Foucault News

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

Olli Pyyhtinen, Sakari Tamminen, We have never been only human: Foucault and Latour on the question of the anthropos, Anthropological Theory, Vol. 11, No. 2. (1 June 2011), pp. 135-152.

Today, the impact of the work of both Michel Foucault and Bruno Latour is increasingly evident in anthropology, most notably in the subfields of medical anthropology and the anthropology of science and technology. However, so far the oeuvres of these two thinkers have not been compared in a systematic fashion in the secondary literature. The present consideration intends a sustained comparison of their work to the end of problematizing the notion of the human or the anthropos. We suggest that both Foucault and Latour provide us with vital means to question human exceptionalism. Instead of calling upon the essence of human subjectivity by drawing on the notion of intentionality, for instance, they break open the interiority and autonomous hidden essence of the human. While Foucault does this mainly with his notion of the death of Man, Latour’s work calls human essence into question by asserting the respective birth of non-humanity. We argue that it is especially the two thinkers’ mutual concern with relationality that makes their work central to recent discussions of ‘posthumanism’ by proposing a form of ‘ahumanism’. However, at the same time Foucault and Latour tend to neglect the ‘outside’ of relations, although both see it as providing the resources for every assemblage.

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