Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

smithEric C. Smith, Foucault’s Heterotopia in Christian Catacombs: Constructing Spaces and Symbols in Ancient Rome. Palgrave Macmillan, October 2014

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Ringing the city like pearls on a necklace and plunging beneath the earth into darkness, the Christian catacombs of Rome have inspired and captivated people for centuries. This book takes a new approach to the study of the catacombs, using spatial theory to understand the way the catacombs were constructed, decorated, and used. Relying on the theoretical work of Michel Foucault and Henri Lefebvre, this book moves beyond traditional forms of analysis to turn a new lens to the work of understanding these monuments of early Christianity. The location and form of the Callistus Catacomb, the art found inside, the texts referenced in that art, and the community practices performed and referenced deep underground form the heart of this innovative take on the grand burial sites of the early church.

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nicholsRobert Nichols, The World of Freedom. Heidegger, Foucault, and the Politics of Historical Ontology, Stanford University Press, September 2014

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Martin Heidegger and Michel Foucault are two of the most important and influential thinkers of the twentieth century. Each has spawned volumes of secondary literature and sparked fierce, polarizing debates, particularly about the relationship between philosophy and politics. And yet, to date there exists almost no work that presents a systematic and comprehensive engagement of the two in relation to one another. The World of Freedom addresses this lacuna.

Neither apology nor polemic, the book demonstrates that it is not merely interesting but necessary to read Heidegger and Foucault alongside one another if we are to properly understand the shape of twentieth-century Continental thought. Through close, scholarly engagement with primary texts, Robert Nichols develops original and demanding insights into the relationship between fundamental and historical ontology, modes of objectification and subjectification, and an ethopoetic conception of freedom. In the process, his book also reveals the role that Heidegger’s reception in France played in Foucault’s intellectual development—the first major work to do so while taking full advantage of the recent publication of Foucault’s last Collège de France lectures of the 1980s, which mark a return to classical Greek and Roman philosophy, and thus to familiar Heideggerian loci of concern.

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jordanMark D. Jordan, Convulsing Bodies. Religion and Resistance in Foucault, Stanford University Press, October 2014

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By using religion to get at the core concepts of Michel Foucault’s thinking, this book offers a strong alternative to the way that the philosopher’s work is read across the humanities. Foucault was famously interested in Christianity as both the rival to ancient ethics and the parent of modern discipline and was always alert to the hypocrisy and the violence in churches. Yet many readers have ignored how central religion is to his thought, particularly with regard to human bodies and how they are shaped. The point is not to turn Foucault into some sort of believer or to extract from him a fixed thesis about religion as such. Rather, it is to see how Foucault engages religious rhetoric page after page—even when religion is not his main topic. When readers follow his allusions, they can see why he finds in religion not only an object of critique, but a perennial provocation to think about how speech works on bodies—and how bodies resist.

Arguing that Foucault conducts experiments in writing to frustrate academic expectations about history and theory, Mark Jordan gives equal weight to the performative and theatrical aspects of Foucault’s writing or lecturing. How does Foucault stage possibilities of self-transformation? How are his books or lectures akin to the rituals and liturgies that he dissects in them? Convulsing Bodies follows its own game of hide-and-seek with the agents of totalizing systems (not least in the academy) and gives us a Foucault who plays with his audiences as he plays for them—or teaches them.

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baccarin Alessandro Baccarin, Il sottile discrimine. I corpi tra dominio e tecniche del sé. Ombre Corte, 2014

Il libro
Il corpo è stato per secoli immune al segno. Dall’antichità fino al recente passato l’Occidente ha relegato la segnatura del corpo al confinamento, alla segregazione ed alla reificazione dei soggetti devianti, criminali o inquinanti. Tuttavia nella contemporaneità assistiamo all’emergere di una improvvisa ed apparente libertà per gli individui nel segnare i propri corpi, con il tatuaggio o con le metamorfosi rese ora possibili grazie alla chirurgia estetica o al fitness. E’ intento di questo libro indagare questo passaggio epocale come segno di una trasformazione: da superficie d’iscrizione del potere disciplinare, il corpo si trasforma in piano di appoggio per le pratiche di dominio del biopotere e per le tecniche del sé adottate dai soggetti nel loro agire resistenziale. Attraverso l’agile, efficace e sempre originale strumentazione analitica offerta dal pensiero di Michel Foucault, questa trasformazione è analizzata con un focus puntato sui corpi limite, corpi che segnano con la loro stessa esistenza il limite fra norma e resistenza, fra pratiche di dominio e di libertà. La transessualità, il tatuaggio e la pornografia si costituiscono come dimensioni preferenziali per l’esistenza di queste nuove corporeità. E allora, trasformare il proprio corpo, modellarlo, iscriverlo, sovvertirne il genere o il sesso, costituisce una pratica di libertà o un gesto di obbedienza ai comandi del potere? Tentare di identificare il sottile e tagliente discrimine che separa libertà ed obbedienza è lo scopo principale della presente ricerca.

Alessandro Baccarin si è laureato in Lettere antiche presso l’Università La Sapienza di Roma e conseguito il dottorato di ricerca in Storia antica presso l’Università di Pisa. Tra i suoi lavori: Il Mare Ospitale. L’Arcaica concezione greca del Ponto Eusino nella stratificazione delle tradizioni antiche (in “Dìalogues d’histoire ancienne”, 1997); Olivicoltura in Attica fra vii e v secolo a.C. Trasformazione e crisi (in “Dialoghi di archeologia”, 1990). Ha curato la traduzione in italiano di alcuni storici antichi (Senofonte, Diodoro Sicuro).

Description in English

For centuries the body has been immune to markers inscribed upon it. From antiquity to our present the West has identified these bodily markers with confinement, segregation and reification of deviant subjects, criminals or pollutants. However in the contemporary times we are witnessing the emergence of a sudden and ostensible freedom to mark our body. Tatoos or metamorphosis, now possible by aesthetic surgery or by fitness, are the means for this purpose. The aim of this book is to describe and to deal with this momentous shift as an image of a transformation. The body has slowly transformed in expression of autonomy and resistance for subjects or in expression of control and normalization for biopower.

The aim of my research is to deal with this shift using the original and effective analytic tools of Michel Foucault’s thought by focusing on the concept of border-body. By its very existence this border-body delineats the border between norms and resistance, between practices of power and freedom. Transexuality, tatoos and pornography are prime examples of these new border-bodies. Thus, are we trasforming, molding, inscribing on our bodies, changing the sex or gender, by practicing freedom? Are these practices an act of obedience to power? The aim of my reseach is to try to identify and discern the fine line between freedom and obedience.

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pscyhiatricPower and the Psychiatric Apparatus: Repression, Transformation and Assistance, Edited by Dave Holmes, University of Ottawa, Canada, Jean Daniel Jacob, University of Ottawa, Canada and Amélie Perron University of Ottawa, Canada
Ashgate, 2014

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Drawing on a broad range of approaches in the fields of sociology, anthropology, political science, history, philosophy, medicine and nursing, Power and the Psychiatric Apparatus exposes psychiatric practices that are mobilized along the continuum of repression, transformation and assistance. It critically examines taken for granted psychiatric practices both past and current, shedding light on the often political nature of psychiatry and reconceptualizing its central and sensitive issues through the radical theory of figures such as Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari, Goffman, and Szasz. As such, this ground-breaking collection embraces a broad understanding of psychiatric practices and engages the reader in a critical understanding of their effects, challenging the discipline’s altruistic rhetoric of therapy and problematizing the ways in which this is operationalized in practice.

A comprehensive exploration of contested psychiatric practices in healthcare settings, this interdisciplinary volume brings together recent scholarship from the US, Canada, the UK, Europe and Australia, to provide a rich array of theoretical tools with which to engage with questions related to psychiatric power, discipline and control, while theorizing their workings in creative and imaginative ways.

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lemm-vatterVanessa Lemm, and Miguel Vatter (eds.) The Government of Life: Foucault, Biopolitics, and Neoliberalism, Fordham University Press, July 2014

ISBN: 9780823255979

Further info

See below description for details of book launch at University of NSW


Foucault’s late work on biopolitics and governmentality has established him as the fundamental thinker of contemporary continental political thought and as a privileged source for our current understanding of neoliberalism and its technologies of power. In this volume, an international and interdisciplinary group of Foucault scholars examines his ideas of biopower and biopolitics and their relation to his project of a history of governmentality and to a theory of the subject found in his last courses at the College de France.

Many of the chapters engage critically with the Italian theoretical reception of Foucault. At the same time, the originality of this collection consists in the variety of perspectives and traditions of reception brought to bear upon the problematic connections between biopolitics and governmentality established by Foucault’s last works.

Book Launch
Friday 3 October 2014, 3-5pm, Morven Brown Building, 310, University of NSW
PDF of invitation

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vatterMiguel Vatter, The Republic of the Living: Biopolitics and the Critique of Civil Society, Fordham University Press,June 2014

ISBN: 9780823256020

Further info

Details of workshop on book below description.

This book takes up Foucault’s hypothesis that liberal “civil society,” far from being a sphere of natural freedoms, designates the social spaces where our biological lives come under new forms of control and are invested with new forms of biopower. In order to test this hypothesis, its chapters examine the critical theory of civil society — from Hegel and Marx through Lukacs, Adorno, Benjamin, and Arendt—from the new horizon opened up by Foucault’s turn to biopolitics and its reception in recent Italian theory.

Negri, Agamben, and Esposito have argued that biopolitics not only denotes new forms of domination over life but harbors within it an affirmative relation between biological life and politics that carries an emancipatory potential. The chapters of this book take up this suggestion by locating this emancipatory potential in the
biopolitical feature of the human condition that Arendt called “natality.” The book proceeds to illustrate how natality is the basis for a republican articulation of an affirmative biopolitics. It aims to renew the critical theory of civil society by pursuing the traces of natality as a “surplus of life” that resists the oppressive government of life found in the capitalist political economy, in the liberal system of rights, and in the bourgeois family.

By contrast, natality offers the normative foundation for a new “republic of the living.” Finally, natality permits us to establish a relation between biological life and contemplative life that reverses the long-held belief in a privileged relationship of thinking to the possibility of our death. The result is a materialist, atheological conception of contemplative life as eternal life.


The Research Unit in European Philosophy at Monash University is holding a workshop on Miguel Vatter’s new book The Republic of the Living: Biopolitics and the Critique of Civil Society (Fordham University Press, 2014)

Featuring: Miguel Vatter (UNSW), Catherine Mills (Monash) and Jessica Whyte (UWS).

Wednesday, October 8, 2-4 pm Menzies Building, N602

For room booking purposes RSVP to Alison.Ross@monash.edu by Wednesday October 1

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