Foucault 25 years on conference proceedings available for download

As previously mentioned last spring, the conference Foucault 25 years on was held at the Hawke Research Institute, University of South Australia, June 2009.The papers have now been made available for download online.

There are a couple of dozen short papers here. Ian Goodwin-Smith situates them:

Twenty-five years after his death, reflecting on Foucault is an enormous task. His influence permeates disparate and innumerable fields and informs so much of our thinking, along with that of many great theorists who have followed him. Foucault’s influence is one of ramifying and far-reaching interdisciplinary complexity. Foucault’s legacy muddies the theoretical waters, forcing strange synergies and theoretical configurations such as the antifoundational humanist. Growing from the murky ferment of French colonial history, the father of poststructuralism’s story is as complex as that encounter, and his legacy is as mutating, unsettling and transformative. This paper considers the process of reflecting on that legacy twenty-five years on, and on the theoretical mutations that underpin the transformativity of Foucault’s influence.

The keynote speech, by Barry Hindess, addresses two problems he sees in Foucault’s work on governmentality:

One concerns Foucault’s treatment of liberalism, mostly in The birth of biopolitics, published in English in 2008, but long familiar indirectly through the literature on governmentality (Burchell 1996; Gordon 1991; Rose & Miller 1992; Rose 1999; and, here in Australia, Dean 1999; Hindess 1995). Here I argue that Foucault’s discussion is confused and misleading (Hindess 2009) and that the governmentality literature has picked up only one side of his argument. Now most of what Foucault has to say on liberalism is in The birth of biopolitics (2008), lectures that someone else edited for publication, without the usual author’s concern to produce a picture of consistency and coherence.

The second problem concerns a curious comment on relations between the West and the rest in one of Foucault’s most important books The order of things (1970). He referred, for example, to western culture’s ‘fundamental relation with the whole of history’, a relation that, after a certain point, ‘enabled it to link itself to other cultures in a mode of pure theory’ (1970, p. 376).

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