Foucault News

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

Sellar, S., Zipin, L.
Conjuring optimism in dark times: Education, affect and human capital
(2019) Educational Philosophy and Theory, 51 (6), pp. 572-586.

DOI: 10.1080/00131857.2018.1485566

This paper analyses how the discursive construction, valuation and subjective experience of human capital is evolving in parallel with crises of capital as a world-system. Ideology critique provides tools for analysing policy ‘fictions’ that aim to sustain investment in human capital through education. Foucauldian analytical tools enable analysis of how human capital has become a project of self-appreciation and cultivation of positive psychological traits. We argue that the work of Lauren Berlant provides an important complement to these approaches and enables us to analyse how crises of capital are being lived as the cruelling of optimism about social mobility through investment in oneself as human capital. The paper points to an educational politics and pedagogy for living through infrastructural breakdown in darkly uncertain historical times. © 2018, © 2018 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Author Keywords
Affect; education policy; Foucault; human capital; ideology critique; optimism

Duncan Kelly, Foucault investigates, Times Literary Supplement, MAY 17, 2017

Duncan Kelly on the prodigious output of a writer who has influenced disciplines from classics to politics to psychology

Review Michel Foucault OEUVRES, I & II, Edited by Frédéric Gros et al.

In 1970, after various appointments in France, Germany, Poland, Sweden and Tunisia, the French philosopher and epistemologist Michel Foucault took a Chair at the Collège de France in Paris. His job title was Professor of the History of Systems of Thought, and his inaugural lecture offered a retrospect and prospect of what that meant to him. Yet only by the end of the 1970s, in a recap of a course given on the birth of modern “biopolitics”, published in English as “History of Systems of Thought” (1979), did Foucault explain what this meant more explicitly. Asking how, from the eighteenth century onwards, governmental practices had sought to rationalize the attention they paid to their subjects and citizens, he considered the range of policies and systems of thought that justified them, targeting the practical problems of governing a population (health, hygiene, care and welfare, births, deaths, diseases, etc). These were forms of “gov­ernmentality” and, he continued, they were “inseparable” as systems of thought from the dominant form of “political rationality” that overlay them, namely, modern “liberalism”. The history of systems of thought, it turns out, covers it all.

Catherine M. Soussloff discusses her book Foucault on Painting, This Is Not A Pipe Podcast, April 25, 2019

Catherine M. Soussloff discusses her book Foucault on Painting with Chris Richardson. Soussloff, Professor of Art History, Visual Art & Theory, University of British Columbia and Professor Emeritus, University of California, Santa Cruz is the author of Foucault on Painting (University of Minnesota Press) and editor of Foucault on the Arts and Letters: Perspectives for the Twenty-First Century (Rowman and Littlefield). In 2015, she was Visiting Lecturer at the Collège de France. She has published articles and books on Jewish identity and visual culture (Jewish Identity in Modern Art History, California), the historiography of art history, early modern art theory, and contemporary issues in art, art history, and performance. Soussloff has held fellowships from the Institut d’Histoire de l’Art (INHA), Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Getty Research Institute, and the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. She is the author of The Absolute Artist: The Historiography of a Concept (Minnesota) and The Subject in Art: Portraiture and the Birth of the Modern (Duke). She was an editor of The Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, 2nd edition (Oxford). Her work in progress includes the essay “Artist in the World” and a book on the bodily self in art and theory.

Colin Koopman, How We Became Our Data. A Genealogy Of The Informational Person. University of Chicago Press, 2019

We are now acutely aware, as if all of the sudden, that data matters enormously to how we live. How did information come to be so integral to what we can do? How did we become people who effortlessly present our lives in social media profiles and who are meticulously recorded in state surveillance dossiers and online marketing databases? What is the story behind data coming to matter so much to who we are?

In How We Became Our Data, Colin Koopman excavates early moments of our rapidly accelerating data-tracking technologies and their consequences for how we think of and express our selfhood today. Koopman explores the emergence of mass-scale record keeping systems like birth certificates and social security numbers, as well as new data techniques for categorizing personality traits, measuring intelligence, and even racializing subjects. This all culminates in what Koopman calls the “informational person” and the “informational power” we are now subject to. The recent explosion of digital technologies that are turning us into a series of algorithmic data points is shown to have a deeper and more turbulent past than we commonly think. Blending philosophy, history, political theory, and media theory in conversation with thinkers like Michel Foucault, Jürgen Habermas, and Friedrich Kittler, Koopman presents an illuminating perspective on how we have come to think of our personhood—and how we can resist its erosion.


Introduction: Informational Persons and Our Information Politics

Part I: Histories of Information

1. Inputs
“Human Bookkeeping”: The Informatics of Documentary Identity, 1913–1937
2. Processes
Algorithmic Personality: The Informatics of Psychological Traits, 1917–1937
3. Outputs
Segregating Data: The Informatics of Racialized Credit, 1923–1937

Part II: Powers of Formatting

4. Diagnostics
Toward a Political Theory for Informational Persons
5. Redesign
Data’s Turbulent Pasts and Future Paths


Bernard E. Harcourt, author of Exposed: Desire and Disobedience in the Digital Age
“How We Became Our Data is a landmark contribution to contemporary philosophy of subjectivities and a must-read for anyone interested in the digital age. Koopman masterfully traces the birth of the informational person, meticulously excavating the informatic archives of the early twentieth century—from birth registration to personality testing to racial data on real estate and crime—to demonstrate how we have become our data today. Koopman develops a provocative new model of how power circulates in the informational age, providing an essential link between the statistical and confessional model of the nineteenth century and the digital profiling of the twenty-first.”

Rita Raley, author of Tactical Media
“Of all the critical accounts of our becoming subjects of and to data, Koopman’s is the most unsettling—which is to say, the most necessary. We simply cannot understand the crisis of the present without the two inextricable stories presented in this book: how the concept of information emerges as the necessary precondition for the ‘information society’ and how our lives have become almost unthinkable without the sociotechnical apparatus of documents. That this is ultimately an affirmative and even mobilizing tale, instead of a paralyzing horror, is a credit to Koopman’s narrative skill and meticulous scholarship.”

Davide Panagia, author of The Political Life of Sensation
“Brilliant. Urgent. Essential. Koopman’s study of the genealogy of our future-present selves, and how we became these informational artifacts, is crucial to developing new critical knowledges for politics, for aesthetics, and for life.”

Ball, S. J. (2019). A horizon of freedom: Using Foucault to think differently about education and learning. Power and Education.

DOI: https://10.1177/1757743819838289

Building on the work of others, this article sketches out what a Foucauldian ‘education’ might look like in practice, considers some of the challenges, paradoxes and (im)possibilities with which such an ‘education’ would face us, and indicates some of the cherished conceits and reiterated necessities that we must give up if we take seriously the need for an education that fosters an orientation to critique and curiosity. Three elements of Foucault’s ‘philosophical ethos’ that might be translated into educational practices are addressed: first, fostering a learning environment that encourages experimentation; second, enabling the development of an awareness of one’s current condition as defined and constructed by the given culture and historical moment; and, third, encouraging an attitude or disposition to critique – a focus on the production of particular sorts of dispositions that would be valued and fostered. All of this raises issues about ‘the teacher’.

Keywords: Foucault, self-formation, critique, refusal

Eric Bulson, Tripping his brains out Eric Bulson on Michel Foucault and LSD, Times Literary Supplement, 14 May 2019

Review of
Michel Foucault
HISTOIRE DE LA SEXUALITÉ IV, Les Aveux de la chair

In May 1975, Michel Foucault watched Venus rise over Zabriskie Point while Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Gesang der Jünglinge (Song of the Youths) blared from the speakers of a nearby tape recorder. Just a few hours earlier he had ingested LSD for the first time and was in the process of undergoing what he saw as “one of the most important experiences” of his life. And he wasn’t alone. Two newly acquired companions had brought Foucault to Death Valley for this carefully choreographed trip complete with a soundtrack, some marijuana to jump start the effects, and cold drinks to combat the dry mouth. It was all spurred on by the hope that Foucault’s visit to “the Valley of Death”, as he called it, would elicit “gnomic utterances of such power that he would unleash a veritable revolution in consciousness”.

Chloë Taylor, Foucault, Feminism, and Sex Crimes. An Anti-Carceral Analysis, Routledge, 2019

See also Review by Jemima Repo, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, 13 May 2019

This book brings together Foucault’s writings on crime and delinquency, on the one hand, and sexuality, on the other, to argue for an anti-carceral feminist Foucauldian approach to sex crimes. The author expands on Foucault’s writings through intersectional explorations of the critical race, decolonial, critical disability, queer and critical trans studies literatures on the prison that have emerged since the publication of Discipline and Punish and The History of Sexuality.

Drawing on Foucault’s insights from his genealogical period, the book argues that those labeled as sex offenders will today be constructed to re-offend twice over, once in virtue of the delinquency with which they are inculcated through criminological discourses and in the criminal punishment system, and second in virtue of the manners in which their sexual offense is taken up as an identity through psychological and sexological discourses. The book includes a discussion of non-retributive responses to crime, including preventative, redistributive, restorative, and transformative justice. It concludes with two appendixes: the original 19th-century medico-legal report on Charles Jouy and its English translation by the author.

Foucault, Feminism, and Sex Crimes will be of interest to feminist philosophers, Continental philosophers, Women’s and Gender Studies scholars, social and political theorists, as well as social scientists and social justice activists.


Part I: “Bucolic Pleasures”? Feminist Readings of Foucault

1. The Case of Charles Jouy and Sophie Adam

2. Revising Sex Crime Law

3. Infamous Men and Dangerous Individuals

Part II: Disciplining and Punishing Sex Offenders

4. Feminism, Crime, and Punishment

5. Foucault’s Prison Abolitionism

6. Criminal Queers

Part III: Perverse Implantations

7. The Perverse Implantation and Sex Work

8. Zoosexuality and Interspecies Sexual Assault

9. The Social Construction of the Serial Sex Killer

Conclusion: Transforming Justice


Emerson Maione, Thiago Rodrigues, Genealogia e Agonismo: uma analítica do poder na Justiça de Transição, Carta Internacional. Revista da Associação Brasileira de Relações Internacionaisv, 14 n. 1 (2019)

DOI: 10.21530/ci.v14n1.2019.821

Este artigo baseia-se em sugestões teórico-metodológicas de Michel Foucault. Em especial,focaremos a analítica das relações de poder/saber, a genealogia, o agonismo, e as visõesdesse autor sobre justiça, veridicção e constituição dos sujeitos. Para sugerir como trabalha ametodologia genealógica, trazemos breves ilustrações sobre justiça de transição. Daí emergeuma sugestão de análise da justiça de transição que visa enxergá-la não como algo queapenas busque romanticamente a “verdade” e a “justiça”, mas também como uma verdadeirafrente de batalha cujo resultado dependerá das variações das relações de força em embateslocalizados. Sugere-se, portanto, que a genealogia é uma metodologia capaz de gerar análisesque fujam do maniqueísmo que estabelece, rigidamente, o “certo” e o “errado”, o “justo” eo “injusto”. E uma vez que a genealogia é, em si mesma, uma abordagem altamente política, parcial, ela busca questionar discursos que, ao contrário, se apresentam como neutros euniversais. Por isso ela se foca não em “objetos” rígidos e supostamente isoláveis do conjuntode acontecimentos sociais, mas interpela os acontecimentos, discursos e práticas de poder,interessada em identificar quais relações de poder e saber moldaram tal objeto.

Reflecting upon Genealogical and Agonistic Methodologies in International Relations: The case of Transitional Justice.

This is article is based on theoretical-methodological suggestions by Michel Foucault. It focuses on the analytics of power/knowledges relations, on genealogy, on agonism and on his visions on justice, veridiction and the constitution of subjects. To suggest how the genealogic methodology works we bring brief illustrations form Transitional Justice. From this, it emerges an analysis of Transitional Justice that sees it not just as a romantic search for “truth” and “justice” but also as a battle front whose results will depend on the variations of force relations in localized struggles. Therefore, we suggest that genealogy is a methodology capable of produce analyses that skip rigid dichotomies such as “right” and “wrong”, “just” and “unjust”. And since genealogy is, in itself, a highly political and partial approach it seeks to question discourses that, on the other side, presents itself as neutral and universal. Hence it do not focus on rigid research “objects” that supposedly could be isolated from the set of social events but questions the events, discourses and practices of power with the aim of identify which relations of power and knowledge has shaped this object.

Keywords: Transitional Justice; Genealogy; Michel Foucault.

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