Foucault News

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

Foucault and the Study of Religion Seminar
Call for Proposals

We invite papers for the inaugural year of our seminar on Foucault and the Study of Religion. Following our exploratory session at the 2021 AAR on Michel Foucault’s posthumously published Confessions of the Flesh (2018), we seek to gather scholars engaging the work of Foucault and the study of religion from a number of approaches and traditions.

Methodologically, this can include critical analyses of Foucault’s use of religious sources, including his engagement (or lack thereof) with secondary literature in his published works. It may include analyses or approaches to particular forms of religious thought and practice from Foucault’s theoretical and philosophical perspectives, as well as research carried out in a critical-genealogical spirit in the same or adjacent religious sources that Foucault takes up.

We encourage submissions that raise questions around Foucault’s engagement with traditions beyond Catholic Christianity including: Jewish traditions, Foucault’s brief engagements with Islam in Iran, parallels and discontinuities between the “ethics of the care of the self” in western antiquity and South- and East-Asian traditions, among other possibilities. We are interested in exploring the ways that Foucault may help us challenge notions of “tradition” and “religion” that have been so central to both the study of religion and religious life more broadly. Over the five years of our seminar, we hope to co-sponsor panels with other AAR program units, starting this year with the Ethics Unit, on questions of “care of the self.”

● Foucault and methodology in the study of religion
● The unique role of Christian sources in Foucault’s œuvre, including prominent Christian traditions–especially Protestant, Orthodox, and others–which are at times absent from his work
● Foucault and Islam, including but not limited to Foucault’s engagements with Iran or questions opened up by ethics as care of the self
● Foucault and Asian religions, including but not limited to Buddhist and Hindu traditions
● Foucault’s engagement with the construction of “religion” in critical philosophy and theology from the modern period to the present
● Proposals which continue to engage Confessions of the Flesh through the framework of “sexuality” across the four extant volumes of the History of Sexuality, or further themes and sources in ancient Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Indian traditions (amongst others)
● Proposals for a possible co-sponsored session with the Ethics Unit, inviting individual proposals, pre-arranged paper sessions, and roundtables addressing what Foucault might mean by ethics and the ways that he connects or fails to connect ethics with religion. We are particularly interested in proposals examining how Foucault’s notion of “care of the self” may relate to, challenge, or enrich religious ethics

Statement of Purpose
The Foucault and the Study of Religion Seminar is dedicated to collaborative research in a public setting, gathering scholars of religion whose research engages theoretical and historical approaches to the work of Michel Foucault. During his lifetime, Foucault was a force in public discourse, and his works have been transformative for scholarship in the humanities and social sciences over the last fifty years. We aim to continue Foucault’s tradition of public intellectual discourse in a way that illuminates the importance of the study of religion for understanding and critiquing his work on questions of gender, race, sexuality, and class. We hope to convene scholars of various religious practices and traditions to expand Foucault’s critical approach and enliven the contributions of this research for the public domain.

We understand this work to be ongoing, developing the complex questions that emerge from Foucault’s analytics of power, knowledge, and subjectivity central to many disciplines. The 2018 posthumous publication of his History of Sexuality volume on early Christian sexual ethics (Confessions of the Flesh) foregrounds the need for such critical and constructive engagement by scholars with expertise across religious traditions and methodologies. We hope to bring together scholars within the AAR and SBL—particularly those in philosophy of religion, queer theory, black studies, feminist theory, religion and literature, Caribbean and diasporic studies, affect studies, African American religion, religion and ecology, and the history of Christianity (ancient and early modern)—in order to pursue work that is historically and theoretically rigorous, reflecting Foucault’s own interdisciplinarity and the relevance his work has had across fields.

Niki Clements, Rice University
1/1/2022 – 12/31/2027

Daniel Wyche,
1/1/2022 – 12/31/2027

Steering Committee Members
Brandy Daniels, University of Portland
1/1/2022 – 12/31/2027

Biko Gray, Syracuse University
1/1/2022 – 12/31/2027

Maureen Kelly, University of Chicago
1/1/2022 – 12/31/2027

David Maldonado-Rivera,
1/1/2022 – 12/31/2027

Review Process
Proposer names are visible to chairs but anonymous to steering committee members

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