Foucault News

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

The Object, the Image, and Equipo Hexágono: Rediscovering an Influential ’80s Collective, Cuban Art News, Published: May 30, 2017

Editor’s note: old news

Curated by Aluna Curatorial Collective (Adriana Herrera and Willy Castellanos) The object and the image (this is not a chair either) opened this spring at the new and promising Concrete Space Projects in Doral. Aluna, known for producing excellent curatorial projects, has once again demonstrated that its heart—and mind—are in the right place.

The object and the image (a paraphrase of Michel Foucault’s Les mots et les choses, “The Words and the Things”) brings together photographs that reflect on the ability to unfold an object within another object, and to alter its traditional use value. The exhibition also presents the object itself, the “original,” not as raw material but giving it the autonomy or weight of any installation work or sculpture.

This is perhaps the first exhibition in which such a revelation occurs. And as indicated in the second part of the exhibition title (“this is not a chair either”), in reference to the well-known Ceci n’est pas une pipe of René Magritte, the show points to the entrails of the representation. The thing in itself in the other thing in itself and so on. The mystery of the ordinary or The Anxious Object.

The Object, the Image, and Equipo Hexágono: Rediscovering an Influential ’80s Collective

Como Tapes is a non-profit public press based in Burlington, VT and Cherry Hill, NJ trying to put out strange music and other songs in a freeing way on cassettes.

From their Manifesto…

more thoughts re: Como Tapes
updated sept. 2015

Okay, so… last time we spoke (see below) I described the DIY tape label as a sort of ‘micropolitical technology ‘ (callinicos 1989) thru which we might resist the suffoc8ing practices of a capitalist hegemony by creating/distributing art ‘valid on its own terms’ (d+g 1987) that operates in the logics of local systems that don’t tessellate that nicely with larger market operations. After running this thing for another five months tbh i am not wholly convinced that this is the case.
So if we want to be anti-corporate actually we have stop acting like just a poorly-run corporation; we need 2 define a new approach. foucault had an interview w/ a french gay magazine in the early ‘80s where he was talking about why the establishment feels so threatened by homosexuality. “To imagine a sex act that doesn’t conform to law or nature is not what disturbs people,” but instead, he suggests, it is “the formation of new alliances and the tying together of unforeseen lines of force” that relations of love between those who are not institutionally expected to love each other can open up. tho the case may seem less relevant in light of the more open/intensified concepts of queerness more widely unpacked today, the point is still compelling: when people relate with each other in ways that are not institutionally informed, it opens up new ways of understanding and practicing the interpersonal.

what mf gets at here is friendship — “freely chosen, defined, and negotiated” as jim igoe put it, as a powerful subversive force*. a friendship is p much the only space where you can write your own rules, or it’s the only inter-personal institution that you actually have a meaningful role in writing the rules. Friendship “introduce[s] love where there’s supposed to be only law, rule, or habit” (foucault ‘81) and in that way necessitates that its volunteers to act out what ashton crawley (2014) calls “ the inventive impulse ” through which they “invent from A to Z a relationship that is still formless” (foucault)

Reason of state is not an art of government according to divine, natural, or human laws. It doesn’t have to respect the general order of the world. It’s government in accordance with the state’s strength. It’s government whose aim is to increase this strength within an extensive and competitive framework…

Political rationality has grown and imposed itself throughout the history of Western societies. It first took its stand on the idea of pastoral power, then on that of reason of state. Its inevitable effects are both individualization and totalization. Liberation can come only from attacking not just one of these two effects but political rationality’s very roots.’

Michel Foucault. (2000) [1980]. ‘Interview with Michel Foucault’. In J. Faubion (ed.). Tr. Robert Hurley and others. Power The Essential Works of Michel Foucault 1954-1984. Volume Three. New York: New Press, pp. 317, 325.

What Is An Apparatus? (2016-2017) (Still) by Sean Lynch. Courtesy the artist, Kevin Kavanagh Gallery, Dublin, and Ronchini Gallery, London

Editor: old news

Aidan Dunne, From the Burren to Belfast: Sean Lynch removes our heritage from its neat packaging, The Irish Times, Feb 28, 2017

Lynch leaves us pondering on a kind of cultural uncertainty principle, and that notion carries over into his video fables in What Is an Apparatus? The title is taken from an essay by Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben. The apparatus or dispositif in question is the late Michel Foucault’s vaguely defined but often-used term. Agamben proposes that it is any of myriad constructions, including cultural and technological constructions, that have the capacity to influence, persuade, control or divert our judgment, behaviour and perceptions. The smartphone is an obvious and extreme example.

« Il faut renvoyer mai 68 au passé . Entretien dans Politis. | «Le site de Geoffroy de Lagasnerie
Vous vous intéressez beaucoup à Foucault, à Bourdieu. Comment voyez-vous l’effet de mai 68 sur eux et dans l’espace intellectuel aujourd’hui ?

Peut être l’un de éléments le plus important de mai 68 est d’avoir fait naître dans le champ universitaire ce que Bourdieu appelait une « humeur anti-institutionnelle ». Des auteurs comme Foucault, Bourdieu, Deleuze ou Derrida ont été transformés par 68. En se politisant , ils ont rompu avec les formes académiques pour produire d’autres manières d’écrire et de penser, d’autres manières de se rapporter au public. Et c’est cette tradition que j’essaye avec d’autres de faire vivre aujourd’hui. Cette humeur anti-institutionnelle est aussi ce qui a donné naissance à des lieux nouveaux comme l’université de Vincennes qui posait la question des disciplines, de l’accès à l’université, de la pédagogie, de la politique des savoirs.

Le problème est qu’aujourd’hui cette humeur à quasiment disparu de la gauche académique. L’université qui était démonétisée s’est relégitimée. Le mot académique était une injure en 68. C’est aujourd’hui un mot valorisé. Ce retour à l’ordre académique est problématique car il produit des censures idéologiques et éthiques, il menace les conditions subjectives de la création et il produit des habitus de la soumission et de la conformité. L’université – peut-être plus que les médias – exerce un quasi-monopole sur la formation des cerveaux et des corps, des habitus et des idéologies, et en refaire un lieu branché sur la contestation me semble un enjeu essentiel.

Talcott, Samuel (2013). Georges Canguilhem and the Philosophical Problem of Error. Dialogue: Canadian Philosophical Review, 52, pp 649-672

There is still a question about what it means to say that Georges Canguilhem was a philosopher of error. This paper, unlike other work on the topic, investigates archival sources and early texts, up to and including the publication of the Essay on Some Problems Concerning the Normal and the Pathological in 1943, in order to reveal Canguilhem’s early thoughts on error and to formulate the basic philosophical problem therein, as he understood it. This work reveals a partial transformation of his thinking as he seeks to develop this question through the study of concrete human problems.

La question demeure de savoir en quel sens Georges Canguilhem peut être considéré comme un penseur de l’erreur. Cet article, par contraste avec d’autres textes sur le même sujet, s’intéresse aux documents d’archives et à des écrits de jeunesse, jusqu’à l’Essai sur quelques problèmes concernant le normal et le pathologique de 1943, en vue de mieux comprendre la première pensée de Canguilhem sur l’erreur et de formuler le problème philosophique fondamental auquel elle est associée. Ce travail montre qu’il y a eu une transformation partielle de sa pensée alors qu’il entreprend de répondre à cette question par le biais d’une étude des problèmes humains concrets.

Talcott, Samuel (2014). Errant life, molecular biology, and biopower: Canguilhem, Jacob, and Foucault. History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences. 36, pp. 254-279

This paper considers the theoretical circumstances that urged Michel Foucault to analyse modern societies in terms of biopower. Georges Canguilhem’s account of the relations between science and the living forms an essential starting point for Foucault’s own later explorations, though the challenges posed by the molecular revolution in biology and Franc ̧ois Jacob’s history of it allowed Foucault to extend and transform Canguilhem’s philosophy of error. Using archival research into his 1955–1956 course on ‘‘Science and Error,’’ I show that, for Canguilhem, it is inauthentic to treat a living being as an error, even if living things are capable of making errors in the domain of knowledge. The emergent molecular biology in the 1960s posed a grave challenge, however, since it suggested that individuals could indeed be errors of genetic reproduction. The paper discusses how Canguilhem and Foucault each responded to this by examining, among other texts, their respective reviews of Jacob’s The Logic of the Living. For Canguilhem this was an opportunity to reaffirm the creativity of life in the living individual, which is not a thing to be evaluated, but the source of values. For Foucault, drawing on Jacob’s work, this was the opportunity to develop a transformed account of valuation by posing biopower as the DNA of society. Despite their disagreements, the paper examines these three authors as different iterations of a historical epistemology attuned to errancy, error, and experimentation.

Canguilhem Jacob Foucault Error Life Biopower Molecular biology

Talcott, Samuel. (2017). The Education of Philosophy: From Canguilhem and The Teaching of Philosophy to Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, Philosophy Today, Volume 61, Issue 3 (Summer 2017).
doi: 10.5840/philtoday2017918168

Abstract: This paper questions the widespread assumption that education can and should mold students to socially desirable ends. It proceeds by sketching an important part of the intellectual history informing Foucault’s genealogy of this assumption’s emergence in a disciplinary society. This history involves Georges Canguilhem, Foucault’s elective master. And in the relation between the writings of master and student, we find a different exemplification of education, namely, as a thoroughly dialogical and philosophical activity undertaken for the sake of freedom. Examining this historical relation also (1) establishes Canguilhem’s international importance as a philosopher because of his role in the 1953 UNESCO report on The Teaching of Philosophy; (2) helps clarify Foucault’s understanding of philosophical activity as problematization and his understanding of normativity; and (3) helps think about education and the history of philosophy without looking for master theorists, but rather philosophical schools.

Progressive Geographies

Macey---Lives-of-Foucault-(dragged)-650f6b95125d9c2c43a563be8ebe9690.jpgDavid Macey’s biography, The Lives of Michel Foucault will appear in a reissued edition with Verso in January 2019, with an afterword by me.

When he died of an AIDS-related condition in 1984, Michel Foucault had become the most influential French philosopher since the end of World War II. His powerful studies of the creation of modern medicine, prisons, psychiatry, and other methods of classification have had a lasting impact on philosophers, historians, critics, and novelists the world over. But as public as he was in his militant campaigns on behalf of prisoners, dissidents, and homosexuals, he shrouded his personal life in mystery. In The Lives of Michel Foucault — written with the full cooperation of Daniel Defert, Foucault’s former lover — David Macey gives the richest account to date of Foucault’s life and work, informed as it is by the complex issues arising from his writings. In this new…

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O’Thomas, Mark (2018) There’ll always be an England – Butlins, Brexit and the Heterotopic Body.Journal of European Popular Culture 9 (1).


This article addresses the role of entertainment and performance in the holiday camp today as a way of understanding its interface with contemporary concerns around the impact of mass immigration and consequent emerging nationalisms. Focussing on the British Butlins holiday camp, which still maintains its original base in the English north-east coastal town of Skegness, the article builds on the work of earlier studies of leisure camps (and camps in general), in locating the function of entertainment as a key engine in driving forward a sense of ‘England’ which is at the same time nostalgic and isolationist. Within the context of the UK referendum result on June 15 2016 to exit the European Union, alongside recent concerns of new manifestations of racism and the marginalisation of foreign nationals working in the UK, the paper addresses the paradox of the use of a mode that has the capacity to engender empathy as a way of objectifying the Other and consolidating a notion of a single sovereign state. Ultimately, while acknowledging the contribution made by contemporary philosophers such as Giorgio Agamben to the field, the paper revisits and finds Foucault’s notion of heterotopias as a more dextrous way of conceiving of the ways in which entertainments are planned, produced and performed at British leisure camps today.

With thanks to Heterotopian Studies for this news

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