Archive for July, 2011

Anthony Meirno, Politics of Perception: Post-Foucauldian Ceramics [Kindle Edition] Pam Luke (Editor), 2011

Whether due to his insight or influence, Foucault’s mixture of cynicism, paranoia and obsession with power mirrors our current cultural zeitgeist. His thoughts resonate on both thin edges of the American political thought. On the left, consider feminist law scholar Catharine MacKinnon who stated that men incarcerated for rape thinks it is stupid because “They were put into jail for something very little different from what most men do most of the time and they call it sex. The only difference is they got caught. It may also be right.” On the right, there are those who believe that including homosexuality as a personal choice would lead to an epidemic of sodomy. In speaking of homosexuality, Pat Buchanan sees even mere acceptance as wrong. While these ideas are clearly on the lip of the American political bell curve, it is an arch plotted on a Foucauldian graph. The X axis is knowledge and the Y axis is power. Contemporary ceramic artists create work in this milieu, Like a desert defines a cactus, Foucault’s theory of power and society define their work.

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Maurizio Meloni, “Naturalism as an Ontology of Ourselves”, Telos 155 (Summer 2011).

Scientific naturalism, according to Jürgen Habermas, represents one of the “two countervailing trends that mark the intellectual tenor of our age,” the other being religious worldviews. Using Foucault’s distinction between philosophy as an “analytic of truth” and philosophy as an “ontology of the present” and “ontology of ourselves,” this essay addresses naturalism less as an epistemological issue than as a global way of rethinking humanness, that is as the theoretical “correlative” of certain local practices, which, under the influence of leading sciences such as neuroscience and molecular biology, contribute today to the naturalization of the human. In the second part of the essay, I will discuss three hermeneutic models through which leading Continental thinkers have reacted to this intertwinement of naturalism and the human condition in modernity: naturalism as a break, as a danger, and as a loss. From their reactions, the antinaturalistic legacy of much of Continental philosophy emerges clearly, and invites us to think of the present naturalistic epoch in a more radical way.

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Call for papers
The twelfth annual meeting of the Foucault Circle

Canisius College
Buffalo, NY, USA
March 30-April 1, 2012

Papers on any aspect of Foucault’s work, and studies, critiques, and applications of Foucauldian thinking, are all welcome. We will aim for a diversity of topics and perspectives in the program selection.

Please send a 1-2 page ABSTRACT of the paper, by e-mail.

Abstracts should be submitted to the program committee chair: Dianna Taylor (dtaylor@jcu.edu)on or before Friday, November 19, 2011. Please indicate “Foucault Circle submission” in the subject heading, and include the abstract as a “.doc” attachment to your message. Program decisions will be announced in mid-December.

The meetings typically begin with an informal welcoming reception on Friday evening. There will be morning and afternoon paper sessions on Saturday, followed by dinner and a business meeting. The conference will conclude with paper sessions on Sunday morning. Each speaker will have approximately 35 minutes for paper presentation and discussion. Combined papers should be a maximum of 3000 words (15-20 minutes, preferably 15). In conjunction with our meeting in Buffalo, a city in which Foucault conducted research on the prison, this year’s conference will include a session dedicated to discussing documents from the GIP (le Groupe d’information sur les Prisons, a French prison reform organization that Foucault co-founded). English translations of the texts will be available.

Logistical information about lodging, transportation, and other arrangements will be available after the program has been announced.

For more information about the Foucault Circle, please see the website:

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Stuart Elden, Power, Nietzsche and the Greeks: Foucault’s Leçons sur la volonté de savoir, Berfrois, Intellectual Jousting in the Republic of Letters

The most recently published lecture course from Michel Foucault’s time at the Collège de France is his first, entitled ‘La Volonté de Savoir’—the will to know or the will to knowledge. To avoid confusion with the first volume of his History of Sexuality, which reused the title, the editor, Daniel Defert, has chosen Leçons sur la volonté de savoir as this volume’s title. The addition of ‘lectures on…’ is appropriate, as this volume includes two pieces not originally delivered in Paris: a lecture on Nietzsche from later that year, to make up for a missing lecture from the Paris transcript, and a manuscript on Oedipus that served as the basis for lectures in the Americas over the next couple of years, developing themes from the course. Unlike the other courses published to date, this volume is based almost entirely on Foucault’s manuscript for the course, rather than transcribed from tape recordings of the actual delivery. Defert has done exemplary work in making these texts available, and supplemented them with useful notes and an essay contextualizing the course. An English translation is forthcoming with Palgrave Macmillan by Graham Burchell, but is unlikely to be out before 2013.

The rest of the review can be read here

For links to comments on this review see Stuart Elden’s blog

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Juan Pablo Rodríguez, Foucault with Habermas: Towards a complementary critical reading of modernity, Revista Enfoques, Vol. IX, no. 14, 2011, pp. 139-151

This article can be found online

This essay examines Foucault’s and Habermas’s critical project in order to show their complementary character. In the examination of the main aspects of their oeuvres, it is argued, contrary to what some authors state, such as Habermas, that Foucault’s position on modernity is not that of total rejection, but rather ambivalent. It is therefore possible to consider Foucault’s theory as a critical counterweight to Habermas’s. The point is made that Foucault’s theory awards flexibility to some theoretical distinctions upon which Habermas builds his own project.

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Anne Schwan, Stephen Shapiro, How to Read Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, London: Pluto Press, 2011, ISBN: 9780745329819

Publication date: 20 July 2011

Publisher’s page

Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish is one of the best-selling works of critical theory and a key text on many undergraduate courses. However, it is a long, difficult text which makes Anne Schwan and Stephen Shapiro’s excellent step-by-step reading guide a welcome addition to the How to Read Theory series.

Undergraduates across a wide range of disciplines are expected to have a solid understanding of Foucault’s key terms, which have become commonplace in critical thinking today. While there are many texts that survey Foucault’s thought, these are often more general overviews or biographical précis that give little in the way of robust explanation and discussion. In contrast, How to Read Foucault’s Discipline and Punish takes a plain-speaking, yet detailed, approach, specifically designed to give students a thorough understanding of one of the most influential texts in contemporary cultural theory.

About The Authors
Anne Schwan is Lecturer in English Literature at Edinburgh Napier University.
Stephen Shapiro is Professor of English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of Warwick.

“This is a useful and illuminating companion to Foucault’s book, and will clarify much that remains puzzling about this proteiform thinker, dispelling misunderstandings and sending the reader on new and more fruitful paths.”

(Fredric Jameson, William A. Lane Jr. Professor of Comparative Literature at Duke University)

“[A] highly readable guide to one of Foucault’s best-known but often misinterpreted works. … This book will be of great assistance to students and others looking for a clear introduction to Discipline and Punish and for pointers on its theoretical contexts.

(Clare O’Farrell, author of Michel Foucault (2005) and founding editor of Foucault Studies)

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Olli Pyyhtinen, Sakari Tamminen, We have never been only human: Foucault and Latour on the question of the anthropos, Anthropological Theory, Vol. 11, No. 2. (1 June 2011), pp. 135-152.

Today, the impact of the work of both Michel Foucault and Bruno Latour is increasingly evident in anthropology, most notably in the subfields of medical anthropology and the anthropology of science and technology. However, so far the oeuvres of these two thinkers have not been compared in a systematic fashion in the secondary literature. The present consideration intends a sustained comparison of their work to the end of problematizing the notion of the human or the anthropos. We suggest that both Foucault and Latour provide us with vital means to question human exceptionalism. Instead of calling upon the essence of human subjectivity by drawing on the notion of intentionality, for instance, they break open the interiority and autonomous hidden essence of the human. While Foucault does this mainly with his notion of the death of Man, Latour’s work calls human essence into question by asserting the respective birth of non-humanity. We argue that it is especially the two thinkers’ mutual concern with relationality that makes their work central to recent discussions of ‘posthumanism’ by proposing a form of ‘ahumanism’. However, at the same time Foucault and Latour tend to neglect the ‘outside’ of relations, although both see it as providing the resources for every assemblage.

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Ben Golder, Review of Foucault’s Monsters and the Challenge of Law, Abingdon: Routledge , 2010 by Andrew Sharpe, The Modern Law Review, Volume 74, Issue 4, July 2011, pp 639–642.

Andrew Sharpe has written a very erudite and impeccably serious book about monsters. However, Sharpe’s thought-provoking book is not so much about the mythological imagination as it is about the legal imagination and the ways in which ‘at least some human beings are positioned as outsiders’ by the law (3). Foucault’s Monsters thus takes up the important question of the production, circulation and management of human difference in and through legal discourse. For Sharpe, the category of ‘the monster’ has historically been one of the crucial techniques whereby law has sought to define the acceptable limits of human being – it helped furnish an answer to those presuppositional ontological questions of ‘who is legible as a human?’ and ‘who shall count as a human?’ As Sharpe’s fascinating historical researches on the English common law show, and as one would expect in a book theoretically indebted to Foucault, this process according to which certain humans are constituted as legal monsters (a process, precisely, of monster-isation, of making into a monster) proceeded according to different logics at different points in time. For example, each historical epoch depicted here deploys its own ‘privileged’ figure – for the Middle Ages, it is the bestial human; for the Renaissance, it is the spectre of conjoined twins; and for the Classical Age, it is the figure of the hermaphrodite which exercises the legal imagination. I say ‘history’ and ‘historically’, but of course as Sharpe makes clear early on (and indeed as does the latter half of the book itself, which addresses the contemporary issues of transsexuality, conjoined twins and admixed embryos), a legal history of the monster is not simply a return to the recondite pronouncements of Bracton and Britton, Swinburne and Blackstone (as interesting and bizarre as this turns out to be). Rather, the intent – in true Foucaultian style – is to unsettle the grounds of the present legal construction and regulation of human difference.

See here for rest of review

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Michael L. Cepek, Foucault in the forest: Questioning environmentality in Amazonia, American Ethnologist, Volume 38, Issue 3, August 2011, pp 501–515.

Article available online in pdf format

In this article, I analyze the encounter between the Field Museum of Natural History and Amazonian Ecuador’s Cofán people to question the concept of “environmentality”: the idea that environmentalist programs and movements operate as forms of governmentality in Michel Foucault’s sense. I argue that, although the Field Museum’s community conservation projects constitute a regulatory rationale and technique, they do not transform Cofán subjectivity according to plan. By exploring Cofán people’s critical consciousness of environmentalist interventions, I aim to cast doubt on the governmentality paradigm’s utility for analyzing the complexities of cultural difference, intercultural encounter, and directed change.

Keywords: governmentality;environmentality;indigenous conservation;environmental management;Amazonia

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Peter Lucas, Foucault and Subjection, In Ethics and Self-Knowledge
Library of Ethics and Applied Philosophy, 2011, Volume 26, Part 2, 167-181.

Online version (pdf)

A sceptical essentialist ethic of self-interpretation, founded on an obligation to avoid the mendacity involved in inducing deficient self-conceptions in others, looks to have significant normative force. But how might it apply outside of the personal relationships investigated by Sartre, in a broader social context, in which self-conscious sadism (and masochism) seems to be uncommon? This chapter addresses this question with reference to the work of Michel Foucault. Although Foucault rejected key elements of phenomenology, his account of the power effects of disciplinary technologies has clear parallels with Sartre’s account of sadism in concrete relations with others. At the same time, he emphasises that disciplinary power does not require an agent, and may be diffused throughout social institutions. Foucault did not regard himself as an ethicist, in any conventional sense; but in highlighting the price we pay for scientific self-knowledge, his findings have clear implications for those whose professional roles involve the acquisition and deployment of such knowledge.

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