Category Archives: Foucault

cfp AAG 2018: Anxious/Desiring Geographies

Call for Papers: “Anxious/Desiring geographies.”

Sponsored by the AAG Digital Geography Specialty Group and the Political Geography Specialty Group.
AAG Annual Conference New Orleans April 10-14, 2018

Organizers: Jeremy W. Crampton (Kentucky, USA), Nick Robinson (RHUL, UK), Mikko Joronen (Tampere, Finland).

At this political moment we seem beset by anxieties from every direction. Automation is identified as an existential threat to jobs. Vulnerabilities from political violence increase anxieties of the subaltern. Climate change and the inauguration of the Anthropocene threaten our wellbeing. Nast (2017) credits the financial crisis with being “psychically traumatic.”

At least since Gregory’s identification of the inadequacy of representation, which he dubbed “cartographic anxiety” (Gregory, 1994), geographers have meaningfully contributed to understandings of the affective politics of anxiety. Attention has been paid to a geopolitics of fear that is experienced on both an everyday and global level (Pain and Smith, 2008), and to sexual desires and identities (Bell and Valentine, 1995). Brown and Knopp (2016) identified a biopolitics of the state’s anxieties in the governance of the gay bar.

In this session we seek papers that deepen our geographical understandings of anxiety, desire and/or the possible relationship(s) between them.

Is anxiety a mental disease that can be diagnosed and treated (APA, 2013), founded on lack, or can it be deployed more positively (Robbins and Moore, 2012)? Is anxiety the only affect that does not deceive (Lacan, 2014)? What is the relation between anxiety, desire and place? What might a politics of locationally affective resistance look like (Griffiths, 2017)? How is desire productive of spaces? How do anxiety and desire circulate and relate to subjectivities and the material body? Are there particular places and spaces that are invested in anxiety or desire, and what is the lived experience there?

Topics that address these questions include but are not limited to:

  • Places of anxiety and desire
  • Surveillance anxiety (eg., geosurveillance, automated facial recognition)
  • Automation anxiety and desires
  • The affective politics of policing
  • Living in code/space & the smart city and becoming the data subject
  • Everyday anxieties
  • The biopolitics of anxiety and desire
  • The anxious/desiring/desired body
  • Affective resistances
  • Governing through desire
  • Anxieties from political violence
  • Affective relations of anxiety/desire to pain, grief, worry or fear


Please send a title and abstract of 250 words to,, and Mikko Joronen by October 15th.

American Psychiatric Association. 2013 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.

Bell, D. and Valentine, G. Mapping Desire: Geographies of Sexualities. London: Routledge.

Brown, M. & L. Knopp. 2016. Sex, drink, and state anxieties: governance through the gay bar. Social & Cultural Geography, 17, pp. 335-358.

Gregory, D. 1994. Geographical Imaginations. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.

Griffiths, M. (2017) Hope in Hebron: The political affects of activism in a strangled city. Antipode, 49, 617-635.

Lacan, J. 2014. Anxiety. Seminar Book X. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Nast, H. J. (2017) Into the arms of dolls: Japan’s declining fertility rates, the 1990s financial crisis and the (maternal) comforts of the posthuman. Social & Cultural Geography, 18, 758-785.

Pain, R. and Smith, S. (Eds) 2008. Fear: Critical Geopolitics and Everyday Life. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Robbins, P. and Moore, S.A. 2012. Ecological anxiety disorder: diagnosing the politics of the Anthropocene. cultural geographies, 20(1) 3–19.

Sioh, M. 2014. A small narrow space: postcolonial territorialization and the libidinal economy. In P. Kingsbury and S. Pile (Eds), Psychoanalytic Geographies. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate.


Stuart Elden tracks down “A last interview with French philosopher Michel Foucault”, City Paper – now found and available online

An elusive source found and posted online:

Jamin Raskin, “A last interview with French philosopher Michel Foucault”, City Paper – now found and available online.

via Stuart Elden tracks down “A last interview with French philosopher Michel Foucault”, City Paper – now found and available online.

Reflections on teaching the history of geography

I have a short piece in a forum on teaching the history of geography, organized by Innes Keighren for Progress in Human Geography. There are also contributions by Franklin Ginn, Scott Kirsch, Audrey Kobayashi, Simon Naylor and Jörn Seemann.

Here’s the abstract:

Drawing upon the personal reflections of geographical educators in Brazil, Canada, the UK, and the US, this Forum provides a state-of-the-discipline review of teaching in the history of geography; identifies the practical and pedagogical challenges associated with that teaching; and offers suggestions and provocations as to future innovation. The Forum shows how teaching in the history of geography is valued – as a tool of identity making, as a device for cohort building and professionalization, and as a means of interrogating the disciplinary present – but also how it is challenged by neoliberal educational policies, competing priorities in curriculum design, and sub-disciplinary divisions.

Stuart Elden: Foucault’s Last Decade – Update 19: a nearly complete first draft

Stuart is off to the airport to fly to Melbourne with a printed draft of his next book Foucault’s Last Decade. Looking forward to this one!

Foucault’s Last Decade – Update 19: a nearly complete first draft.

via Foucault’s Last Decade – Update 19: a nearly complete first draft.

Elden: Foucault’s Last Decade – Update 13

Stuart updates his work on his book Foucault’s Last Decade.

Foucault’s Last Decade – Update 13.

via Foucault’s Last Decade – Update 13.

What is neoliberalism?

robinjames (@doctaj) on neoliberalism:

I want to hone in on one tiny aspect of neoliberalism’s epistemology. As Foucault explains in Birth of Biopolitics, “the essential epistemological transformation of these neoliberal analyses is their claim to change what constituted in fact the object, or domain of objects, the general field of reference of economic analysis” (222). This “field of reference” is whatever phenomena we observe to measure and model “the market.” Instead of analyzing the means of production, making them the object of economic analysis, neoliberalism analyzes the choices capitalists make: “it adopts the task of analyzing a form of human behavior and the internal rationality of this human behavior” (223; emphasis mine). (The important missing assumption here is that for neoliberals, we’re all capitalists, entrepreneurs of ourself, owners of the human capital that resides in our bodies, our social status, etc.) [3] Economic analysis, neoliberalism’s epistemontological foundation, is the attribution of a logos, a logic, a rationality to “free choice.”

I particularly like the way she enrolls Big Data and the algorithmic in her understanding of neoliberalism:

Just as a market can be modeled mathematically, according to various statistical and computational methods, everyone’s behavior can be modeled according to its “internal rationality.” This presumes, of course, that all (freely chosen) behavior, even the most superficially irrational behavior, has a deeper, inner logic. According to neoliberal epistemontology, all genuinely free human behavior “reacts to reality in a non-random way” and “responds systematically to modifications in the variables of the environment” (Foucault, sumarizing Becker, 269; emphasis mine).

This approach ties to what others have been saying for a number of years now on the algorithmic (I’m thinking of the work of Louise Amoore on data derivatives, among others) and the calculative (eg., Stuart Elden’s readings of Foucault and Heidegger). I’ve just completed a paper on Big Data and the intelligence community which tries to make some of these points, and Agnieszka Leszczynski and I have a cfp out for the Chicago meetings next year which we certainly hope will include these issues.

(Via this excellent piece on NewApps)

Foucault and Big Data

Very interesting comments on Foucault and Big Data by Frédéric Gros, who is one of the editors of Foucault’s Collège de France lectures:

Foucault’s great studies of disciplinary society are useful above all because they allow us to delineate, through contrast and comparison, the digital governmentality that subjects us to new forms of control, which are less vertical, more democratic and, above all, no longer burdened by any anthropological ballast. Homo digitalis today participates in, is the primary agent of, the surveillance of himself. Digital society is becoming a form of mutualised control. We should today consider the treatment of ‘big data’ working with Foucault, basing ourselves on him, but seeing further than he could. Because we have gone well beyond the disciplinary age. Security’s new concepts are no longer imprisoning individuals and normative consciousness, but rather traceability and algorithmic profiling.

More here. (Via Stuart Elden.)

Elden: Foucault Studies 17 now out – Foucault and Deleuze

Stuart provides notice of the latest issue of Foucault Studies:

Foucault Studies 17 now out – Foucault and Deleuze.

via Foucault Studies 17 now out – Foucault and Deleuze.

Michel Foucault and Fons Elders – a preparatory interview for the Chomsky debate

A new interview has surfaced with Foucault, and is available on YouTube. Stuart has the news here:

Michel Foucault and Fons Elders – a preparatory interview for the Chomsky debate.

And here’s the description:

This until now rarely seen 15-minute footage is of an interview that was conducted by the Dutch philosopher Fons Elders in preparation for the debate between Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault, which was broadcasted on Dutch television on Sunday, November 28, 1971. The whole interview was essentially lost for decades and was published in the winter of 2012 for the first time. It is now available as an e-book under the title of “Freedom and Knowledge.” An excerpt is available for free online on Elder’s own website where people can also purchase the actual book:

via Michel Foucault and Fons Elders – a preparatory interview for the Chomsky debate.

What is resilience?

Interesting alternatives if not contradictions in understanding “resilience” in recent publications.

Stephanie Wakefield & Bruce Braun understand resilience as a Foucauldian dispositif (apparatus):

we understand resilience as a mode of governing the ‘ecological’ city.

In Resilient Life, a new book by Brad Evans and Julian Reid, they also think of it as a mode of governing:

‘resilience’ … is becoming a key term of art for governing planetary life in the 21st Century…

But the book is then blurbed as follows:

Resilience, they argue, is a neo-liberal deceit that works by disempowering endangered populations of autonomous agency.

My interest here is not so much whether this is an accurate summation of their book (which is not yet out) but that the discourse of resilience is framed as disempowering (the word used is “nihilistic”).

I wrote about this last year here, in the context of Neocleous’ piece in Radical Philosophy who argued that we need to “resist resilience”:

In [Neocleous’] view, “resilience is by definition against resistance. Resilience wants acquiescence.”

It is therefore politically disempowering (nihilistic?) and should in turn be resisted. (This task is made more urgent for Neocleous by his claim that resilience is gaining traction as a replacement for “sustainability”.)

Identifying resilience with dispositif still leaves open the question of how to interpret it and how to position critique with regard to its effects. Neocleous equates resilience with “acquiescence,” the Evans and Reid book is promoted with the term “nihilistic.”

But as Kara Hoover reminds us:

In anthropology, system (cultural) responses to change tend to interpreted two ways: either system collapse or assimilation. Resilience of a cultural system signals internal strength and cohesion….Perhaps within the confines of social theory, resilience needs to be understood as an internal mechanism for maintaining group cohesion–from an anthropological perspective, internal coherency is the starting point for a group to overcome external shocks and stresses.

Is it too simple then to say Neocleous = “acquiescence”, Evans/Reid blurb = “nihilism,” both = disempowerment; ecology and anthropology = “coherence,” both = rallying point for political activism? If this is correct, then Neocleous and Evans & Reid are disempowering themselves.

For Wakefield and Braun the object is not to turn away from or reject resilience:

the goal in these papers is also to begin to imagine how such a dispositif might be inhabited, occupied, appropriated, or experimented with as part of a new politics of and for the Anthropocene.


There is no secret to be revealed, no foundation or ground that can be uncovered and returned to. Instead, we argue that the task of thought is to locate ourselves within this world, mapping it so as to get to know it, to construct other lines that, in their
elaboration and connections, take the map with them. Like hackers, we must get to know the
network from within and try to locate its exploits.

This gap or contradiction, if I’ve identified it reasonably, might remind us of a similar issue regarding Foucault’s notions of power. That is, that when Foucault says that there is no outside of power, for many writers this became a reason to interpret power as a negative. But Foucault is clear that power is productive; it produces subjects. So how should we problematize (to use a word Foucault placed into circulation with some hesitation) resilience, specifically resilience as dispositif?

Here’s Wakefield and Braun on this question:

We argue that a critical mistake is made whenever we imagine a dispositif as a coherent and unified totality. Or, when we evaluate a dispositif in moral terms as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

Fair warning then, and doubly so.