Foucault News

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

Lars Erik Løvaas Gjerde (2021) Governing humans and ‘things’: power and rule in Norway during the Covid-19 pandemic, Journal of Political Power,
DOI: 10.1080/2158379X.2020.1870264

This text focuses on the mentalities and technologies of power employed by the Norwegian government as it attempts to control the Covid-19 pandemic. Utilizing governmentality studies and a Foucauldian discourse analysis, I find life itself to be given primacy within a biopolitical problem space where the government seeks to contain the spread of Covid-19. The government primarily rationalizes its exercises of power in a liberal manner while employing a complex set of liberal and coercive technologies, which it channels towards both the human population, which serves as an object of administration, and Covid-19, which serves as an object of domination.

Covid-19 governmentality Foucault biopolitics actor-network

Frieder Vogelmann (ed.): “Fragmente eines Willens zum Wissen”. Michel Foucaults Vorlesungen 1970–1984. Stuttgart: Metzler (2020).

A new edited volume on the complete series of Foucault’s lecture courses. Includes a chapter on every lecture course from 1970 to 1984, as well as a comprehensive introduction.

Von den Theorien und Institutionen des Strafens über die psychiatrische Macht bis zum modernen Staatsrassismus und der (neo)liberalen Gouvernementalität, von den Selbstbildungspraktiken der griechischen Antike über die Notwendigkeit des freimütigen Sprechens in der Demokratie bis zur kynischen Wahrheit einer anderen Welt reichen die Themen in Michel Foucaults Vorlesungen, die er am Collège de France von 1970 bis 1984 gehalten hat. Und quer durch alle hindurch ziehen sich die Fragen nach dem Zusammenhang von Wissen, Macht und Subjektivität sowie nach der Methode, um diese erhellen zu können.

Dieser Band nimmt die vollständige Veröffentlichung der 13 Vorlesungen zum Anlass, sie sowohl als Ganzes als auch jede einzelne Vorlesung zu betrachten. Damit bietet er tiefe Einblicke in Foucaults Vorlesungen und liefert zugleich eine umfassende Einführung in diesen Teil von Foucaults Werk.

Foucault, Michel Biopolitik Subjekt Regieren Gouvernementalität

Emiliano Grimaldi & Stephen J. Ball (2020) Paradoxes of freedom. An archaeological analysis of educational online platform interfaces, Critical Studies in Education
DOI: 10.1080/17508487.2020.1861043

Many schools and students across the globe are now engaging with educational digital platforms in their teaching and learning experience. Platforms are changing what education is and how it is experienced. In response, educational research has devoted increasing attention to the so-called platformisation of education. This article contributes to this focus of attention, proposing a conceptual framework for the analysis of the configuration of platforms and the kinds of learning experience and learners they create the conditions of possibility for. Using Foucauldian archaeological methods, we present an analytics that focuses on three interrelated axes, the spatial, temporal and ethical configurations of educational platforms. We identify some theoretical tools for the analysis of the educational experience that platforms make possible, thinkable and desirable. We show how digital platforms produce a paradoxical kind of digital learner, whose autonomy and freedom to choose, connect, produce, accumulate, perform and enact is configured within an epistemological space demarcated by the tensions between modularisation and hypertextuality, linearity and co-existence, performance and character/potential. Reflecting on this, we consider the working of a careful, unrelenting, and empirically vigilant digital gaze, which secures a very specific educational experience.

Educational online platforms digital learner digital gaze neoliberalism archaeology

Progressive Geographies

On 7 January 2021 I’ll be part of a panel discussion for the Abolition Democracy 13/13 series, hosted by Bernard E. Harcourt at the Columbia Center for Contemporary Critical Thought, and co-organised with Daniele Lorenzini of The Centre for Research in Post-Kantian European Philosophy at Warwick. We will be discussing Foucault’s 1972-73 lecture course The Punitive Society. Before the event, which will be live-streamed, participants have been asked to post a short piece about one or more ideas in the course. I’ve written a piece entitled ‘From Dynastics to Genealogy‘, which is a synopsis of a longer piece in progress.

It can be read here, and the other contributions from Goldie Osuri, Daniele Lorenzini, Bernard Harcourt, Rahsaan Thomas and others here. That last link has all the details of how to follow the discussion.

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Jean-Michel Landry (2020) Foucault on Christianity: The Impasse of Subjectivation, Political Theology, Published online: 30 Dec 2020

DOI: 10.1080/1462317X.2020.1866810

The last volume of Foucault’s History of Sexuality, Confessions of the Flesh, offers a detailed excursion into Early Christianity and its distinct mode of subjectivation. But it also discloses a paradox that was already apparent in some of Foucault’s published interventions: that his studies of Christian (and Ancient) ascetic practices contribute to foreclosing the analytical terrain that the notion of “subjectivation” opened up. The following remarks aim to show how, in turning to Christianity, Foucault leads the promising concept of subjectivation into a philosophical impasse.

Subject formation, Sexuality, Religion, Ancient Philosophy, Subjection, Confession, Michel Foucault

Jennifer R. Rust (2020) Political Theology, Pastoral Power, and Resistance, Political Theology, Published online: 31 Dec 2020

DOI: 10.1080/1462317X.2020.1866813

Foucault’s genealogy of pastoral power as “a power of care” challenges us to think of modern medical institutions and practices in terms of political theology by emphasizing their continuities with older ecclesiastical practices. Both ecclesiastical and medical forms of pastoral power generate forms of resistance or “counter-conduct” with theological and biopolitical implications. Foucault’s prescient remarks on the relationship between forms of religious counter-conduct and modern movements to resist vaccines and other public health measures raise questions about the legacy of pastoral power in the contemporary world and the limits of rhetorical appeals to science and medical rationality.

Foucault, political theology, governmentality, pastoral power, sexuality, public health, counter-conduct, biopolitics

Elena Vasiliou, Penitentiary pleasures: Queer understandings of prison paradoxes, Criminology & Criminal Justice Vol. 20(5) 2020, 577–589.
DOI: 10.1177/1748895820939147

Open access

Historically, prison researchers have remained disengaged with explorations of pleasure in punishment because of the risk of romanticizing imprisonment. This risk is inherent in any discussion of pleasure experienced by prisoners. In this article, I advocate for the application of queer theory as a means of deconstructing the binary formation through which pain and pleasure in prison is understood. To do that, I explore how ex-prisoners’ narratives might reveal (queer) moments of pleasure and complement existing criminological scholarship that has neglected such an issue. This exploration is framed by Foucault’s theory of pleasure as a productive force that renders it akin to power: it produces an effect. In this article, I draw on Edelman’s concept of “futurity” and Halberstam’s “failure” to bring criminology and queer theory into a productive dialogue for the purpose of analyzing the production of narratives of pleasure by ex-prisoners. In my analysis, I use Jackson and Mazzei’s “plugging in method” centered around the categories of (a) pleasure and pain, (b) pleasure and resistance, and (c) sexuality and pleasure. Drawing upon the findings, I argue that pleasure becomes a nexus of relations that exists and correlates with sexuality, power/resistance, and the feeling of pain. I conclude that a queer understanding of what is unpleasant is possible if we reconsider pleasure and pain in a spectrum as opposed to a binary formation.

Pain, pleasure, prison, queer criminology, resistance, sexuality

Matthew MacLellan, Identity politics, liberalism, and the democratizing power of biopolitics. Constellations. 2020; 1– 15.

DOI: 10.1111/1467-8675.12538

Democracy cannot be predicated exclusively on the universality of the law, since that universality is privatized ceaselessly by the logic of government action. (Jacques Rancière)

The separation of public from private is as crucial to the liberal state’s claim to objectivity as its inseparability is to women’s claim to subordination. (Catherine MacKinnon)

Men have dreamed of liberating machines. But there are no machines of freedom, by definition. (Michel Foucault)

1.1 The identity politics critique

The contemporary liberal critique of identity politics features an unmistakable mark of antidemocratic reaction: the fear of political excess, the fear that too much of our social or private lives are becoming subject to the rigors of political scrutiny. In Political Tribes (2018), for instance, Amy Chua laments how a once legitimate concern for minority rights has now spread to even the most inconsequential of our social activities. “As a progressive Mexican American law student put it, if we allowed ourselves to be hurt by a [Halloween] costume, how could we manage the trauma of an eviction notice?’” (Chua, 2018, p. 187). The same concern over the excessive politicization of social life runs throughout Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt’s best‐selling The Coddling of the American Mind (2018): “students at many colleges today are walking on eggshells, afraid of saying the wrong thing [or] liking the wrong post” (p. 72). And in The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics (2017), Mark Lilla is similarly unnerved about the increasingly dominant idea that “there are no spheres of life exempt from the struggle for power,” and how the realization of power’s ubiquity has turned “Left identitarians” into “buttoned‐up Protestant schoolmarms … parsing every conversation for immodest locutions” (2017, pp. 75, 91).

Flavio Luzi, Glosse in margine all’epidemia come politica, Laboratorio Archeologia Filosofica, 19 Dicembre 2020

Open access

Penosamente amare quel che non si ama,
da quando il fumo uccide,
ecco, ubbidire.

Patrizia Cavalli

1. Nemo propheta acceptus est in patria sua

“A me sembra che il vero compito politico, in una società come la nostra, sia quello di criticare il funzionamento delle istituzioni, soprattutto di quelle che appaiono come neutrali e indipendenti, e di attaccarle in maniera tale che la violenza politica che si esercita oscuramente in esse sia finalmente smascherata, così da poter essere combattuta”. Con queste parole, in un dibattito televisivo tenutosi a Eindhoven nel 1971, un ridente Michel Foucault ribatteva alle posizioni espresse in quell’occasione dal suo avversario, Noam Chomsky. Il filosofo francese si riferiva a tutte quelle istituzioni – come l’Università, l’Istruzione, la Psichiatria e la Giustizia – che diversamente dall’Esercito, dalla Polizia e dal Carcere, si presentano in maniera apparentemente neutrale, affrancata dall’evidente circolazione (sottomissione ed esercizio) del potere politico. Dietro le funzioni di distribuzione del sapere, della promozione della libera ricerca, della cura dei disturbi mentali, dell’amministrazione del diritto, queste istituzioni – o, se si preferisce, questi dispositivi epistemico-sociali – occultano la violenza politica che continuamente esercitano sui corpi degli individui, disciplinandoli e soggettivizzandoli come studenti, come anormali, come colpevoli. In tal senso, dal punto di vista foucaultiano, non vi è ragione alcuna di ritenere che l’istituzione sanitaria e, più in generale, il sapere medico siano esenti da questo tipo di mistificazione, dimostrandosi sinceramente neutrali, estranei a qualsivoglia ideologia, potere o violenza politica.

Giorgio Astone, Pieghe, invaginazioni, addugliature. Deleuze interprete di Foucault, Laboratorio Archeologia Filosofica, Dicembre 2020

Open access

1. Introduzione – Fra parentesi quadre

Con il titolo La soggettivazione viene tradotta in italiano anche l’ultima sezione del corso universitario tenuto da Gilles Deleuze a Paris VIII nell’anno accademico 1985-1986, preceduto dai due volumi Il sapere (Deleuze 2014) e Il potere (Deleuze 2018), contenente la trascrizione delle ultime cinque lezioni del filosofo francese, svoltesi fra Aprile e Maggio del 1986. Le argomentazioni di Deleuze si confrontano, in questa occasione, con il secondo volume della serie Histoire de la sexualité di Michel Foucault, L’usage des plasirs[1], dato alle stampe nel 1984, lo stesso anno della pubblicazione di Le souci de soi e della scomparsa del pensatore della biopolitica.


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