Foucault News

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

Bronwyn Davies, Jane Speedy, Who was Pierre Rivière? Introduction to the special issue, Emotion, Space and Society, Available online 22 April 2012

Further info
Table of contents for special issue

Foucault’s (1975) edited book, I, Pierre Rivière, having slaughtered my mother, my sister and my brother… A case of parricide in the 19th century, includes the court documents and newspaper reports from the 1835 trial of Pierre Rivière, Pierre Rivière’s memoir written while in prison, and the “analytic notes” written by Foucault and his colleagues. Whereas the court focused on the question of whether Pierre Rivière was of sane mind or not, Foucault and his colleagues sought to avoid the closure that such categorical thinking invites the reader into. This paper introduces the story of Pierre Rivière, and opens up some of the questions to be addressed in this special issue. The papers examine the memoir, the accompanying documents, and Foucault’s and his colleagues’ take on them, and reopen discussion of the Pierre Rivière case and its contemporary twenty-first century relevance, using a combination of both philosophical ethnography and arts-based enquiry. These contemporary papers are based upon a series of interdisciplinary workshops and seminars that took place at the University of Bristol during 2010. In this introductory paper we ask what was the emotional geography of this young man who engaged in such an unthinkable act? And how did that geography intersect with the emotional geography of his village in France in 1835, and what does it still have to tell us about our own contemporary society?

Pierre Rivière; Foucault, Parricide, Madness; Arts-based social science; Narrative enquiry

4 thoughts on “Who was Pierre Rivière? Introduction to the special issue (2012)

  1. I have found a very interesting parallel with what Ayn Rand said about William HIckman (1908-1928)”was an American criminal responsible for the kidnapping, murder and dismemberment of Marion Parker, …” who was a child. He sent her in separate pieces to the police. Rand wrote about his intelligence displayed in his defense by what he said. This crime was in the 1920’s.when Foucault was a toddler. Rand was persecuted all her life for defending his person, not his crime, and saying “he was sentenced to death not for what he did, but for what he said.” Rather amazing of her to quite understand the Dominating Discourse of the justice system. But then Nietzsche was her mentor starting at age 16 through her 40’s (maybe beyond). In Abnormal Lectures 1974-5 – Foucault spends time on “People know what they say (write). They frequently even know what they say (write) means. But what they don’t know is what they say (write) does,” in the context of delinquency records and sentences for crimes.


    1. Vk says:

      There is neither need nor even a possibility for people to know what “their discourse expression does”. Synchronization paradox and discovery of parallel existence of “chimeras” alongside synchronized systems describes both macro and microcosm function, both external physical systems and neuron reality of human brain. Any given society is an organism and functions as one. It’s a mere defence against decay and decease. Therefore It is a fallacy to claim he was persecuted for what he said instead of for what he did.


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