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Foucault papers at the AAG

This year’s Association of American Geographers conference is being held in Las Vegas. It opens today, and although I can’t be there until late Monday night due to teaching obligations, I thought I would provide the abstracts of papers that focus on Foucault or Foucauldian themes.

There are also numerous papers on government, governmentality, biopolitics, etc., so please search here if you are interested in these.

Abstract Title:
Science as a key word: A Foucaultian analysis of science, power, communication, and deviance during Toronto’s SARS crisis

is part of the Paper Session:
Geography of Science I

scheduled on Thursday, 3/26/09 at 8:00 AM.

Claire Major* – York University

In 2003, Toronto was a central node in the global crisis of the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Taking a cue from Sarasin (2008), I argue that the “science” of SARS is something of an active metaphor: given the unknown nature of the virus, at best what science could do was to suggest a likeness of what response to the crisis ought to be. After examining how the science of SARS was conceptualized and mobilized, highlighting discussion of the epidemiological curve of the outbreak and the problems of disciplines, I draw on interviews with policy makers (at the international, national, provincial and urban scale) as well as workers and their unions to excavate how science is affixed to power, to trace its’ localized, particularized manifestation and re-articulation, and to question how science is subject to scalar interpretation. Arguing for the importance of “deviant” behavior that facilitated knowing the nature of the crisis, I consider the gaps that occurred during communications about the status of the outbreak (between health care units, the province of Ontario, the World Health Organization and so on) and the problems that arose when knowledge and science sharing occurred between the front line workers and agencies, hospitals, and governments. I scrutinize how the SARS panic was inflated by a crisis management strategy that enabled strategic voids, suggesting that in the response to the crisis policy makers engaged science as ubiquitous yet poorly defined concept that enabled multiple, and often contradictory, response trajectories.

Abstract Title:
Learning to be hearing: is the mainstream school a space for normalising deaf children?

is part of the Paper Session:
Disability in Education: Geographies of Inclusion and Exclusion

scheduled on Wednesday, 3/25/09 at 13:00 PM.

Elizabeth Mathews* – National University of Ireland, Maynooth

“[T]he subject is objectified by a process of division either within himself or from others” (Michel Foucault).

In recent years there has been a growing emphasis on educating students who are deaf or hard of hearing in integrated settings with their hearing peers.  Such a move is framed in discourses of inclusion and the provision of a ‘normal’ life for deaf children.  However, evidence from the practise of mainstreaming deaf education in Ireland suggests that the inclusion of deaf children is often based on their ability to perform as hearing children, and is largely linked to their ability to speak and speech-read.  Deaf children without these skills are rarely meaningfully included in mainstream classrooms and continue to be segregated.  Since the new goal of education is inclusion, and speech skills are linked to the inclusion of deaf children, the education system has become a space of normalisation through integration for deaf children.
This paper examines the role of the school as an institutional space in Foucaultian terms as a means of normalising and subjectifying the deaf student.  In particular it seeks to explore if Foucault’s concern with dividing practices, scientific classification and subjectification can be applied to the deaf student as they divide the inner deaf ‘self’ from the outer ‘hearing’ other, in the process of objectifying the subject.

Abstract Title:
The Space between Two Deaths

is part of the Paper Session:
Anarchism, Autonomia and the Spatialities of Revolutionary Politics and Theory 1

scheduled on Monday, 3/23/09 at 8:00 AM.

Stephanie Wakefield* – CUNY Graduate Center

In this paper, I argue that anarchism today is a noncontradictory movement of deterritorialization and reterritorialization happening in social spaces of anarchic self-making, where subjects who have been called into being by the political order as commodified, divided and oppressing individuals engage in the rejection of these normative grounds for their existence and simultaneously create themselves anew as non-hierarchical, anti-authoritarian, communist.  This self-making is not predetermined and it does not conform to a prefigured criterion; it is a singular yet collective, active process of subjective refashioning grounded in a radical notion of responsibility.
Interwoven with stories of black bloc street experience and Earth First! organizing, I describe anarchy not as some new hot topic radical chic that one can simply espouse from the halls of academia, but instead as a way of living and creating a life that departs from the established norms of politics qua “police” and “has the function of wrenching the subject from itself, of seeing to it that the subject is no longer itself, or that it is brought to its annihilation or its dissolution… a project of desubjectivation” (Foucault 2000: 241).    Anarchy today is lived, then, in this space in-between, where we find ourselves neither reterritorialized as closed subjects nor lost on a suicidal line of flight.  It is an intentional flirtation with both forms of death where, walking a thin ridge, we live our lives on the brink.

Abstract Title:
Techniques of Governmentality – Rural District Councils in Ireland, 1898 – 1922

is part of the Paper Session:
Surveillance and Governmentality

scheduled on Tuesday, 3/24/09 at 8:00 AM.

Arlene Crampsie, PhD* – Boston College – Ireland

From even the most cursory examination of the introduction of the Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1898 it is clear that it was a key moment in the development of British policy towards Ireland. This act marked the introduction of democratic self-government to Ireland, and the transfer of a myriad of vital local functions from the control of the landed, protestant ascendancy to the lower class, catholic population. However, a more detailed investigation of the circumstances surrounding the introduction of the legislation, the provisions enshrined in the act, and the operation of the rural district councils in the period 1898 – 1922 raises questions relating to the aims of this apparently revolutionary state policy towards Ireland. By exploring these issues utilising Foucault’s theory on governmentality the rationalities and technologies utilised by the British state, as it attempted to secure its position as the sole and rightful state authority in Ireland, can be investigated. This paper will investigate the operation of governmental rationalities in a contested space, through an examination of the operation of rural district councils in Ireland and an analysis of their success as a technology of governmentality by the British state.

Abstract Title:
‘Mattering’ the Res Publica – Design Competitions as Foucauldian Dispositif

is part of the Paper Session:
Topics in Urban Geography

scheduled on Wednesday, 3/25/09 at 17:20 PM.

Joris Ernest Van Wezemael,* – ETH Zurich

The presented paper starts from the question of ‘agency’ with respect to the constitution of a collective identity by means of public architecture. While analyzing the creation of an architectural image for the young Federal State in Switzerland in the late 19th Century we aim at contributing to the tracing of historical trajectories. Empirically we will focus on the design process of Federal buildings such as post offices (e.g. Lucerne (1885), Geneva (1889), Neuchatel and Winterthur (1894), Lausanne (1895), Schaffhausen (1898), Berne (1898) or Chur (1899)), which are all ‘solutions’ of design competitions.
We will put forward the hypothesis that the production of a specific constellation of discourses, knowledge-based practices, spatial settings, architectural expression, and professional networks performed a powerful social technology. The argument will mainly trace the constitution of design competitions as a regulatory device that may obtain the power to govern, regulate, institutionalize or empower specific solutions.
Our conception will allow for a view on the architect as an Actor-Network rather than an ingenious creator. By conceptualizing the ‘agency’ of the processes as a Foucauldian Dispositif we also aim at contributing to the recent debate on alternative theoretical conceptions in research on Architecture and Planning.


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