Foucault News

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

Rohan Deb Roy and David Arnold, Of Prisons, Tropics and Bicycles: A Conversation with David Arnold, Asian Medicine 6 (2010–11) 149–163

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David Arnold who retired this year as the Professor of Asian and Global History at the University of Warwick remains one of the most prolific historians of colonial medicine and modern South Asia. A founding member of the subaltern studies collective, he is considered widely as a pioneer in the histories of colonial medicine, environment, penology, hunger and famines within South Asian studies and beyond. In this interview he recalls his formative inspirations, ideological motivations and reflects critically on his earlier works, explaining various shifts as well as mapping the possible course of future work. He talks at length about his forthcoming works on everyday technology, food and monsoon Asia. Finally, he shares with us his desire of initiating work on an ambitious project about the twin themes of poison and poverty in South Asian history, beginning with the Bengal famine in the late eighteenth century and ending with the Bhopal gas tragedy of the early 1980s. This conversation provides insights into the ways in which the field of medical history in modern South Asia has been shaped over the past three decades through interactions with broader discussions on agency, resistance, power, everydayness, subaltern studies, global and spatial histories. It hints further at the newer directions which are being opened up by such persisting intellectual entanglements.

Colonialism, medicine, subaltern, everyday, South Asia

Subsequently, Foucault has been the most important single influence on my work and my thinking about history. Of course, Foucault’s work takes many forms and it is the early Foucault that I tend to go back to, particularly Discipline and Punish and the Power/Knowledge interviews rather than the later Foucault of The History of Sexuality

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