Archive for the ‘Current events’ Category

Colin Gordon, “Brexit Means Brexit Means Nothing”
14/07/2016 on academia.edu

This note is a postscript to my earlier piece “The Will of the people in post – truth times”,

Apart from its oversexed headline and the now outdated speculations about the future of a certain individual, this piece by Sean O’Grady in The Independent seemed to me yesterday the shrewdest analysis so far of where we stand (that is to say, the one which agrees most with what I was thinking myself). Today or tomorrow, who knows..

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Stuart Elden on Brexit and the border implications.

Progressive Geographies

CmQVhMUVYAAnCAf.jpgI have a short piece in the new issue of India Today on ‘The legacies of the Leave EU vote’. The piece is available open access.

I was asked to write about this for an international audience, so for UK or other European readers some of the discussion is likely to be quite familiar. Given the fast-moving nature of events, it is hard not to be overtaken by the news – notably it was written before Boris Johnson said he would not run.

Perhaps the distinctive contribution is that I begin thinking about the territorial and boundary implications of this vote. That is a topic which I may explore in future academic work.

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Colin Gordon, The will of the people in post-truth times. Notes on the current situation (2016)

Full text on academia.edu

10th July 2016

Daniel Cohn-Bendit gave an interview this week on French TV, discussing Brexit, referendums and democracy, in which he said that “we should stop saying that the people is always right”.1 Should we always, unconditionally, irrevocably defer to the expressed will of the people, right or wrong, as a definitive sovereign decision? If not, when, and on what legitimate grounds?

We are seeing the beginnings of a critique of the conception and conduct of the UK Brexit referendum, a critique which, if it is properly carried through, could influence the further course of public action. This critique relates primarily to (a) the manner in which the result was procured, through what has been justly described as an industrial-scale exercise in political lying, and (b) the fact that the best received formulation of the practical proposition which the UK people is deemed to have accepted is a de facto impossibility, namely the combination of full, unimpeded UK access to the EU single market with UK exemption from EU single market rules of free movement (except perhaps where such movement might benefit the UK and its citizens) – together with an assurance that immigration levels will be cut, and a promise that funds falsely described as being currently transferred from the UK to the EU would in future be used to supplement the funding of the National Health Service. The British public has voted, by a small majority, to award itself a round square and a free lunch. Or in the letter-day Marie Antoinette formula of the lead demagogue and charlatan of the Leave campaign, the nation has now adopted his policy on cake – let them have it and let them eat it. Professors of democracy are now offering to certify the binding legitimacy of such irrational sovereign volitions. A Leave majority composed of the poor, the uneducated and the post-industrial regions is hailed by commentators as having defied – at the instigation of the demagogues of Leave – the advice of “toffs and boffins, the chief executives, tycoons and clever-clogs”.

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Home of Rob Shaw on the web

Following up on my post exploring the Nuit Debout protest movement in France as creating a nocturnal heterotopia, I took advantage of a few days without teaching at the end of last week (May 5th-7th) to make a quick visit to the protests, and explore the site for myself.


Nuit Debout have turned the Place de la République into a nightly cauldron of protest, discussion, social support and experimentation. From roughly 2 or 3 in the afternoon until 1 or 2 in the morning – the protesters are now cleared by police if they try to stay later – the la République becomes the site of discussions, talks, film showings, soup-kitchens, art displays, music performances, political protest and partying, all drawing from the changes that take place in the city as day moves to night.


As a heterotopia – “a sort of simultaneously mythic and real contestation of the space in which we live”…

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Michel Foucault: The rights and duties of international citizenship (2015)

The front page of the Open Democracy Site, 14 November 2015

Also includes links to the following items:

Michel Foucault “The refugee problem is a presage of the great migrations of the twenty first century”, 1979. Translated by Colin Gordon.

Colin Gordon, The drowned and the saved: Foucault’s texts on migration and solidarity, 13 November 2015

Engin Isin, Michel Foucault as an activist intellectual, 13 November 2015

Jen Bagelman, Foucault and the ‘current’ refugee crisis, 13 November 2015

“Face aux gouvernements, les droits de l’homme”, Liberation no 967, 30 June /1 July 1984, p. 22. Dits et ecrits IV pp. 707-8 (355), Gallimard 1994.

This statement was read by Foucault at a press conference on June 19th 1981, organized in association with the organizations Médecins du monde and Terre des hommes, in the presence of Yves Montand, André Glucksmann and Bernard Kouchner. The press conference, according to the newspaper Libération when it published Foucault’s text for the first time just after his death in 1984, was to have marked the public announcement of the formation of an International Committee against Piracy. Another account states that this Committee was set up in Lausanne on April 30 that year. The Libération editor’s note states that Foucault wrote this statement “minutes” before he read it. The title of the piece as published by Libération, “Confronting governments, human rights” seems to have been provided by them, not by Foucault. Given the public profile of the event and those present, it is unclear why the text appears not to have been published at the time.

“We are here only as private individuals and with no other claim to speak, and to speak together, except a certain difficulty we share in enduring what is taking place.

I know very well, and one must defer to this evident truth: we can do little about the reasons which make men and women prefer to leave their country rather than remain and live in it.  It is not in our power to change these facts.

So who asked us to speak? No one, and that is exactly our entitlement. It seems to me that we need to keep in mind three principles which, I believe, guide this initiative, like several others that have preceded it: Ile-de-Lumière, Cap Anamour, A Plane for El Salvador, but also Terre des Hommes and Amnesty International.[1]

1) There exists an international citizenship which as such has its rights and duties, and which is obliged to stand up against all forms of abuse of power, no matter who commits them, no matter who are their victims. After all, we are all governed, and, by that fact, joined in solidarity.

2) Because of their claim to care for the wellbeing of societies, governments arrogate to themselves the right to treat in terms of profit and loss the human suffering which their decisions cause and their negligence allows. It is a duty of this international citizenship to always confront the eyes and ears of governments with the human suffering for which it cannot truthfully be denied that they bear responsibility. People’s suffering must never be allowed to remain the silent residue of politics. It grounds an absolute right to stand up and to challenge those who hold power.

3) We must refuse the division of labour which is so often proposed to us: individuals are allowed to be indignant and to talk, while it falls to governments to deliberate and to act. It is true that well-intentioned governments appreciate the sacred indignation of the governed, providing that it remains merely lyrical. But I think we must be aware that it is very often those who govern who talk, are only able to talk, or only want to talk. Experience shows that we can and must refuse the histrionic role of pure protest which governments would like to offer us.  Amnesty International, Terre des Hommes, Médecins du Monde are initiatives which have created this new right: the right of private individuals to intervene actively and materially in the order of international politics and strategy. The will of individuals must be present and expressed in the order of reality which governments have sought to monopolise. Step by step and day by day, their purported monopoly must be rolled back.

Translated by Colin Gordon, October 2015

[1] Ile-de-Lumière was a French hospital and rescue ship organized by Bernard Kouchner and others  which conducted a series of  missions in the South China Sea in 1979. Cap Anamour was another rescue ship organised by the German humanitarian activists Christel and Rupert Neudeck and others.

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Editor: My thoughts are with those of you reading Foucault News from Paris in the wake of Friday night’s terrible events.

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André Glucksmann par Michel Foucault, Le Nouvel Observateur

Le philosophe des “Maîtres penseurs” est mort à 78 ans. Celui de “Surveiller et punir” l’avait lu, pour “le Nouvel Observateur”, en 1977. Voici son texte, dans son intégralité.

Article de Michel Foucault sur “les Maîtres penseurs”,
paru dans “le Nouvel Observateur” du 9 mai 1977
La grande colère des faits

Pour Michel Foucault, comme pour André Glucksmann, il est urgent que la philosophie apprenne à se battre à mains nues, en riant et en criant, contre tous les tenants de l’Etat-Révolution.

Ce qui s’est passé de moins insignifiant dans nos têtes, depuis une quinzaine d’années? Je dirais dans un premier mouvement: une certaine rage, une sensibilité impatiente, irritée, à ce qui se passe, une intolérance à la justification théorique et à tout ce lent travail d’apaisement qu’assure au jour le jour le discours «vrai».

Sur fond d’un décor grêle que la philosophie, l’économie politique et tant d’autres belles sciences avaient planté, voilà que des fous se sont levés, et des malades, des femmes, des enfants, des emprisonnés, des suppliciés et des morts par millions. Dieu sait pourtant que nous étions tous armés de théorèmes, de principes et de mots pour broyer tout cela.

Quel appétit, soudain, de voir et d’entendre ces étrangers si proches? Quel souci pour ces choses frustes? Nous avons été saisis par la colère des faits. Nous avons cessé de supporter ceux qui nous disaient – ou plutôt le chuchotement qui, en nous, disait: «Peu importe, un fait ne sera jamais rien par lui-même; écoute, lis, attends; ça s’expliquera plus loin, plus tard, plus haut.»
Le réel irrationnel

Est revenu l’âge de Candide où l’on ne peut plus écouter l’universelle petite chanson qui rend raison de tout. Les Candides du XXe siècle, qui ont parcouru le vieux monde et le nouveau à travers les massacres, les batailles, les charniers et les gens terrorisés, existent: nous les avons rencontrés, Ukrainiens ou Chiliens, Tchèques ou Grecs. La morale du savoir, aujourd’hui, c’est peut-être de rendre le réel aigu, âpre, anguleux, inacceptable. Irrationnel donc?


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