Essay: Revising Foucault, the future of Foucault studies

An essay called Revising Foucault, the future of Foucault studies, by Colin Koopman, is available (pdf).

Koopman is doing a postdoc at UC Santa Cruz (and left a comment to a post below that links to his review of Paras). He’s working with David Hoy.

Koopman begins the Revising Foucault essay by questioning the recent interest in the newly published lectures:

But Paras and others err if they are willing to base these reinterpretations on a prioritization of the course lectures over Foucault’s carefully-polished primary publications.

Perhaps refocusing Foucault scholarship around the course lectures is motivated by the aim of setting Foucault’s thought to work in contexts where it previously has not ranged. But is the only way of achieving this worthwhile aim to discount Foucault’s primary texts in favor of secondary texts, unedited drafts, and scraps rescued from his trash bin?

Interesting, though not everyone who has an interest in the lectures is suddenly rushing to replace the major books, but rather to see them as casting light on those books. I think of my colleague Stuart Elden for example, who has published a major article on each of the lectures as it has come out in French. I haven’t had time to read the whole essay yet, but I’m looking forward to it.

Another of the things that sounds very interesting about Koopman’s research is that he’s thinking about what it means that information is becoming increasingly digital. He says that this has profound consequences for knowledge, and even consciousness, not to mention what philosophers do (I presume he means they’ll have to deal with this).

The scenario could look like this: every transaction, every e-mail sent, every essay written, every fluctuation in a price, every purchase and sale, every movement of any device attached to a global positioning system (which can of course be attached to any device including humans), every phone call, every video recorded, every song written, every labor complaint filed, every insurance claim denied, every background check by the police, will become increasingly omnipresent.

This is very reminiscent of the ambient findability/geoweb/LBS/deep landscape sorts of work over the last few years. Be interesting to explore this some more from a philosophical point of view.

One Response

  1. Thanks for the replies.

    My point about the course lectures is not that we should ignore them, etc.. Many people will make many good uses of them. I will. My caution is against those who are particularly excited to mine the course lectures for material which Foucault was elsewhere relatively silent about. I’m worried about those who will use the course lectures to deploy Foucault’s name in service of topics he never really wrote all that carefully about. Why use Foucault’s talk of racism in the course lectures (which was actually talk about nationalist forms of racism) to develop critical work on racism today? Why use Foucault there rather than, say, Cornel West? West is stronger on race, Foucault stronger on genealogy, discipline, biopower, etc.. Obviously there are connections and I’m all for integration. I’m just urging a little caution.

    The stuff on the new politics and epistemology of the digital information age is just now coming into focus — it’s work I’m undertaking while hanging out with Paul Rabinow up here at Berkeley. He’s doing similar, but also very different, research concerning emerging genetics and synthetic biology practices. Look for his newest stuff. It’s very interesting.

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