Foucault News

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

‘What I wanted to do was in the order of philosophy: can one reflect philosophically on the history of knowledge as historical material rather than reflecting on a theory or a philosophy of history. In a rather empirical and clumsy fashion, I envisaged a work as close as possible to that of historians, but in order to ask philosophical questions, concerning the history of knowledge. I hoped for the good will of historians.’

Michel Foucault, “Le style de l’histoire,” in In Dits et Ecrits vol IV. Paris: Gallimard, p. 652. (This passage trans. Clare O’Farrell)

Holligan, C.
Exploring a taboo of cultural reproduction
(2018) British Journal of Sociology of Education, 39 (4), pp. 535-550.

DOI: 10.1080/01425692.2017.1367270

Cultural reproduction is rarely, if ever, theorised through clandestine practices of sexual offending by teachers in the gendered hierarchies of state schools. Drawing upon Freedom of Information requests and other official qualitative data provided by a U.K. teaching council, this article endeavours to explain the form of a gendered cultural reproduction by reference to the diversity of ways in which identities are constructed and ‘contracted’ for female student victims. The article begins by looking at this taboo subject matter in the context of a historical patriarchal order and cultures of heterosexuality in schools, followed by a feminist perspective through which empirical theorisation is documented. Michel Foucault’s work on the micro-physics of power and normativity informs the emphasis of the contemporary feminist prism. It is argued that this offending occurs under the auspices of the professional teacher–student hierarchy and produces distinctive and damaging power effects. © 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Author Keywords
Feminist; gender; heterosexual; identity; schools; sexual

Call for chapters: Would Foucault have read Harry Potter? Unlocking social theory with popular culture

Naomi Barnes, Amanda Heffernan and  Shirley Steinberg are calling for abstracts for an edited book, tentatively titled Would Foucault have read Harry Potter? Unlocking social theory with popular culture. After initial consultation, the book is intended for Palgrave Publications.

Below is the preliminary abstract of the book:

Can we use popular culture to explain complex theoretical concepts? In our edited book we want to explore how we understand theory by examining how theories are romantic, horrifying, science fiction, dystopian, magical, or have dragons and quests. In this book we want to present an argument for popular culture being used to work through the complexities of critical and post structural theories. For example, can Pretty Little Liars help us understand Foucault? Can the Marvel Universe shed light on colonialism? Can Ursula Le Guinn help us understand political theories? If I read Stephen King could I better understand democracy? In this transdisciplinary edited book, we are calling for contributions from scholars who have used popular culture to comprehend complex theoretical concepts they have used in their disciplines.

Theories represent the “canon” of social research and many theorists have used works of literature (eg Deleuze and Kafka, Sara Ahmed and Virginia Wolfe, or Donna Haraway and Science Fiction) to develop their theoretical frameworks and students trying to understand theories often read those works to better develop their understanding. This book is embedded in the literary theory that tapping into students’ background knowledge is a key step in helping them engage with new and difficult texts and acknowledging the important role of popular culture in developing comprehension. As theory takes a considerable amount of time and energy to read and understand, this book will make visible comprehension strategies that experienced readers of theory use to understand the texts they read.

We are particularly interested in ensuring the book contains both well known concepts of the theoretical “canon” that a student will come across on a regular basis but they will also develop a clear understanding that the canon is contested. Furthermore, we are interested in chapters which provide a diverse understanding of popular culture and/or unlock key ideas in feminist, critical race, LGBITQA+, and critical disability studies.

We anticipate that this book will have an international audience and that authors will come from a range of international backgrounds and locations.

Chapters would be fairly short—approximately 4000-6000 words/16-24 double-spaced TNR pages—and aimed at being relevant to scholars and students. While we would encourage creativity in each author’s response, to keep the overall book coherent, each chapter must include the following:

  • Introduction: Please try and engage the reader right away with an overview of your chapter and something that immediately grabs their attention. We want a readable text, so please use accessible language and define any technical terms that students with a basic understanding of your theoretical concept might not know. You will also need to overview your chosen popular culture reference with the assumption that not all readers will be familiar with all popular texts.
  • What are the most important ideas embedded in your chosen theoretical concept? We urge you to think about what students need to know about the theoretical concept. You might think of this as a list of essential knowledge that should be the foundation for applying the theory to research. What are the big debates around the concepts? Do multiple theorists use the concept in differing ways? How can popular culture tease those differences apart? What myths are important to debunk?
  • How can aspects of popular culture be used to explain the complex ideas? Here, you should make visible what transferable strategies you use to connect the popular cultural reference to the theoretical concept. This might involve drawing inferences, comparing and contrasting, how conclusions are drawn, self-reflection and questioning of own practices, how problems are solved, distinguishing between ideology and fact, unlocking the text via exegesis, or another strategy you might use. It is important that you reflect on your skill and make visible how you developed that skill.
  • Conclusions and Recommendations. Please suggest and discuss the importance of the theory you unlock with popular culture.
  • References

We plan to follow a set of generous deadlines that make the project very do-able:

* Invitation to (and confirmation from) potential authors

* Submission of 250 word abstract: 1 November 2018

* Submission of DRAFT chapters: 1 May 2019. PLEASE NOTE that in agreeing to contribute to the edited collection, you agree to peer review two other chapters. This understanding will be notionally divided between co-authors but you may be asked to review two per author.

* Review of DRAFT chapters and feedback to authors by 1 June 2019

* Submission of FINAL chapters: 1 August 2019

* Submission to publishers: 1 October 2019

* Expected publication date: January 2020

Please send your abstract to Naomi Barnes by the due date. We are more than happy to discuss ideas in advance.

Looking forward to hearing your ideas.

Naomi, Amanda and Shirley

Hinchliffe, G.
Epistemic freedom and education
(2018) Ethics and Education, 13 (2), pp. 191-207.

DOI: 10.1080/17449642.2018.1438150

First of all, I define the concept of epistemic freedom in the light of the changing nature of educational practice that prioritise over-prescriptive conceptions of learning. I defend the ‘reality’ of this freedom against possible determinist-related criticisms. I do this by stressing the concept of agency as characterised by ‘becoming’. I also discuss briefly some of the technical literature on the subject. I then move on to discuss Gramsci’s concept of hegemony and Foucault’s idea of ‘productive power’: I argue for the need of a counter-narrative of freedom that takes the form of a genealogy. Finally I discuss in more detail the nature of epistemic freedom and briefly discuss the ethical implications of the concept. © 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Author Keywords
agency; domination; Freedom; hegemony; power

Pembroke, S.
Foucault and Industrial Schools in Ireland: Subtly Disciplining or Dominating through Brutality?
(2018) Sociology, . Article in Press.

DOI: 10.1177/0038038518763490

Industrial Schools run by Catholic Religious Orders in Ireland were a form of institutionalised child-welfare that incarcerated children in need for most of the 20th century. During the last decade, Industrial Schools were one of the most controversial elements of Ireland’s recent history; the abuse scandal associated with such places has led to a state apology, the setting up of an inquiry and redress process, with its final report (the Ryan Report), published in 2009. Although a fast growing literature exists on Industrial Schools, they do not analyse the precise nature of the regime inside these institutions. This article contributes to understandings of Foucault by looking at the regime and practices imposed on children incarcerated in Industrial Schools in Ireland in the 20th century, and exploring why they were used. Twenty-five interviews were conducted with male and female Industrial School survivors and analysed using a grounded theory approach. © 2018, The Author(s) 2018.

Author Keywords
Catholic Church; child abuse; Foucault; Industrial Schools; institutionalisation; Ireland

‘What is philosophy if not a way of reflecting, not so much on what is true and what is false, as on our relationship to truth? … The movement by which, not without effort and uncertainty, dreams and illusions, one detaches oneself from what is accepted as true and seeks other rules – that is philosophy.’

Michel Foucault. (1997) [1980]. ‘The Masked Philosopher’. In J. Faubion (ed.). Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth. The Essential Works of Michel Foucault 1954-1984. Volume One. Tr. Robert Hurley and others.Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, Allen Lane, p. 327. Translation modified.

Editor: Reflections on my blog

Editor: I am delighted to have just received a first copy of the new book.

Foucault at the Movies
Michel Foucault, Patrice Maniglier, Dork Zabunyan. Translated and edited by Clare O’Farrell, Columbia University Press, 2018

Michel Foucault’s work on film, although not extensive, compellingly illustrates the power of bringing his unique vision to bear on the subject and offers valuable insights into other aspects of his thought. Foucault at the Movies brings together all of Foucault’s commentary on film, some of it available for the first time in English, along with important contemporary analysis and further extensions of this work.

Patrice Maniglier and Dork Zabunyan situate Foucault’s writings on film in the context of the rest of his work as well as within a broad historical and philosophical framework. They detail how Foucault’s work directly or indirectly inspired both film critics and directors in surprising ways and discuss his ideas in relation to significant movements within film theory and practice. The book includes film reviews and discussions by Foucault as well as his interviews with the prestigious film magazine Cahiers du cinéma and other journals. Also included are his dialogues with the noted French feminist writer Hélène Cixous and film directors Werner Schroeter and René Féret. Throughout, Foucault and those he is in conversation with reflect on the relationship of film to history, the body, power and politics, knowledge, sexuality, aesthetics, and institutions of internment. Foucault at the Movies makes all of Foucault’s writings on film available to an English-speaking audience in one volume and offers detailed, up-to-date commentary, inviting us to go to the movies with Foucault.


Translator’s Preface, by Clare O’Farrell
Introduction: Michel Foucault’s Cut, by Patrice Maniglier and Dork Zabunyan

Part 1. Foucault and Film: A Historical and Philosophical Encounter

1. What Film Is Able to Do: Foucault and Cinematic Knowledge, by Dork Zabunyan
2. Versions of the Present: Foucault’s Metaphysics of the Event Illuminated by Cinema, by Patrice Maniglier

Part 2. Michel Foucault on Film

3. Film, History, and Popular Memory
4. Marguerite Duras: Memory Without Remembering
5. Paul’s Story: The Story of Jonah
6. The Nondisciplinary Camera Versus Sade
7. The Asylum and the Carnival
8. Crime and Discourse
9. The Return of Pierre Rivière
10. The Dull Regime of Tolerance
11. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
12. Werner Schroeter and Michel Foucault in Conversation

Appendix: Foucault at the Movies—a Program of Films


Michel Foucault, a French historian, philosopher, and social theorist, was one of the most important figures in twentieth-century thought. His work has had enormous influence throughout the humanities and social sciences.

Patrice Maniglier is senior lecturer in the department of philosophy at the University of Paris–Nanterre.

Dork Zabunyan is professor of film studies at the University of Paris–8.

Clare O’Farrell is senior lecturer in the Faculty of Education at the Queensland University of Technology. Her books include Foucault: Historian or Philosopher? (1989) and Michel Foucault (2005).


Like all of his great interviews, Foucault at the Movies presents Foucault speaking in his own voice. We find Foucault saying that “the art of living” means that psychology must be killed; that the body must be dismantled; that memory must function without remembering; and that passion is more interesting than love. Foucault at the Moviesis an invaluable addition to our understanding of Foucault’s thought.
Leonard Lawlor, Penn State University

Michel Foucault’s writings have led many of us to think differently. Do his observations on film introduce us to fresh ways of seeing? If philosophers have primarily studied discourses of truth, perhaps they need to give equal consideration to the overpowering fabrication of regimes of fiction, especially those of our cinematic culture. Is Fascism comprehensible apart from the images of Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the WillFoucault at the Movies is a stimulating engagement with a frequently overlooked contribution from the French thinker.
James Bernauer, Boston College

Casey, A., Larsson, H.
“It’s Groundhog Day”: Foucault’s Governmentality and Crisis Discourses in Physical Education
(2018) Quest, pp. 1-18. Article in Press.

DOI: 10.1080/00336297.2018.1451347

Dominant discourses in physical education research center on subject-wide crisis. This is despite repeated calls to address enduring concerns about how physical education is taught. In short, the subject seems caught in Groundhog Day (defined by Oxford Dictionaries (n.d.) as “a situation in which a series of unwelcome or tedious events appear to be recurring in exactly the same way”). This article scrutinizes this position through Foucault’s lens of governmentality, which focuses particularly on power/knowledge relations and their relationship to subjectivity. Through this lens, research functions as a shaper of contemporary understanding and becomes a means for intervention by “experts.” The article is structured as a conversation between authors about dominant discourses in physical education research and issues of governmentality. It argues that research approaches such as action research are framed within other power/knowledge relations and may provide a way to wake up on a new day. © 2018 National Association for Kinesiology in Higher Education (NAKHE)

Author Keywords
action research; crisis discourse; Foucault; governmentality; Physical education research

Angermuller, J.
Accumulating discursive capital, valuating subject positions. From Marx to Foucault
(2018) Critical Discourse Studies, pp. 1-12. Article in Press.

DOI: 10.1080/17405904.2018.1457551

Whenever people use language, they participate in valuation practices, i.e. they give value to themselves as well as to others. To account for the construction of social inequality through discursive valuation practices, discourse theorists need Marxist theory and Marxists need discourse theory. By going from the early Marx to the late Foucault, I will revisit Marx’s value theory in light of practice-oriented approaches to social inequality. I will discuss examples from two distinct arenas, the monopolization of attention by populist leaders and the academic star system, both of which are accounted for in terms of the accumulation of discursive capital. This perspective asks how the value of subject positions is constructed and hierarchies between them are established in discursive practices. Investigating the construction of valuable subject positions in discourse communities, this perspective attempts to overcome the traditional division between language, the economic and the social. Discourse not only represents value and the social order but, through representation, it also contributes to constituting the social as a hierarchical world of more or less valued subject positions. © 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group

Author Keywords
academic discourse; academic star system; discourse analysis; linguistic pragmatics; Marxist value theory, valuation; Populism; Strong Programme in Discourse Studies; subjectivity; Trump

Peter Triantafillou and Naja Vucina, The politics of health promotion. Case studies from Denmark and England, Manchester University Press, 2018

This book examines the quest to promote the health and vigour of individuals and populations of liberal democracies. It provides a detailed account of the emergence and working of Danish and English health promotion policies and programs in the areas of obesity control and mental recovery. The book shows that these interventions are supported by a form of optimistic vitalism, according to which we should all work indefinitely to improve our health and vigour. In the areas of both obesity control and mental recovery, equally particular individuals, and the social environment in which they live, are the target of political interventions. The book is above all relevant for social and political science researchers and graduate students as well as for policymakers and practitioners in the field of public health.

1 Critical studies of the politics of public health promotion
2 Governing public health in England and Denmark
3 Fighting obesity in England
4 Governing obesity in Denmark
5 Promoting recovery in England
6 Promoting recovery in Denmark


Peter Triantafillou is a Professor of Public Policy and Performance Management at Roskilde University, Denmark

Naja Vucina is Coordinator of the Research Unit and Competence Centre for Psychotherapy at Stolpegård Psychotherapy Centre, Denmark

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