Foucault News

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

Li, S.
A Foucauldian Power Analysis of China’s Confucius Institute in Africa: Power, Knowledge and the Institutionalisation of China’s Foreign Policy
(2022) Journal of Asian and African Studies

DOI: 10.1177/00219096221086546

The Confucius Institute (CI) was established in 2004 by China to disseminate its language, culture and other forms of positive knowledge to people of different nationalities. By critiquing existing analytical frameworks of the CI, this article draws on Foucault’s conception of power, which explains the role of language, culture, value and other non-material elements in the operation of power, to examine the case study of the CI in Africa. By investigating the CI’s power structure, its internal power operations and its power effects, this research seeks to ascertain the role of the CI in the institutionalisation of China’s foreign policy towards Africa. © The Author(s) 2022.

Author Keywords
Africa; China; Confucius Institute; foreign policy; institutionalisation; power/knowledge

Francesca Peruzzo, Stephen J Ball, Emiliano Grimaldi,
Peopling the crowded education state: Heterarchical spaces, EdTech markets and new modes of governing during the COVID-19 pandemic, International Journal of Educational Research, Volume 114, 2022

In this paper, we examine a set of complexly related education policy issues that concern changes to the form and technologies of the state, and changing modalities of government and processes of policy and service delivery, and concomitantly, the re-agenting of education policy within extensive but exclusive policy networks. We also explore the role of the state in creating opportunities for business and social purpose organisations within the delivery and management of state education in response to the ambitions of EdTech (Education Technology) companies seeking to sell their products within the state system. The time is that of COVID-19 and lockdown (2020-2021) and the case is the English Oak National Academy (ONA) – a national platform for remote teaching and learning resources that was conceived and created in England in April 2020, with funding from government and various philanthropists, and designed and run by a team of third sector and business policy entrepreneurs. Alongside and in relation to the ONA we consider a series of UK government policy papers on EdTech, interrogate the membership of the EdTech Leadership Group (ELG) and of the EdTech Advisory Forum.

Zelinka, J. (2022). Subjects and Subjectivities of the (New) Geopolitics of Knowledge. In: Parreira do Amaral, M., Thompson, C. (eds) Geopolitical Transformations in Higher Education. Educational Governance Research, vol 17. Springer, Cham.

The educational processes worldwide are said to be shaped by neoliberal logic of knowledge-production. In a continuously globalised world, the competition over logics of knowledge-production is accompanied by epistemic and political changes as well as by power shifts. In context of the (new) Geopolitics of Knowledge and using the theoretical lenses of Michel Foucault, the chapter intends to provide a critical perspective on new and emerging forms of subjectivities that indicate the changes of power balance. To narrow down the scope of analysis, it particularly examines the so-called 21st century key skills and competencies discourse and unwraps discursive practices and technologies of subjectivation operating within. By compiling and critically assessing the worlds most popular frameworks of key skills and competencies it tries to address the production of subjectivities and understand their relation to the current geopolitical dynamic. The chapter starts with introducing the current state of research and theoretically embedding the forthcoming analysis. It then presents and analyses the 21st century skills and competencies discourse to carve out three central tension-pairs, within which subjectivities are produced. It ends with reflecting on the preliminary results in light of the (new) Geopolitics of Knowledge as a form of global governmentality. © 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG.

Author Keywords
21st Century Skills; Geopolitics of knowledge; Governmentality; Higher education; Subjects and subjectivities

Šabec, K., Mencin, M., Perger, N.
A Dry Branch on the Nation’s Body: The Nation’s Biological Reproduction between Gender and Sexuality
(2021) Treatises and Documents, Journal of Ethnic Studies, 87, pp. 69-85.

DOI: 10.36144/RiG87.dec21.69-85

The article proceeds from the thesis that discriminatory discourses in the field of gender and sexuality in Slovenia are based on ideas surrounding the nation’s biological reproduction and that increasing the fertility rate is crucial for the nation’s viability. The authors substantiate this thesis with Foucault’s biopolitical governmentality, Balibar’s concepts of nationalism and fictive ethnicity, and Yuval-Davis’ analysis of women’s roles in the construction of ethnic and national collectivities. The research question is how the assumption of the nation’s biological origin affects the understanding of the state and citizenship. We analyse political debates in Slovenia over a period of 30 years, focusing on those that expose any relation between gender and sexual norms and the understanding of the state as an ethnic rather than a civic category: the right to abortion, biomedically assisted reproduction, and the legal equality of intimate partnerships. © Inštitut za narodnostna vprašanja (Ljubljana),

Author Keywords
abortion; biomedically assisted reproduction; equality of intimate partnerships; gender; nation-state; sexuality

Tanke, Joseph. “The Gentle Way in Governing: Foucault and the Question of Neoliberalism.” Philosophy & Social Criticism, (April 2022).

This essay challenges some of the recent scholarship which claims that Michel Foucault was more sympathetic to neoliberalism than is typically acknowledged. Accordingly, it considers the possible motivations for Foucault’s 1978-1979 lecture course, The Birth of Biopolitics; the relationship between liberalism and the various forms of power identified by Foucault; and, finally, claims that Foucault’s account of the ‘care of the self’ was itself informed by the neoliberal theory of human capital. It finds that Foucault regarded neoliberalism as coercive social arrangement on par with the other forms of power/knowledge targeted by his work. And it concludes with some reflections on how Foucault’s account of the ‘aesthetics of existence’ might facilitate resistance to neoliberalism.

neoliberalism, liberalism, governmentality, raison d’État, theory of human capital, aesthetics of existence, care of the self, homo oeconomicus

Friedrich, J.
Settling Accounts at the End of History: A Nonideal Approach to State Apologies
(2022) Political Theory

DOI: 10.1177/00905917211065064

What are we to make of the fact that world leaders, such as Canada’s Justin Trudeau, have, within the last few decades, offered official apologies for a whole host of past injustices? Scholars have largely dealt with this phenomenon as a moral question, seeing in these expressions of contrition a radical disruption of contemporary neoliberal individualism, a promise of a more humane world. Focusing on Canadian apology politics, this essay instead proposes a nonideal approach to state apologies, sidestepping questions of what they ought to do and focusing instead on their actual functioning as political acts. Through a sociologically informed speech act theory and Foucault’s work on power, apology is conceptualized as a speech act with an essentially relational nature. The state, through apologizing, reaffirms the norms governing its relationship to its subjects at a moment when a past transgression threatens to destabilize this relation. From a Foucauldian point of view, the state’s power inheres in the very stability of the state–citizen relation, and we should therefore see apologies as defensive moves to protect state hegemony. In the context of Western liberal democracies, such as Canada, apologies embody, rather than challenge, the logic of neoliberal governmentality by suggesting that everything, including resentment against the state, can be managed within the current status quo. Nevertheless, total cynicism about apology politics is not warranted. In many indigenous apology campaigners’ demands for contrition we see another side of apologies: their potential to bring about change by enacting counterhegemonic relations to the state. © The Author(s) 2022.

Author Keywords
Canada; governmentality; historical injustice; reconciliation; state apologies

Woo, E.
What is the problem represented to be in China’s world-class university policy? A poststructural analysis
(2022) Journal of Education Policy

DOI: 10.1080/02680939.2022.2045038

Underlying current research on China’s world-class university (WCU) policy approaches are analytical foci that privilege the agency of social actors and the problem-solving approach to policy analysis. Foucauldian poststructuralists draw our attention to policy document, which is seen as a discourse that organizes and administers society. Inspired by Foucault, Carol Bacchi’s ‘What’s the Problem Represented to Be?’ approach (WPR) views policy document as a technology of governmentality. As proposed solutions to a problem, policy text produces the very problem that it seeks to address. Carol Bacchi draws our analytical attention to the rationalities, technologies of governing and subjectification effects created by particular problem representations in the WCU policy. Using WPR, this paper shows that WCU is represented as merely a technical, managerial and organizational problem. Such representations naturally reify WCU in material terms, such as research output, and in a temporal form of state planning. Genealogically, the root of WCU can be traced to the neoliberal movement of knowledge economy. However, Shanghai Ranking overturned this center-periphery landscape in disseminating the concept of WCU. China’s one-party state means that WCU is pursued at the expense of sacrificing social sciences and subjecting academics and students to become ‘red experts.’. © 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Author Keywords
Chinese higher education; Chinese world-class universities; poststructural discourse analysis; WPR approach

Han-yu Huang
Risk, Fear and Immunity: Reinventing the Political in the Age of Biopolitics, Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies 37.1

March 2011: 43-71

As an update of his continual concern for contemporary risk society since the 1980s, Ulrich Beck’s latest work World at Risk (2009) alerts us to the deterritorializing effects of global risk on national, geographical, and disciplinary boundaries. On an increasingly global scale, risk mixes up natives and foreigners, while risk calculus connects natural, technical and social sciences, and incorporates almost all aspects of everyday life. Fear, accordingly, spreads out as a kind of carrier that binds so-called global, multicultural civil society; it even prospers as a lucrative risky business. Such an era has witnessed a structural transformation of the roles of the state and various biopolitical institutions, of life itself, of subjectivity and agency.

Drawing on Žižek’s theory of ideology critique and radical ethics and politics, this paper firstly presents a critical survey of contemporary biopolitics, focusing on how health needs contagion as its uncanny double to define and immunize itself, and on how new forms of biomedical experts and knowledge of life flourish with uncertainty and administer our body and life. All of these will be discussed in relation to theoretical accounts of the contemporary risk society and culture of fear to critically look at how risk and fear function as depoliticizing biopolitical instruments for disavowing social antagonism. Theorists such as Judith Butler and Roberto Esposito caution us against the (auto)immunitary biopolitical logic and call for vulnerability, precariousness and finitude to be adopted as the ethical principles for a “positive” biopolitics, while this paper will query whether human subjects are victimized and depoliticized in their discourses. The final part of this paper will turn to Žižek’s recent formulation of radical ethics and politics to address the possibility of reinventing the political in contemporary biopolitics.

biopolitics, contagion, fear, health, immunity, monster, Neighbor, risk

Sabot, Philippe. “Michel Foucault in the 1950s: Beyond Psychology towards Radical Ontology.” Theory, Culture & Society, (May 2022).

This paper is based on the archives of Michel Foucault collected (since 2013) at the Manuscripts Department of the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris. Our investigation focuses in particular on a complete manuscript, until now totally unknown and entitled ‘Phénoménologie et psychologie’ (‘Phenomenology and Psychology’). This manuscript could be the first project for a thesis devoted to ‘The Notion of the “World” in Phenomenology’, written around 1953–4, at the same time as a manuscript on Binswanger and existential psychiatry and as a manuscript on philosophical anthropology. We aim to show the importance that phenomenology seems to have held for Foucault at the beginning of the 1950s and in particular the role that it could have played in Foucault’s distancing himself from a naturalist psychology and a philosophy of consciousness to which he opposes a philosophy of the world, of being and of language. Foucault thus discovers a truth of the phenomenology which rests on the radicality of the transcendental gesture and on the access to an ontology gathering the being, the meaning and the language.

Michel Foucault, Edmund Husserl, ontology, phenomenology, psychology, world

Jim Denison & Joseph P. Mills (2014) Planning for distance running: coaching with Foucault, Sports Coaching Review, 3:1, 1-16,
DOI: 10.1080/21640629.2014.953005

Coaching and sport scholars working from a Foucauldian perspective (e.g. Barker-Ruchti & Tinning, 2010; Denison, 2007; Heikkala, 1993; Johns & Johns, 2000) have demonstrated how overly controlling and disciplining training practices can objectify athletes’ bodies and, as a result, limit and constrain their development. In this paper, we draw on Michel Foucault’s (1995) analysis of anatomo-political power, or disciplinary power, to illustrate how distance running coaches could begin to problematize the effects that the use of various disciplinary techniques and instruments can have on athletes’ bodies through their everyday planning practices.

coaching, planning, Foucault, discipline, docility

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