ByAndrew Dobson, Kezia Barker, Sarah L. Taylor, Routledge, 2013

This chapter examines tensions surrounding the development and reworking of global health governance in response to concerns about emerging infectious diseases since the 1980s. It focuses in particular on how tensions have emerged at the intersections between technologies of government – what, following Michel Foucault, may be termed apparatuses of security – that have been created in response to newly formed infectious disease epidemics and struggles over the international political economy. The widespread adoption of the term ‘global health governance’ can be understood as a result of a convergence between struggles over globalisation and growing unease about emerging infectious diseases. The intensification and expansion of international trade and travel, combined with environmental change, population growth, urbanisation and shifts in farming practices, is generally understood to have transformed the ecological matrix within which humans, animals, plants and microbes co-exist and co-evolve. The intensified interactions and transactions associated with globalisation are commonly understood to have heightened the risk of disease emergence into human populations and its subsequent spread. In response to these quantitative and qualitative shifts in epidemiological space and time, materialised through a series of infectious disease outbreaks and epidemics. Health bureaucrats, scientists, politicians, activists, and corporate and military entities have collaborated and struggled over the creation of new organisations, networks and strategies, fostering the emergence of the field of global health (Lakoff and Collier, 2008).

In a lecture course given at the Collège de France in the late 1970s, Michel Foucault (Foucault, 2007) described the consolidation of such clusters of institutions, rationalities, tactics and technologies in response to crisis or emergency situations as the formation of apparatuses or mechanisms (words that provide an approximation to the word dispositif that Foucault used) of security. In an interview given around the same time, Foucault elaborated further on what he meant by this term: What I’m trying to pick out with this term is, firstly, a thoroughly heterogeneous ensemble consisting of discourses, institutions, architectural forms, regulatory decisions, laws, administrative measures, scientific statements, philosophical, moral and philanthropic propositions – in short, the said as much as the unsaid. Such are the elements of the apparatus. The apparatus itself is the system of relations that can be established between these elements.

Black, A., Lumsden, K.
Precautionary policing and dispositives of risk in a police force control room in domestic abuse incidents: an ethnography of call handlers, dispatchers and response officers
(2020) Policing and Society, 30 (1), pp. 65-80.

DOI: 10.1080/10439463.2019.1568428

This article explores the riskwork engaged in by call handlers, dispatchers and response officers in a police force control room in England. We present a novel approach by drawing on the work of Foucault and his concept le dispositif to study riskwork in policing in a post-austerity landscape and to develop the analytical concept of ‘precautionary policing’. Dispositional analysis allows us to focus on social dispositions or inclinations and to demonstrate how these arrangements affect social interaction and organisational behaviour. We draw on data collected via ethnographic fieldwork focusing on domestic abuse incidents in a police force control room in England.

The findings focus on: (1) organisational technologies of risk, which guided and surfaced staff actions and decision-making; (2) riskwork to mitigate and manage threats and harm to victims and the public; and (3) riskwork relating to the professional decision-making of individual staff and officers. In addition to bringing the risk tools and artefacts ‘into being’ through their (inter-)actions, for staff, these technologies are a safety net to justify practices. They erode opportunities for officer discretion, particularly in relation to responses to domestic incidents. Therefore, despite policy discussions of the need to reduce officers’ risk aversion and reduce unnecessary bureaucracy, a risk averse culture still pervades. Uncertainty becomes a justification for pre-emptive action by officers and staff before risks become known, and demonstrates a shift to precautionary policing practices which do not follow the blueprints of risk management. © 2019, © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Author Keywords
Domestic abuse; precautionary policing; risk; victims

Borck, C. (2019). Cooperation and Critique in Neuroscience: Loops of Feedback Between Philosophy, the Psy Sciences and Neurophenomenology. Le Foucaldien, 5(1), 8.

DOI: 10.16995/lefou.57

Open access

In the long history of tenuous relations between psychology, psychiatry and philosophy the rise of neuroscience is typically regarded as decisive turn towards biological reductionism. Roughly since the turn of the millennium, however, the story has become more complicated. The emergence of social and cultural neuroscience seemed to indicate a new trend toward interdisciplinary cooperation across the nature-culture divide. Situating the emergence of this transdisciplinary agenda in the longer history of biologicalization in psychiatry and neuroscience, however, allows differentiating a mere rhetoric of bridging between neuroscience and humanities from conceptually more stringent studies such as in neurophenomenology. While some actors developed sophisticated experimental settings here for mediating between opposing approaches, others contributed by performative interventions, as critique comes in different forms and formats. In effect, these different lines of work keep the question regarding human nature open; certainly not the least achievement.

Keywords: critical neuroscience, historiography, socio-political contextualization, francisco varela, human nature, dissensus

LIVE! From City Lights
STAFF PICK – Foucault in California (2020)


(From April 2019) Heather Dundas in conversation with David Wade celebrating the release of Foucault in California : A True Story—Wherein the Great French Philosopher Drops Acid in the Valley of Death by Simeon Wade, Foreword by Heather Dundas, and published by Heyday Books.

In The Lives of Michel Foucault, David Macey quotes the iconic French philosopher as speaking “nostalgically…of ‘an unforgettable evening on LSD, in carefully prepared doses, in the desert night, with delicious music, [and] nice people.'” This came to pass in 1975, when Foucault spent Memorial Day weekend in Southern California at the invitation of Simeon Wade—ostensibly to guest-lecture at the Claremont Graduate School where Wade was an assistant professor, but in truth to explore what he called the Valley of Death. Led by Wade and Wade’s partner Michael Stoneman, Foucault experimented with psychedelic drugs for the first time; by morning he was crying and proclaiming that he knew Truth.

Foucault in California is Wade’s firsthand account of that long weekend. Felicitous and often humorous prose vaults readers headlong into the erudite and subversive circles of the Claremont intelligentsia: parties in Wade’s bungalow, intensive dialogues between Foucault and his disciples at a Taoist utopia in the Angeles Forest (whose denizens call Foucault “Country Joe”); and, of course, the fabled synesthetic acid trip in Death Valley, set to the strains of Bach and Stockhausen. Part search for higher consciousness, part bacchanal, this book chronicles a young man’s burgeoning friendship with one of the twentieth century’s greatest thinkers.

Muchnick, J.R.
Wrestling with the Heterotopia: Jordan Burroughs and His Post-Match Interview at the 2016 Olympics
(2020) Sport, Ethics and Philosophy, 14 (1), pp. 35-46.

DOI: 10.1080/17511321.2018.1531056

This essay applies Michel Foucault’s conception of the heterotopia to the context of the sport of wrestling. In particular, it examines the social and spatial structures of the sport, exploring homophobia and masculinity in a wrestling context as well as analyzing the physical and theoretical space of the wrestling mat. This groundwork is used to inform a reading of an interview given by American wrestler Jordan Burroughs after being eliminated from the 2016 Olympics. After examining this interview as occurring somewhere on the fringes of the heterotopia, between the space of the athlete and that of the spectator, this essay attempts to link a Foucauldian understanding of the athletic arena to a framework of athletic defeat as a self-transformative endeavor.

Author Keywords
defeat; Foucault; Heterotopia; masculinity; wrestling

Janosik Herder, The Power of Platforms. How biopolitical companies threaten democracy, Public Seminar, January 25, 2019

The 2010s will likely be remembered as the decade of the rise of platforms. Google, Amazon, Facebook, Airbnb, Uber — all of these companies have become more than just billion-dollar businesses. Over the last ten years they have started to play an essential role in the everyday life of most people. We increasingly rely on platforms and their services for our social, professional, and political needs. This, of course, is what separates them from “normal companies.” Platforms tend to monopolize aspects of life — such as socializing, dating, room-letting, searching — and make a profit by utilizing their monopoly. But what distinguishes Google, Facebook, Airbnb, and Uber from other companies is not just their economics. How these platforms work, how they regulate their services, and how they manage their users is a fundamentally political matter.


Following Michel Foucault, they may be understood to employ a specific form of biopower, and should therefore be understood as biopolitical companies.


An independent project of The New School Publishing Initiative, Public Seminar is produced by New School faculty, students and staff, and supported by colleagues and collaborators around the globe.

Hanne Svarstad, Tor A. Benjaminsen, Ragnhild Overå, Power theories in political ecology, Journal of Political Ecology, Vol 25, No 1 (2018)

DOI: 10.2458/v25i1.23044

Open access

Power plays a key role in definitions of political ecology. Likewise, empirical studies within this field tend to provide detailed presentations of various uses of power, involving corporate and conservation interventions influencing access to land and natural resources. The results include struggle and conflict. Yet, there is a lack of theoretical elaboration showing how power may be understood in political ecology. In this article, we start to fill this gap by reviewing the different theoretical perspectives on power that have dominated this field. There are combinations of influences, two of them being actor-oriented and neo-Marxist approaches used from the 1980s. Typically, case studies are presented of environmental interventions by a broad range of actors at various scales from the local to the global. The focus has been on processes involving actors behind these interventions, as well as the outcomes for different social groups. Over the last two decades, in political ecology we have increasingly seen a move in power perspectives towards poststructuralist thinking about “discursive power”, inspired by Foucault. Today, the three approaches (actor-oriented, neo-Marxist and Foucauldian) and their combinations form a synergy of power perspectives that provide a set of rich and nuanced insights into how power is manifested in environmental conflicts and governance. We argue that combining power perspectives is one of political ecology’s strengths, which should be nurtured through a continuous examination of a broad spectrum of social science theories on power.

Patricio Lepe-Carrión, Crisis de gubernamentalidad en Chile: contra la expropiación financiera y el Orden Público Económico
[Crisis of governmentality in Chile: against financial expropriation and the Public Economic Order]
Kalagatos, V.16, N.3. Setembro – Dezembro 2019

DOI: 10.23845/kgt.v16i3.861

Open access

El presente ensayo tiene como propósito pensar la sublevación, y la consecuente represión que se vive en Chile desde el 18 de Octubre de 2019, como “acontecimiento” (événement); y en cuanto tal, situarlo en una matriz histórico-política que implica una transformación de los principios, objetivos y diseños programáticos en torno a la “conducción de las conductas” de la población chilena instalados en dictadura, y que adquieren su forma a partir de un “poder informante” a nivel constitucional. Es decir, que la “crisis de gubernamentalidad” se refiere a una negación radical y generalizada sobre el Orden Público Económico (OPE) y sus dinámicas de explotación contemporánea (expropiación financiera), en tanto dispositivo estratégico de “financiarización de la subjetividad” o producción de sujetos “inversionistas de sí mismos” en nuestro presente.

Palabras clave:
Chile. Neoliberalismo. Gubernamentalidad. Financiarización. Subjetividad.

The purpose of this essay is to think of the uprising, and the consequent repression that has been experienced in Chile since October 18, 2019, as an “event” (événement); and as such, place them in a historical-political matrix that implies a transformation of the principles, objectives and programmatic designs around the “government of conducts” of the Chilean population installed in dictatorship, and that acquire their form through an “formative power” at the constitutional level. That is to say that the “crisis of governmentality” refers to a radical and generalized denial of the Public Economic Order (OPE) and its dynamics of contemporary exploitation (financial expropriation), as a strategic device of “financialization of subjectivity” or production of subjects “investors of themselves” in our present.

Chile. Neoliberalism. Governmentality. Financialization. Subjectivity.

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