Anthony Alessandrini, Foucault, Fanon, Intellectuals, Revolutions, Jadaliyya, April 01 2014
[This article is the final in a three-part Jadaliyya series that looks at Foucault’s work in relationship to the legacy of French colonialism in North Africa. Read the first and second installments here: “The Dangers of Liberalism: Foucault and Postcoloniality in France” by Diren Valayden and “Justifications of Power”: Neoliberalism and the Role of Empire by Muriam Haleh Davis.]
My theoretical ethic is…“antistrategic”: to be respectful when a singularity revolts, intransigent as soon as power violates the universal. A simple choice, a difficult job: for one must at the same time look closely, a bit beneath history, at what cleaves it and stirs it, and keep watch, a bit behind politics, over what must unconditionally limit it. – Michel Foucault, “Useless to Revolt?”
In their invaluable contributions to this series, Diren Valayden and Muriam Haleh Davis note, rightly, that Michel Foucault had relatively little to say about colonialism, in any direct way, throughout most of his body of work. I have nothing to add to this more general point regarding the Eurocentrism of Foucault’s work, except perhaps a proposal to place it within two larger contexts. The first is the general (and continuing) lack of engagement with postcolonial studies within French scholarship more generally; Achille Mbembe, among others, has described this as a form of provincialism within French thought from which we might, at last, begin to break away today. The second context is the complex history, still being told, of the interconnections between poststructuralist thought and French colonialism in North Africa, so well analyzed by Muriam Haleh Davis in a previous article.