Foucault News

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

Phil Carney, Foucault’s Punitive Society: Visual Tactics of Marking as a History of the Present, British Journal of Criminology (2015) 55 (2): 231-247. First published online: January 7, 2015

doi: 10.1093/bjc/azu105

Abstract
Applying a form of genealogical method rooted in Nietzsche’s use of history, this article seeks an understanding of ‘marking’ punishments in our own mass-mediated culture. First, Foucault’s analysis of the punitive tactic of marking in his 1973 course, The Punitive Society, will be considered. Second, his concept of ‘virtual marking’ will be extended and applied to the case of the pitture infamanti in the early renaissance. Third, I will use these insights in a genealogical spirit in order to examine the rise of virtual marking in modernity. We will discover that Foucault was mistaken to tether marking punishments so closely to sovereign power. Instead, with certain antecedents in ancient Rome, virtual marking emerged in a largely ‘bourgeois’ society during the early renaissance and re-emerges in our own society of mass, photographic spectacle.

Key words

visual criminology
spectacle
culture
punishment
Foucault

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