Category Archives: Foucault

Clare O’Farrell: Bibliography of work on Foucault and education

Clare O’Farrell has uploaded a nearly 50-page long bibliography of works on Foucault and education (construed broadly).

Bibliography of work on Foucault and education.

Foucault “Discourse and Truth. The Problematization of Parrhesia”

Foucault parrhesia cover   Pages from Foucault Parrhesia


Does anyone know if Foucault’s 1983 lecture series “Discourse and Truth the Problematization of Parrhesia” has ever been put online in the above format? I don’t mean the audio lectures, the book Fearless Speech or the adapted text (missing Pearson’s crucial critical notes) at! I mean as above.

Maybe it shouldn’t be online, but I was just wondering.

Foucault Surveiller et punir cover

Foucault S+P Cover_Page_1   Foucault S+P Cover_Page_2

(Updated below.)

I’m in the process of scanning in the photos from the French edition of Surveiller et punir, from the French first edition (Gallimard, 1975).*

I never noticed before that the back cover text (basically what we’d put on the flyleaf of a hardback book, although this is a paperback) is initialed “M.F.” I don’t know if this text appears within the book itself (I suspect it doesn’t).

You can also see a publisher’s mark “75-11.” The 75 is presumably 75, as this book was first published in February 1975 according to the Defert chronology, and it was completed in August 1974. Or it could be something else entirely.

It would be nice to have a translation of the back cover of the book, which is otherwise one of those ephemeral texts. (The modern French edition omits a number of sentences, and is not–as far as I know–initialed.)

*My copy appears to be from a 1977 printing.

Update 2/8/14: Philippe Theophanidis has provided a prompt response to this request. My thanks to him for providing not only the English translation but a transcription of the back cover original French text. But his post also offers a useful discussion of specific words and phrases that present particular difficulties. These include “assujetissement” translated as “subjectification.” In the Essential Foucault, a translator’s note by James Faubion in Volume 3 (“Power”) indicates that whereas their earlier volumes had translated this as “subjectivation” (a very unusual word in English) they now wish to translate it as “subjugation” (see p. xlii). Between these three words are different emphases on passive and active subject-making. You are made into a subject, versus you co-constitute your subjectivity. The advantage of subjectification and even subjectivation (despite its unusual status) are that they permit the recognition of co-making the subject and even self-making; a concept you can find in Foucault’s interest in care of the self, ethics as practice, and technologies of the self.

Four new Foucault books


In addition to the Cambridge Foucault Lexicon (mentioned in my previous post, and which I should add has no less than 117 entries!), you may like to know of a few other Foucault books that are forthcoming in 2014.

A second is Wrong Doing, Truth Telling, (Amazon) based on the 1981 lectures Foucault gave at the Catholic University of Louvain, scheduled for release in April. Here is the publisher’s blurb:

Edited by Fabienne Brion and Bernard E. Harcourt
Translated by Stephen W. Sawyer
360 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2014
Three years before his death, Michel Foucault delivered a series of lectures at the Catholic University of Louvain that until recently remained almost unknown. These lectures—which focus on the role of avowal, or confession, in the determination of truth and justice—provide the missing link between Foucault’s early work on madness, delinquency, and sexuality and his later explorations of subjectivity in Greek and Roman antiquity.

Ranging broadly from Homer to the twentieth century, Foucault traces the early use of truth-telling in ancient Greece and follows it through to practices of self-examination in monastic times. By the nineteenth century, the avowal of wrongdoing was no longer sufficient to satisfy the call for justice; there remained the question of who the “criminal” was and what formative factors contributed to his wrong-doing. The call for psychiatric expertise marked the birth of the discipline of psychiatry in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as well as its widespread recognition as the foundation of criminology and modern criminal justice.

Published here for the first time, the 1981 lectures have been superbly translated by Stephen W. Sawyer and expertly edited and extensively annotated by Fabienne Brion and Bernard E. Harcourt. They are accompanied by two contemporaneous interviews with Foucault in which he elaborates on a number of the key themes. An essential companion to Discipline and Punish, Wrong-Doing, Truth-Telling will take its place as one of the most significant works of Foucault to appear in decades, and will be necessary reading for all those interested in his thought.

A third book is Foucault Now, edited by James Faubion, which will also be published in April by Polity. Here is the blurb:

Michel Foucault is recognized as one of the twentieth century’s most influential thinkers, however the authors in this volume contend that more use can be made of Foucault than has yet been done and that some of the uses to which Foucault has so far been put run the risk of and occasionally simply amount to misuse.

This interdisciplinary volume brings together a group of esteemed scholars, recognized for their command of and insights into Foucault’s oeuvre. They demonstrate the many respects in which Foucault’s project of an ontology of the present remains vital and continues to yield compelling insights and show that an ontology of the present is restricted to no particular terrain, but instead ranges widely and on paths that frequently intersect.

The essays in this much-needed new collection address the key components of Foucault’s thought, ranging from his approach to power, biopolitics and parrhesia to analysis of key texts such as Folie et Déraison and Histoire de la sexualité.

This collection will spark debate amongst students and scholars alike and demonstrates that that every further encounter with Foucault’s corpus is more likely than not to demand a revisiting of interpretations already formulated, conclusions already drawn, uses already devised.

Contributors include Didier Eribon, Eric Fassin, John Forrester, Ian Hacking, Lynne Huffer, Colin Koopman, James Laidlaw, Laurence McFalls, Mariella Pandolfi, Paul Rabinow and Cary Wolfe.

Finally, Foucault’s own lectures On the Government of the Living, given in 1979-80 (after the Birth of Biopolitics and preceding the Hermeneutics of the Self) will receive their English-language publication in September. (This has slipped from a previously announced March publication, but hopefully won’t slip again.) The publisher’s blurb states:

In these lectures delivered in 1980, Michel Foucault gives an important new inflection to his history of ‘regimes of truth.’  Following on from the themes of knowledge-power and governmentality, he turns his attention here to the ethical domain of practices of techniques of the self. Why and how, he asks, does the exercise of power as government demand not only acts of obedience and submission, but ‘truth acts’ in which individuals subject to relations of power are also required to be subjects in procedures of truth-telling? How and why are subjects required not just to tell the truth, but to tell the truth about themselves? These questions lead to a re-reading of Sophocles’ Oedipus the King and, through an examination of the texts of Tertullian, Cassian and others, to an analysis of the ‘truth acts’ in early Christian practices of baptism, penance, and spiritual direction in which believers are called upon to manifest the truth of themselves as subjects always danger of falling into sin. In the public expression of the subject’s condition as a sinner, in the rituals of repentance and penance, and in the detailed verbalization of thoughts in the examination of conscience, we see the organization of a pastoral system focused upon confession.

Key terms in Foucault (update)

When I maintained the Foucault blog (now at Foucault News), I would occasionally post brief explanations of key terms in Foucault (usually in his own words). I thought it might be useful to gather some of them here (not least because I’m slated to teach a Foucault seminar in the spring). The main ones to be found on that blog are:

dispositif (“apparatus”)

conduct of conduct


“The panopticon


milieu/disciplinary spaces/sovereignty, and milieu part 2

Security, Territory, Population course context

Genealogy (as defined by Elden and Vikki Bell)

My brief comments are not meant to be definitive but as aids to further work on these concepts. Nor are they meant to be the “main” concepts in Foucault; they are ones that arose (so far) in the course of working with Foucault and writing a blog at the time (2007-2010). In fact I would say panopticon and heterotopia are a bit over-discussed in the literature.

Since that blog (which was started as an adjunct to the Space, Knowledge and Power book) I’ve discussed Foucault’s notions of “Space, Territory and Geography” in a longer piece in The Companion to Foucault.

In addition to the Companion, I should note that the long-awaited Cambridge Foucault Lexicon is due for publication in March 2014. The full contents of this book are listed here. Stuart Elden does the entry on “Space.” Hopefully this will be available in time for the seminar final papers!  🙂

Update: Jan. 20 “Genealogy”

Technology is political because politics includes the technological

I’ve been thinking some more on Stuart’s apothegm that I reblogged yesterday about the relationship between politics and the technical. Here it is again from his post:

One of the previous presenters had made the claim that there was nothing political about some of the techniques. While I made the comment that we could say that there is always a politics to the technical, I was most interested in turning his claim around, rather than disagreeing with it: suggesting that the political is always technical. I’ve made this claim before in relation to territory as a political technology, as dependent on all sorts of techniques for measuring land and controlling terrain.

What this does, for me, is rather than to dogmatically oppose people who say that the technical is not political (a position I’ve encountered frequently in reading and writing about mapping for instance) it opens up possibilities for investigation. How is the political technical? What does that mean? What technologies are involved? Specifically exciting is that it invites on to the field of inquiry (I can imagine) all sorts of cartographies and mappings. It has the secondary purpose of enrolling the first speaker in the search as well, rather than disallowing their position or telling them they’re wrong; hence of actually persuading people, assuming you do a good job of demonstrating how the political is technical.

Long-time readers of Stuart’s work are well familiar with this move of his. In Mapping the Present (2001), the first major book of his I read, he makes a similar argumentative move, claiming that “space is political because the political is spatial” (eg., p. 6). This might seem at first to be a tautology, but Stuart is not equating the two per se. What he’s getting at, is that in order to understand how mapping is political (say), you have to understand how the political enrolls technologies such as mapping. That’s your opening into the circle.

Another one from the same book is the need to both “historicize space and spatialize history” (p. 3). In this case there’s more of a productive tension or dialectic perhaps.

One of my favorites, that again is disarmingly provocative, is when Stuart does a reversal of the usual understanding of territory and territoriality. Where typically we have seen people starting with notions of territoriality and saying that this produces territory, Stuart reverses this (Elden, 2010). Later he says “In other words, while particular strategies or practices produce territory, there is a need to understand territory to grasp what territoriality, as a condition of territory, is concerned with” (2010, p. 13).

This allows him to inquire what is territory historically, or slightly more precisely to provide a genealogical account, defined as “a historical interrogation of the conditions of possibility of things being as they are” or a history of the present (Elden, 2010, p. 2).

(Vikki Bell recently gave a similar definition of genealogy “the idea that when we’re studying things historically, we’re doing so in order to study the values that we hold today. So genealogy submits our present truths to historical scrutiny and locates them at the level of practices, asking what’s happened.” From a BBC interview on the program “Thinking Allowed.”)

All of these are aspects of his claim that “territory is a political technology” explored in most depth in his most recent book The birth of territory (2013).

Elden, S. 2010. “Land, Terrain, Territory.” Progress in Human Geography. DOI: 10.1177/0309132510362603.

(12/18/13 Updated to correct citation.)

FBI vs. Orwell vs. Foucault

This image attracted a lot of attention around the web today:

The text on the left is from a story in the Washington Post which discusses the FBI’s ability to exploit laptop cameras without enabling the indicator light.  The text on the right is from Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four discussing the dystopian state’s capability to view any given citizen unknowingly through their telescreen. (The comparison was tweeted out by @tinyrevolution.)

To which we can add:

Foucault DP

Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish, page 201.

This was originally published (in French) in 1975, well after Orwell’s book. So Orwell was first with the idea? Not so fast! Foucault is discussing the ideas of the social reformer Jeremy Bentham, who proposed the idea of the “panopticon” (all-seeing) in the late 18th century. According to one history, there are at least 300 prisons worldwide built on panoptic principles. You can see a classic illustration here.

So did Orwell know of Bentham? I presume so. Orwell was an educated and well-read man, but I’ll leave it to Orwell scholars to verify this. Update. Stuart Elden notes that prior to Foucault’s recovery of Bentham’s text it was only available in English in a late 18th century edition. If so, this makes it less likely Orwell knew of Bentham.

Update II. Here’s the Google Ngram trace of the word “panopticon” used in books. As you can see, its usage really took after 1984 (the date, not the book). You can also see very nicely an earlier spike in the late 1830s and early 1840s. (I would guess around the building of prisons on panoptic lines, such as the Eastern State Penitentiary, opened in 1829 and mentioned by Foucault in D&P.)


Richard Sennett on Foucault (1979)


Some of Richard Sennett’s book review of Foucault from 1979, indicating the original 6-volume plan of the History of Sexuality series.

From the New Yorker, July 16, 1979 issue.

“Collect it all”

Glenn Greenwald this morning identifies what he calls the “crux” of the NSA surveillance revelations: the desire to “collect it all.”

What this means is that instead of targeting, surveilling, collecting or storing information on individual suspects for whom there is “probable cause” (evidence), everybody’s information is collected; guilty and innocent alike.

As a matter of fact I agree that this is a crux of the story, although for anybody interested in the study of surveillance this is hardly news. It is useful and important that this is now a matter of public debate, however.

For those interested, Foucault argues that this switch from “discipline and punish” individuals to mass surveillance is characteristic of modern states, and gives rise to their characterization as the “surveillant society”) (eg., John Pickles wrote about his as long ago as 1991, see also the work of David Lyon).

I discuss this in my 2003 piece on geosurveillance (Downloads tab):

Prior to the legal reforms of the 18th and early 19th centuries, Foucault argued the law focused on the nature of the crime committed, the evidence of guilt or innocence, and the system of penalties to be applied. In other words: crime and punishment. The person of the criminal was important only insofar as he or she was the individual to which the crime would be attributed.

Foucault argued that a second system of power emerged in the early eighteenth century that regulated, counted, and surveilled the mass of people as a population. Foucault called this “biopolitics of the population” (Foucault 1978, p. 139) or, more simply, “biopower.”

Given the recent NSA story I think it is easier to see the crucial insight of biopolitics here. One could say that this mass surveillance is necessary because we are all a kind of “pre-criminal” (in the eyes of the state every person has a criminal potential) to some degree or other. Therefore, as I argued (Downloads tab) in 2007:

First, we need to stop seeing the issue as one of security and surveillance versus privacy or rights. Arguing about this or that surveillance technique misses the point that, both historically and today, surveillance is a core component of the modern state; that is, surveillance and geosurveillance are characteristic of certain types of political rule based on a politics of fear (Foucault [1975] 1977; Lyon 1994; Graham and Wood 2003).


A nice coincidence

Two books in which I have contributions arrived today.


I’m very pleased about this–it shows a nice diversity of interests I think. In the Cultural Geography book I have a chapter on “Mappings.” In the Foucault book I have a chapter on “Space, Territory, Geography.” Thanks to the editors and especially Rich Schein and Chris Falzon for inviting me.

Both are probably books I have bought anyway–that is, if I could have afforded them!

Incidentally, for anyone thinking about contributing chapters to edited texts (especially for tenure purposes) I looked up when I was first contacted to write these chapters. In the case of the Foucault volume it predates my move to UKY 2 years ago. I don’t have all my prior emails but I would guess it was no later than summer 2010. That’s over 1,000 days or about 2 years 10 months between the invitation to receiving the published volume.

The cultural geography book was a little swifter. I was invited on February 21, 2011, or 816 days or 2 years 2 months 26 days ago. Neither book had any delays or issues as far as I know. These are fairly “normal” publishing schedules, so beware!