(See also this news item on the Rice University site)
Over five weeks in the month of May and the beginning of June, an international group of scholars will engage the work of Michel Foucault at the intersection of ethics, power, and Christianity in the context of the 2018 Éditions Gallimard publication of Les Aveux de la chair and its 2021 translation as Confessions of the Flesh. Foucault’s work and biography are not without controversy and we invite both critical and charitable engagement from speakers and audience members.
This series of virtual talks will take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11:00 Houston/12:00 NYC/18:00 Paris & Johannesburg. Each session will last one hour, featuring a speaker’s paper for 30-45 minutes, and followed by discussion. These twice-a-week talks will promote continuity as a series, without the constraints of a virtual marathon. Many of these talks will be recorded and will constitute an ongoing resource for viewers around the world.
We are particularly enthusiastic about the conversations between speakers on Foucault’s “last decade” (1974-1984) rethinking bodies, sexuality, and biopolitics, historical forms of ethics as care of the self and of the other, possibilities for resistance to oppressive norms, and theoretical challenges “to think differently, instead of legitimating what is already known.” Contextualizing Foucault’s Confessions of the Flesh is vital for the reading of this book and the general understanding of its relation to his developing theories of subjectivity, sexual ethics, and truth-telling. Les Aveux de la chair includes research from his 1978-1982 lectures, is based on the draft manuscript submitted to Gallimard in 1982, and includes Foucault’s handwritten edits in 1984.
Four decades after Foucault drafted this History of Sexuality, Volume IV, we can appreciate his formidable influence on the production of discourses in both academic scholarship and cultural formations as well as apply pressure to some of his historical and theoretical claims. We can also level necessary critiques of his own abuses of power and the conceptual limitations of his theorizations of subjectivity on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, age, and class. This series on Foucault’s Confessions of the Flesh takes up this charge critically, charitably, and in a committed manner.
This series is hosted by the Department of Religion at Rice University, with the support of the Rockwell Fund and through the assistance of Marcie Newton and Diana Heard. We thank the Humanities Research Center at Rice University for their invaluable support. We look forward to seeing how this conversation continues over time.
Tuesday, May 4
James Bernauer: “Fascinating Flesh: Revealing the Spiritual Foucault”
Thursday, May 6
Peter Brown: In Conversation
Tuesday, May 11
Philippe Chevallier: “The Birth of Confessions of the Flesh”
Thursday, May 13
Mark Jordan: “Lust in Paradise: On the Origin of Sexualized Selves”
Tuesday, May 18
Lynne Huffer: “Foucault’s Queer Virgins”
Wednesday, May 19
Niki Kasumi Clements: “Foucault’s Christianities”
Thursday, May 20
Elizabeth A. Clark: “Contextualizing Foucault’s Augustine”
Tuesday, May 25
Arianna Sforzini: “Rebellious Flesh: Virgins, Consecrated Women, and the Radicality of Conversion”
Thursday, May 27
Daniele Lorenzini: “Foucault’s Genealogy of Modern Knowledge About Sexuality: From São Paulo to Confessions of the Flesh”
Tuesday, June 1
Martina Tazzioli: “‘If the Truth is Turned Against the Colonised’: Exhaustive Verbalisation and the Impossibility of Truth-Telling”
Thursday, June 3
Achille Mbembe: In Conversation
Followed by series commentary from James D. Faubion