Foucault News

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

CFP: Session – Geographies of Parrhesia: Resistance, Critique, and the Formation of Self and Other


Federico Ferretti, University of Bologna

Stephen Legg, University of Nottingham

Session in Royal Geographical Society with IBG Conference, August 2022, Newcastle University.

The influence of Michel Foucault on geographical research is long-standing, widespread, and much critiqued. While his philosophy and practice have influenced geographical research into discourses, institutions, governmentalities, and the ethics of self-formation, this research tends to tell the same story of control. Foucault’s insistence that power was always accompanied by resistance has been much touted but also criticised for its nihilism and apoliticism. In his final years Foucault moved from the language of resistance to that of critique, and finally to the notion of parrhesia (Foucault 1982-83 [2010], 1982-1983 [2019], 1983-84 [2011]), first elaborated most famously by Cynic philosophers of Ancient Greece. Translated as “frank speech”, “speaking truthfully” or the “courage of truth”, parrhesia more broadly represents a political, ethical and philosophical commitment to living a true life and transforming others and the world. This “final Foucault” is attracting increasing discussion in the light of new (re)translations of lectures which “…indisputably constitutes his final major contribution to philosophy.” (Gros 2019, xiii)

Notions of parrhesia can potentially be extended beyond Foucault’s lessons to become operational concepts in the fields of both critical theory and empirical studies on the histories and philosophies of science. Being especially fit to be applied to individuals’ behaviours, the notion of parrhesia can nourish studies on political dissidences and resistances by nonconformist individuals that are increasingly valued after the “(auto)biographical turn” in the history of geography.  

In this panel we build on the existing work of geographers on the late Foucault (Elden 2016), critique (Cadman 2010), and parrhesia itself (Brigstocke 2013, Legg 2018, 2019, Brigstocke 2020, Ferretti 2021, 2022 in press). We welcome geographical interpretations and interrogations of this work, theoretical and/or empirical, which may include:

  • Which spaces of politics does an analysis of parrhesia open up?
  • What potential does parrhesia have for contributing to debates on spaces of race, gender, or sexuality given Foucault’s near total attention in his last lectures on white(?) heterosexual(?) men?
  • Can parrhesia be situated in and explain broader governmentalities?
  • Given Foucault’s focus on philosophical not political parrhesia, what politics is there in his study of the agonistic relationships between self and others? Does the philosophical/political parrhesia distinction hold?
  • How does the term work with or against notions of critique, counter-contact, resistance or problematisation?
  • Can parrhesia become an operational lens to read political dissidence, insubordination and resistance? 
  • How can parrhesia help us re-approach histories of the discipline?
  • How to deal with biography and autobiography in geography through notions of parrhesia?
  • Questions of parrhesia and the archive.
  • Beyond philosophy or politics what other forms of parrhesia might we study?

We plan to hold this session in-person. Deadline for titles and abstracts of 200 words February 28th, sent to and 


Brigstocke, Julian. 2013. “Artistic Parrhesia and the Genealogy of Ethics in Foucault and Benjamin.”  Theory, Culture & Society 30 (1):57-78. doi: 10.1177/0263276412450467.

Brigstocke, Julian. 2020. “Resisting with authority? Anarchist laughter and the violence of truth.”  Social & Cultural Geography:1-19.

Cadman, L. 2010. “How (not) to be governed: Foucault, critique, and the political.”  Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 28 (3):539-556.

Elden, Stuart. 2016. Foucault’s Last Decade. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Ferretti, Federico. 2021. “Parrhesia and female leadership: radical women in Brazilian geography against dictatorship and academic conservatism.”  Gender, Place & Culture:1-33.

Ferretti, Federico. 2022 in press. “Indignation, civic virtue and the right of resistance: critical geography and anti-fascism in Italy (1960s-1970s).”  Annals of the American Association of Geographers.

Foucault, Michel. 1982-83 [2010]. The Government of Self and Others: Lectures at the Collège de France 1982-1983. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Foucault, Michel. 1982-1983 [2019]. “Discourse and Truth” and “Parresia”. Translated by Nancy Luxon. Edited by Daniele  Lorenzini and Henri-Paul  Fruchaud. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Foucault, Michel. 1983-84 [2011]. The Courage of Truth (the Government of Self and Others II): Lectures at the Collège de France 1983-1984. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Gros, Frédéric. 2019. “Introduction.” In “Discourse and Truth” and “Parresia”, edited by Daniele  Lorenzini and Henri-Paul  Fruchaud, xiii-xx. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Legg, Stephen. 2018. “Colonial and Nationalist Truth Regimes: Empire, Europe and the Latter Foucault.” In South Asian Governmentalities: Michel Foucault and the Question of Postcolonial Orderings, edited by Stephen Legg and Deana Heath, 106-133. New Delhi: Cambridge University Press.

Legg, Stephen. 2019. “Subjects of truth: Resisting governmentality in Foucault’s 1980s.”  Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 37 (1):27-45.

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