Foucault News

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

The Quietus | Features | Craft/Work | Into The Voids: Traversing The Work Of Raymond Depardon, December 2017

Editor’s note: old news


At the Fondation Henri Cartier Bresson in Paris, Adam Scovell explores one of the most important European post-war photographers still working today.

Depardon captures institutes with a rare eye; the faces he captures already showing the signs of a different sort of capture beyond language. Throughout the exhibition, the words of Michel Foucault repeatedly came to mind. He writes aptly of the act of exercise itself that it is “the technique by which one imposes on the body tasks that are both repetitive and different, but always graduated. By bending behaviour towards a terminal state, exercise makes possible a perpetual characterization of the individual…”. With the difference taken away, what does this exercise become?

The photo is one of the most disturbing of his images because of how constrained this flexing of individual character is; the route always defined and shared, the mind now locked doubly into both the physical behaviour and the unchanging scenario around the man. Considering in hindsight the pleasure this small task probably produced away from the man’s cramped cell grounds the viewer further in a stark realisation.

One of Foucault’s most famous dictums comes from the same volume as that quote, Discipline and Punish (1975), where he writes that “Surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in its action.” The idea being that the main role of surveillance is change of behaviour rather than documentation for social safety. I repeatedly thought of Depardon’s eye, a different form of surveillance – momentary, desiring to capture behaviour rather than to dictate it – travelling around the globe to apprehend those trapped in what can only be described as an array of stases.

BBC – Culture – Magritte and the subversive power of his pipe By Cath Pound, 5 December 2017

Editor’s note: old news

René Magritte’s The Treachery of Images (This is Not a Pipe) is one of the most famous yet persistently enigmatic works in the history of art. One of the word-image series of paintings in which the Belgian artist sought to challenge linguistic and visual conventions, it was also part of his life-long quest to show that images could be equal to words in the expression of consciousness.

The iconic painting is returning to its country of origin for the first time in 45 years as part of a major exhibition at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium examining Magritte’s influence on contemporary artists from Jasper Johns to Gavin Turk, giving us a fresh opportunity to attempt to define the indefinable.


In his famous essay on The Treachery of Images, the philosopher Michel Foucault refers to the artwork as an “unravelled calligram”, a calligram being an image formed of the words which describe it, which Magritte had “unravelled” by separating the image from the text.

Although Magritte disagreed with this definition, he certainly believed that an image was as capable of expressing thought as poetry. As Draguet says, for Magritte poetry was “beyond the word; something deeper than the word”.

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Dissident Knowledge in Higher Education: Marc Spooner and James McNinch write about their new edited book – Social Theory Applied, 22 May 2018


Marc Spooner and James McNinch write about their new edited book: Spooner & McNinch (2018) Dissident Knowledge in Higher Education(

It is an exciting time of possibility as research approaches continue to be contested, disrupted, and broadened to include a wide variety of promising departures from orthodoxy. What has been labelled, in various instances, posthumanism, new materialism, the ontological turn, the affective turn, and/or post-qualitative research join ongoing developments in community-engagedparticipatory, decolonizing, place-based, and Indigenous research approaches.

Yet, just as these enticing possibilities invite us to expand our research in ways unimagined just a decade ago, a parallel counterbalancing shift towards a ubiquitous neoliberal and accountability-focused culture – both in the academy and in society – imperils these promising developments. As audit culture and governmentality spread, they give rise to a new managerialism set on measuring us against rigid conceptions of research and impact, regardless of how inappropriate, unethical, or deleterious such constricting measures may be to ourselves and our communities.  Ultimately, at stake, is the very notion of what can be considered knowledge itself.

Foucault fiches de lecture
ANR project: Foucault’s Reading Notes

Transcrire les fiches de lecture de Michel Foucault avec le logiciel Transkribus : compte rendu des tests

Une collaboration internationale avec le projet européen READ/Transkribus a été mise en oeuvre pour la transcription automatique des manuscrits de fiches de lecture. Transkribus est un logiciel de reconnaissance automatique de l’écriture manuscrite, accompagné d’une plateforme de transcription d’images numérisées de manuscrits et d’un OCR classique.

Présentation du projet

À propos

Le projet Foucault Fiches de Lecture (FFL) a pour but d’explorer et de mettre à disposition en ligne un large ensemble de fiches de lecture de Michel Foucault (1926-1984) conservées à la BnF depuis 2013. Ce corpus de plusieurs milliers de feuillets contient une collection considérable de citations et de références, organisées et commentées par Foucault pour la préparation de ses livres et de ses cours. Il ne s’agira pas seulement de rendre accessibles les sources du philosophe, mais de contribuer à l’élaboration d’une herméneutique philosophique, reposant sur l’analyse des pratiques documentaires et des styles de travail de Foucault. Ce carnet de recherche, véritable carnet de route du projet, souhaiterait informer la communauté scientifique et plus largement le public de l’avancée des travaux (numérisation, transcription, prototype, etc.) et du développement d’une plateforme dédiée. Ce projet financé par l’ANR (2017-2020) et coordonné par Michel Senellart, professeur de philosophie à l’ENS Lyon, bénéficie des partenariats de l’ENS/PSL et de la BnF.


Review by Nicholas Till,  Times Higher Education.

Olivia Bloechl, Opera and the Political Imaginary in Old Regime France
University of Chicago Press,
272pp, £41.50ISBN 9780226522753Published 10 April 2018


Bloechl turns to writers such as Michel Foucault, Judith Butler and Agamben, who have all theorised the ways in which power operates not only through the exercise of violence – actual or threatened – and reward, but also in the micro-regimes of a culture that becomes naturalised and internalised in the subject.

Obligatory displays of ritualised grief at the passing of public figures are re-enacted in the scenes of choral lament in tragédie lyrique. The passivity of the subject in the face of power is replicated in the lack of agency of the chorus.

Foucault’s self-disciplinary regime of the “confessing society” is conveyed through the ubiquity of self-punishing confessions in French opera, in which there is a transition from an externally imposed sense of moral obligation in the 17th century to an internalised mode that is represented by the advent of the “tormenting orchestra” in 18th-century operas. Bloechl also demonstrates that in the near century of tragédie ­lyrique’s ascendancy, power in the ancien régime shifted from the personal absolutism of Louis XIV to the more remote rulership of his great-grandson Louis XV. This is conveyed in dramatic narratives in which it is not the god or ruler who exercises authority or justice, but a mediating representative. And Pluto’s underworld? It resembles “nothing so much as an absolutist monarchical state”, founded on the principle of the precarity of the subject under the permanent threat of death.

Karakayali, N., Kostem, B., Galip, I.
Recommendation Systems as Technologies of the Self: Algorithmic Control and the Formation of Music Taste
(2018) Theory, Culture and Society, 35 (2), pp. 3-24.

DOI: 10.1177/0263276417722391

The article brings to light the use of recommender systems as technologies of the self, complementing the observations in current literature regarding their employment as technologies of ‘soft’ power. User practices on the music recommendation website reveal that many users do not only utilize the website to receive guidance about music products but also to examine and transform an aspect of their self, i.e. their ‘music taste’. The capacity of assisting users in self-cultivation practices, however, is not unique to but stems from certain properties shared by all recommendation systems. Furthermore, unlike other oft-studied digital/web technologies of the self which facilitate ‘self-publishing’ vis-à-vis virtual companions in social media, recommender algorithms themselves can act as ‘intimate experts’, accompanying users in their self-care practices. Thus, recommendation systems can facilitate both algorithmic control and creative self-transformation, which calls for a theorization of this new cultural medium as a space of tension.

Author Keywords
algorithms; care of the self; Foucault;; online music recommendation; recommendation systems; technologies of the self

“This Tale Is About You!”: On Bini Adamczak’s “Communism for Kids” – Los Angeles Review of Books, By Ross Wolfe JUNE 27, 2017

BINI ADAMCZAK’S Communism for Kids isn’t just for kids. The book is meant for readers of all ages, but its style is deliberately naïve. Adamczak addresses everyone as children in order to awaken their childlike sense of imagination and ability to dream. She reminds them that the world has not always been this way, and need not stay as it is. Adopting the language of make-believe, Adamczak introduces the problem posed by capitalism so those still young at heart might arrive at a solution. “[G]enuine fairy tales,” the Marxist critic Siegfried Kracauer maintained during the Weimar years, “are not stories about miracles but rather announcements of the miraculous advent of justice.”

The crucial reference for Adamczak is Deleuze’s colleague, Michel Foucault. She quotes him as saying that “the role of intellectuals today must be to restore the same level of desirability for the image of revolution that existed in the 19th century.” Foucault wavered on this, though, unsure if revolution was really so desirable after all (citing Horkheimer’s doubts). He told Bernard-Henri Lévy that “something quite different is at stake in Stalinism [than the viability of revolution]. You know very well […] that the very desirability of the revolution is the problem today.” Asked whether revolution was something he desired, Foucault refused to commit himself.

Philosophy As Interdisciplinary Intensity – An Interview With Giorgio Agamben (Antonio Gnolio/Ido Govrin) – RELIGIOUS THEORY Feb 5 2017

The following is an interview with the famed Continental philosopher Giorgio Agamben conducted by journalist Antonio Gnolio. Originally published in La Repubblica on May 15, 2016.  the interview is translated from the Italian by Ido Govrin, whose bio is given at the end.  It is translated with permission of La Repubblica.


AG: In recent years you have intensified your call on “biopolitics.” Is this a concept we owe in large part to Michel Foucault?

GA: Certainly. But just as important to me was the problem of method in Foucault, namely the archeology. I’m convinced that these days the only way to access the present is through investigation of the past, the archeology. It should be made clear, as Foucault does, that archeological researches are not just the shadow that the interrogation of the present projects on the past. In my case, this shadow is often longer than that sought after by Foucault and probes fields such as theology and law, which Foucault hardly looked at. It certainly may turn out that the results of my research are disputed, but I hope at least that the purely archeological researches I developed in State of Exception,[6] The Kingdom and the Glory,[7] or in the book on oath,[8] help us understand the time in which we live.

Oleg Bernaz, Une archéologie de l’épistémè de l’union, in Oleg Bernaz et Marc Maesschalck (éds), Approches philosophiques du structuralisme linguistique russe, Peter Lang, Bruxelles, 2018.

Cette entreprise foucaldienne se déploie en trois étapes. Il s’agit premièrement d’analyser le statut du savoir de ce que Foucault appelle « l’épistémè moderne ». Nous montrons, à ce stade de notre enquête archéologique, que l’articulation des savoirs de l’économie, de la linguistique et de la biologie modernes se fait d’une manière singulière. Ce parcours nous permet de montrer deuxièmement en quoi consiste l’originalité de l’articulation que l’on peut établir entre l’économie, la biologie et la linguistique dans le cadre de ce que nous proposons de nommer « épistémè de l’union » dans le contexte de l’URSS des années 1920-1930. La troisième étape de notre analyse est consacrée à une réflexion sur le rapport non plus entre la biologie, l’économie et la linguistique, mais entre les deux épistémès identifiées précédemment. L’idée d’une histoire sérielle, centrale pour comprendre ce que Foucault entend par « savoir », nous sert de fil conducteur pour thématiser ce nouveau rapport entre les épistémès moderne et de l’union.

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