Foucault News

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

fargeDisorderly Families: Infamous Letters from the Bastille Archives
By Arlette Farge and Michel Foucault
Edited by Nancy Luxon
Translated by Thomas Scott-Railton
University of Minnesota Press | 344 pages | January 2017
ISBN 978-0-8166-9534-8 | jacketed cloth | $35.00

First published in French in 1982, this first English translation of Disorderly Families contains ninety-four letters collected by Arlette Farge and Michel Foucault from ordinary families who submitted complaints to the king of France in the eighteenth century to intervene and resolve their family disputes. Together, these letters offer unusual insight into the infamies of daily life.

“An enlightening compilation that will leave historically inclined readers wanting to dig a little further into the archives.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Expertly edited, this thoughtful translation of Disorderly Families adds a central pillar to the English archive of Michel Foucault’s work. A source of fascination for him since at least the 1950s, the Bastille lettres de cachets deeply influenced and shaped his analysis of power. As he discovered, these letters were what he and Arlette Farge would call a ‘popular practice,’ demanded from below, and not an arbitrary exercise of monarchical power—and they would become a key building block for Foucault’s theory of power-knowledge. This exceptional English translation gives life to Foucault’s—and Farge’s—subversive desire to breathe life into these beautiful, infamous, and obscure lives.” —Bernard E. Harcourt, Columbia University

Arlette Farge is Director of Research in Modern History at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique, Paris and the author of more than a dozen books, including Fragile Lives and The Allure of the Archives.

Michel Foucault (1926–1984) was a French philosopher and held the Chair in the History of Systems of Thought at the Collège de France. He is often considered the most influential political theorist of the second half of the twentieth century. His most notable works include History of Madness, Discipline and Punish, and The History of Sexuality, among others.

Nancy Luxon is associate professor of political science at the University of Minnesota. She is the author of Crisis of Authority: Politics, Trust, and Truth-Telling in Freud and Foucault.

Thomas Scott-Railton is a freelance French–English translator living in Brooklyn, New York, and previously translated Arlette Farge’s The Allure of the Archive.
For more information, including the table of contents, visit the book’s webpage:

2 thoughts on “Foucault, Disorderly Families: Infamous Letters from the Bastille Archives (2016)

  1. stuartelden says:

    Reblogged this on Progressive Geographies and commented:
    It’s only taken 35 years, but Farge and Foucault’s Disorderly Families has finally appeared in English. Looking forward to seeing a copy soon.

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