Over the next several years I plan to work on three projects.
Foucault’s Last Decade
This is a book under contract with Polity Press, with a planned publication date of 2016. Here’s the opening part of the proposal:
This book offers a detailed account of the last decade of the work of Michel Foucault, in order both to situate his key works in relation to each other, and to outline an intellectual history of his final project on the history of sexuality. It works in a textual and contextual way, offering close readings of Foucault’s works and situating them in relation to his life, political activism and collaborative projects at the Collège de France. The arguments of those works will be carefully reconstructed, filling in details and making links between published works, lecture material and unpublished projects.
Foucault’s Last Decade will draw on all published and several unpublished writings of Foucault, including his lecture courses at the Collège de France and material archived in France, as well as interviews. It seeks to outline how the originally conceived thematic plan for the History of Sexuality was abandoned; how it led Foucault through work on governmentality and technologies of the self; how he came to write the more chronological historical study he was working on at his death; and to open up some of the possibilities he himself left unexplored or under-developed. It will discuss the key concerns of his work throughout this period; what he argues in well-known and unjustly neglected works; and the kinds of analyses his work makes possible.
The introductory chapter treats the early 1970s, tracing the theme of power in Foucault’s work, and showing how this led to his book Discipline and Punish in 1975. The next chapters outline the themes in his lectures relating to the different subjects of sex as a knowledge and discipline and how these are crystallized in the programme of work proposed in the first volume of the History of Sexuality. The arguments of that text will be discussed in detail, but the book will also draw on the extant materials beyond the book itself to indicate where Foucault anticipated going with these ideas. Beginning in Chapter Five, the book then looks at how Foucault’s project got into difficulties around the notion of confession, and led him to rethink its orientation. It therefore shows how the question of rule and regulation generally, and politics and ethics particularly, became concerns over the last few years of his life. As such the book goes beyond the History of Sexuality series itself, to weave in his arguments concerning governmentality and technologies of the self, which this book suggests were part of an overall research project on Foucault’s part.
I have been posting updates to this blog on the work I’ve been doing on this project (see first, second, third). The remaining stages will in part depend on the publication of his lectures in French. The 1979-80 course Du gouvernement des vivants was published in October 2012; the 1980-81 course Subjectivité et verité is not yet published and may not be out until 2014. Some audio recordings of discussions related to this project can be found here.
This project tries to rethink the notion of the ‘geo’ in geopolitics, to make this connect to land, earth and the world as an alternative to the globe and globalisation. It builds on earlier work on theorisations of the world in Lefebvre, Axelos, Fink, Sloterdijk, Badiou and Meillassoux. The idea is to put these philosophies of the world into dialogue with empirical concerns. Taking up various questions it intends to raise a wide range of philosophical, political and historical issues about how we think of the world, the globe and beyond. It enables a thinking of such diverse themes as religion, relation, ecology, disasters and crises, the air and the subsoil, the pragmatic and the poetic. How do philosophical resources help to make sense of the global forces actively reshaping the world, its constituent states and territories? Some thoughts are outlined in a paper under the title of ‘Earth’ (audio recording here); and a keynote lecture under the title of ‘Geo-metrics’ (audio recording here).
This book project uses a number of Shakespeare’s plays to think through various aspects of the question of territory. The draft plan looks something like this:
- Divided Territories: The Geo-politics of King Lear
- Corporeal Territories: The Political Bodies of Coriolanus
- Economic Territories: Farming the Realm in Richard II
- Contested Territories: Placing the Histories
- Colonial Territories: Antony and Cleopatra, Pericles and The Tempest
- Vulnerable Territories: External Powers in Hamlet and Macbeth
- Measuring Territories: The Techniques of Rule
- Outside Territory: The Forest in As You Like It and Titus Andronicus
The argument is that while Shakespeare only uses the words ‘territory’ and ‘territories’ rarely, the concept is not marginal to his work. A number of his plays are structured around related issues of exile, banishment, land politics, spatial division, contestation, conquest and succession. Shakespeare was writing at the end of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth century: a time when the modern conception of sovereign territory was emerging. He therefore helps us understand its variant aspects, tensions, ambiguities and limits. The plays are chosen because they help to exemplify different aspects of the question of territory – conceptually, historically, and politically. In using these plays I hope to illustrate the multi-faceted nature of territory as word, concept and practice, and to shed light on the way we understand territory and territorial disputes today.
An audio recording of a lecture under this title given at the University of Warwick on 3 October 2012 is available here. There is discussion of my wider work on territory, this project, and the bulk of the lecture is a discussion of Hamlet. Other audio recordings of presentations of parts of this project are available here.