Foucault on Heterotopias and the Body

A few years ago two radio addresses by Foucault on heterotopias were made available on a cd entitled ‘Utopies et hétérotopies’. In 2009 they were transcribed and published as a little book in French called ‘Le Corps Utopique – Les Hétérotopies’. The book includes the two pieces by Foucault and a piece by Daniel Defert situating them. Defert’s piece had appeared in a slightly different form in the cd booklet. The piece entitled ‘Les hétérotopies’ is a version of the second half of the piece known as ‘Des espaces autres’, which has been translated as ‘Of Other Spaces’ (a variant translation is in the Aesthetics volume as ‘Different Spaces’). ‘Les hétérotopies’ doesn’t include the material on the history of space at the beginning of the other text, but gives some different examples of heterotopias and expands some of them. The piece entitled ‘Le corps utopique’ is different and doesn’t relate to any other Foucault text, as far as I can tell.

The heterotopias idea has been picked up by a number of geographers and others interested in Foucault’s work on space. I don’t find it especially useful in thinking about space, and think there is much more useful work in Foucault’s historical writings for those interested in spatial analysis, but there are some interesting discussions here. These texts date from 1966, and ‘Le corps utopique’ is important in terms of Foucault’s intellectual trajectory, because he talks about the body in a way that antipates work of the 1980s. He’s interesting in  the physical nature of the body, our ways of rendering our own body visible, and the situation of the body in relation to our world. Only at the very end does the body become sexual.

Full details of the book can be found here. Foucault’s piece on the body was translated in a collection called Sensorium a few years back. (I’ve not seen that translation.) As far as I know there are no plans for an English translation of the book as a whole, but there might be enough here to justify one, especially if Defert’s piece was included. It could be partnered with a re-translation of ‘Des espaces autres’, which especially in the history of space part of the lecture is not very reliable.

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3 Responses to Foucault on Heterotopias and the Body

  1. Pingback: Reading at ANU | Progressive Geographies

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