Nancy Partner, Foucault’s iconic afterlife: The posthumous reach of words and things, History & Theory Volume 55, Issue 4, December 2016, Pages 35–53
The lasting influence of Michel Foucault’s work is both instantly recognizable in that his very name can be invoked as a noun or adjective (“Foucauldian”), as a critical stance or attitude without further elaboration, and yet his signature concepts have been flattened, stretched, exaggerated, and thinned as they have been applied by his most enthusiastic followers. Although Foucault has entered the canon of philosophers, he also became iconic, most notably with the typographic icon, power/knowledge, a (possibly unwanted) achievement of recognition and compression virtually unknown to other philosophers. In this essay, I consider the Foucault of the philosophical canon, and I trace some of the main routes of the iconic Foucault into acceptance or nonacceptance by the academic disciplines, notably history and anthropology, and numerous other unexpected venues where variants of Foucault’s ideas have found surprising homes. I also contemplate the meaning of the status of “iconicity” as it has been analyzed by sociologists, and the possibility that iconic misreadings of Foucault’s concepts have been extraordinarily “good to think with” by his critics.