Reece Jones, White Borders: The History of Race and Immigration in the United States from Chinese Exclusion to the Border Wall – Beacon 2021

Now published – a powerful, compelling and unfortunately necessary study.

Progressive Geographies

Reece Jones, White Borders: The History of Race and Immigration in the United States from Chinese Exclusion to the Border Wall – Beacon, September 2021

The first book to show that racial exclusion was behind all of the United States’ immigration laws–from Chinese Exclusion through the Trump presidency.

While many Americans believe there have always been rules about who could enter the country, the reality is that the first national immigration law was not passed until 1875, ninety-nine years after the Declaration of Independence. As the first non-white Chinese immigrants arrived, Congress passed laws to ban them. In each era that followed, the fear of “the great replacement” of whites with non-white immigrations drove the push for more restrictions. Although the US is often mythologized as a nation of immigrants, the mainstreaming of anti-immigrant politics by Trump in 2016 was a reversion to the ugly norm of the past.

In…

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Journal peer review is increasingly challenged – there are no easy solutions, but here’s a few thoughts

Journal editors struggle to find reviewers; authors face unreasonable delays with their papers being reviewed. Reviewers receive a lot of requests. Peer review is particularly challenged in the present moment. But it has been creaking for a long time. Without thinking I have a solution that will fix it, a few minor ideas, based on my experience as author, reviewer, board member, and editor, both with established publishers and with a start-up independent journal. The key point here is that there is not a simple solution; and that the responses need to be from all parts of the process.

Authors – only submit papers which are ready, try to get comments from supervisors/mentors/colleagues first. Too many submitted papers are a draft or two away from being ready for review. Do some basic research on the journal you’re submitting to – too many papers are sent to an inappropriate journal. Remember, each paper you submit carries an implicit requirement to review in your turn.

Colleagues – be willing to read papers for people, especially early career, to help them shape a piece, decide an appropriate journal, etc. Certainly be willing to sit down with the author, a paper and its reviews and help guide the resubmission process. This can be done informally, or through research group/cluster or department-level inititives – manuscript development support, workshops, etc.

Editors – make decisions yourself or as part of an editorial team. Not all papers need to go for review. Don’t use reviewers unless you think this paper has a good chance of appearing in the journal. Don’t waste the reviewer resource. Try to pick reviewers with a bit more thought than ‘this is a paper on X; Y has worked on X; let’s ask Y’. Try to find earlier career researchers rather than just the usual suspects. Use your board for the really tricky papers, not as a default option. When a revised paper comes back, do you need reviewers again, and do you need reviewers again now? If the author clearly hasn’t addressed the reports sufficiently, or provided a list of changes made, send it back to them first, rather than straight to reviewers.

Be willing to work with reviewers, especially early career reviewers, to say – this was a great review; or please don’t copyedit a paper; or you have clearly spent far too much time on this; or this is inappropriate reviewer behaviour; etc. If a reviewer says ‘no’ then move on, don’t argue with them. You have no idea what else they are doing, life situation, etc. If they offer alternative suggestions be grateful, but don’t expect this as a default – thinking of suitable names takes time, which if they had they might well have done the review. Asking your board members for advice on suitable reviewers on a paper might be a more appropriate use of their role than always asking them to review.

Reviewers – either accept or decline within a few days; don’t sit on requests. Do your fair share, but don’t feel you have to do everything asked (a rough guide is here). A clear no is better than a yes that never appears. Suggest alternatives if you can. If you accept to do a review, block out some time in your diary in the next month or so to do the review. You should know roughly how long the average paper takes you to review. If you can’t find that time in your diary, then you can’t take on the review. If you’re struggling to meet the deadline, talk to the editor/journal manager. Most editors will be grateful for a review that you say will be delivered by a specific date, even if that is a bit longer than normal. And much rather that than a yes that turns into a no.

Publishers – make it clear that you will invest resource in thorough copyediting and if necessary language assistance, and then make it clear to reviewers they should review on the basis of the ideas and argument, not the language used or (to an extent) presentation. Allow authors to submit in any recognised/consistent reference style, and make it clear that they should follow your journal’s style only after conditional acceptance. Make your review websites easy to navigate and use. Provide adequate support to your editors to allow them to do their job, and especially the part of their job only academic editors can do.

I’m sure I’ve missed things, and equally sure not all of these would suit every journal all the time. But it’s a collective problem that needs each part of the process to do something. Maybe our institutions should do something too to recognise this work. And of course, not all requests to review come from journals, but that’s a wider point. I should say I remain unconvinced by the ‘pay reviewers’ argument, unless we also want to pay to submit, and/or for reviews to be done even more transactionally than they are now. It would also be a real problem for journals published by small presses, or independent ones, even if we think the big publishers are making unreasonable profits.

Update: to clarify, by ‘early/earlier career researchers’ I mean people with PhDs, i.e. post-docs, beginning lecturers/assistant professors. I don’t mean PhD researchers.

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Books received – Dumézil, Brossat and Lorenzini, Bene and Deleuze, Kristeva, de Libera, Morton, Gramsci

Some recently received books, including the English and Spanish versions of Adam David Morton, Revolution and State in Modern Mexico (sent by Adam), the new collection Foucault et… Les liaisons dangereuses de Michel Foucault, edited by Alain Brossat and Daniele Lorenzini (sent by Vrin), and Gramsci’s Subaltern Social Groups: A Critical Edition of Prison Notebook 25. The others were bought second-hand, including a bit of a find – Georges Dumézil’s Flamen-Brahman from 1935, in good condition and at a price that I almost felt I should have told the seller they didn’t know what they had…

Posted in Adam David Morton, Antonio Gramsci, Georges Dumézil, Gilles Deleuze, Julia Kristeva, Michel Foucault | Leave a comment

Jean-Marie Guyau, The Ethics of Epicurus and its Relation to Contemporary Doctrines, edited by Keith Ansell Pearson and Federico Testa – Bloomsbury, October 2021

Jean-Marie Guyau, The Ethics of Epicurus and its Relation to Contemporary Doctrines, edited by Keith Ansell Pearson and Federico Testa – Bloomsbury, October 2021. Now published –

Progressive Geographies

Jean-Marie Guyau, The Ethics of Epicurus and its Relation to Contemporary Doctrines, edited by Keith Ansell Pearson and Federico Testa – Bloomsbury, October 2021

This is the first English translation of a compelling and highly original reading of Epicurus by Jean-Marie Guyau. This book has long been recognized as one of the best and most concerted attempts to explore one of the most important, yet controversial ancient philosophers whose thought, Guyau claims, remains vital to modern and contemporary culture. Throughout the text we are introduced to the origins of the philosophy of pleasure in Ancient Greece, with Guyau clearly demonstrating how this idea persists through the history of philosophy and how it is an essential trait in the Western tradition.

With an introduction by Keith Ansell-Pearson and Federico Testa, which contextualizes the work of Guyau within the canon of French thought, and notes on both further reading and on…

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Martin Jay, Genesis and Validity: The Theory and Practice of Intellectual History – University of Pennsylvania Press, November 2021

Martin Jay, Genesis and Validity: The Theory and Practice of Intellectual History – University of Pennsylvania Press, November 2021

There is no more contentious and perennial issue in the history of modern Western thought than the vexed relationship between the genesis of an idea and its claim to validity beyond it. Can ideas or values transcend their temporal origins and overcome the sin of their original context, and in so doing earn abiding respect for their intrinsic merit? Or do they inevitably reflect them in ways that undermine their universal aspirations? Are discrete contexts so incommensurable and unique that the smooth passage of ideas from one to the other is impossible? Are we always trapped by the limits of our own cultural standpoints and partial perspectives, or can we somehow escape their constraints and enter into a fruitful dialogue with others?

These persistent questions are at the heart of the discipline known as intellectual history, which deals not only with ideas, but also with the men and women who generate, disseminate, and criticize them. The essays in this collection, by one of the most recognized figures in the field, address them through engagement with leading intellectual historians—Hans Blumenberg, Quentin Skinner, Hayden White, Isaiah Berlin, Frank Ankersmit—as well other giants of modern thought—Max Weber, Emile Durkheim, Georg Simmel, Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, and Georg Lukács. They touch on a wide variety of related topics, ranging from the heroism of modern life to the ability of photographs to lie. In addition, they explore the fraught connections between philosophy and theory, the truth of history and the truthfulness of historians, and the weaponization of free speech for other purposes.


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Thomas Nail, Theory of the Object – Edinburgh University Press, September 2021

Thomas Nail, Theory of the Object – Edinburgh University Press, September 2021

Describes a new, systematic process philosophy of science and technology focused on the agency and mobility of objects

Tells the first history of Western science and technology focused on the agency and mobility of objects

Argues that objects are metastable processes, not discrete things, unlike other theories that consider objects as passive and static

Surveys many areas of contemporary thought including new materialism and speculative realism as well as quantum theory, category theory and chaos theory

Throughout the history of science and technology, objects have been understood in many ways but rarely have they been understood to play an active role in the production of knowledge. This has led to largely anthropocentric theories and histories of science, which treat nature as passive objects viewed by independent observers.

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Michel Foucault, “Literature and Madness: Madness in the Baroque Theatre and the Theatre of Artaud”, Theory, Culture and Society (requires subscription)

Michel Foucault, “Literature and Madness: Madness in the Baroque Theatre and the Theatre of Artaud”, Theory, Culture and Society (requires subscription)

A translation of a piece by Foucault, online first in Theory, Culture and Society – part of the special issue on ‘Foucault before the Collège de France’ I am co-editing with Orazio Irrera and Daniele Lorenzini. The translation is by Nancy Luxon, and the text appeared in French in Critique and then Folie, Langage, Littérature, edited by Henri-Paul Fruchaud, Daniele Lorenzini and Judith Revel, Paris: Vrin, 2019.

Literature and madness dominate Michel Foucault’s early writings in the 1960s, and indeed much of his career. In this text, Foucault considers the relation between madness, language, and silence; the difficult frontier between language and literary convention; and the experience of madness within language. He moves from a meditation on madness, to a rare commentary on theatre, stagecraft, and Artaud, and finishes by considering literature’s capacity for rupture. ‘Literature and Madness’ is a translation of a text written by Foucault in the 1960s, and recently published in Folie, langage, littérature, ed. Henri-Paul Fruchaud, Daniele Lorenzini and Judith Revel (Paris: Vrin, 2019, 89–109). This version includes a translator’s introduction by Nancy Luxon and was given a distinct subtitle to distinguish it from a similar lecture with the same title in that volume.

The other papers so far available from this issue are listed here, along with some video abstracts. Some of the papers are available open access, others require subscription.

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“Michel Foucault psychologue ?” par Philippe Sabot et Elisabetta Basso Maison Européenne des Sciences de l’Homme et de la Société, 25 novembre 2021, Lille.

Foucault News

“Michel Foucault psychologue ?” par Philippe Sabot et Elisabetta Basso Maison Européenne des Sciences de l’Homme et de la Société, 25 novembre 2021, Lille, France

“Michel Foucault psychologue ?” par Philippe Sabot et Elisabetta Basso Maison Européenne des Sciences de l’Homme et de la Société, 25 novembre 2021, Lille.
“Michel Foucault psychologue ?” par Philippe Sabot et Elisabetta Basso
Maison Européenne des Sciences de l’Homme et de la Société, le jeudi 25 novembre à 18:00

De 1952 à 1955, Michel Foucault est assistant de psychologie à la Faculté des Lettres de Lille. C’est là qu’il rédige un ouvrage sur Ludwig Binswanger (1881-1966) fondateur de l’analyse existentielle. Resté à l’état de manuscrit, il est publié par les soins d’Elisabetta Basso. On prend la mesure de l’intérêt porté par Foucault à la psychiatrie et à la psychologie et de leur importance dans sa formation. Si sa recherche bifurque à partir de 1961…

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My first book, Mapping the Present is 20 years old…

It was twenty years ago today that my first book, Mapping the Present: Heidegger, Foucault and the Project of a Spatial History was published. I received an advance on 4 October 2001. The contract was signed with Athlone, who became Continuum before the book actually appeared, and now is with Bloomsbury Academic. For an academic book and one by a first-time author I was told that it sold quite well. The original print run is long gone. Unfortunately it’s continued to go up in price, and is now rather expensive, even if it’s just print-on-demand. There are pdfs circulating of course…

I am very grateful to Tristan Palmer, the editor working with the Key Writings Lefebvre collection, who asked for my cv. Eleonore Kofman and Elizabeth Lebas had asked me to be involved in the project, and Tristan wanted to see who this new guy was. This would have been late 1998 I think, as I remember him saying “who’s publishing your PhD?” I was in early discussion with another publisher, but he was keen, got reports on a proposal quickly, and so it ended up with them. I didn’t quite have a contract before my viva, but it was pretty close. I realise this is unusual, even at the time, and so I count myself very fortunate.

When I did submit it, the two reports on the manuscript were really positive – basically both said publish as is. I don’t think I had to make any changes. This has never happened since! Of course it had gone through careful reading by my PhD supervisor, Mark Neocleous, and two examiners, Michael Dillon and Kevin Hetherington. Although the PhD was passed with only five typos, I did take the viva seriously and made some changes as a result. Among these, the Nietzsche chapter was cut out with some parts redistributed, the Introduction reworked, some other editing, but it wasn’t that different. I did that editing work in a very dark ‘garden flat’ in Leamington Spa, in my first year at University of Warwick (the first time I was there, on a series of temporary contracts). Derek Gregory and Barry Smart wrote the lovely endorsements – and I think they must have been the readers too.

It’s obviously an important book for me given how much I’ve done since on Foucault, but my Lefebvre work began around this time too – there was a Lefebvre chapter in the PhD which didn’t make the final version, but was the germ of what became my second book, Understanding Henri Lefebvre, along with the editing work I got involved with, which also continues. And my third book, Speaking Against Number, picked up and developed some of the Heidegger themes, and part of it was a proper answer to a question Mick asked in the viva. The ‘spatial’ angle put me in conversation with Geography, and I remember in particular Jeremy Crampton talking about it on crit-geog-forum (back when that was worth reading). I met and worked with Jeremy only later. The reviews in Geography journals, and some pieces I wrote for them helped secure the post at Durham, so it’s a book that opened up a lot of what I did subsequently.

The Foucault reading in the book was based on essentially what Foucault himself published, with the enormous benefit of Dits et écrits collecting almost all of the shorter pieces. (The challenge of locating those pieces before this would have been huge, especially as this was well before online resources became as widely available.) The first Collège de France lecture course came out in 1997, late in the work for the PhD. There is obviously a lot more available now – far more than Foucault published himself. Taking account of all of this, beginning with the courses, led to the work which became Foucault’s Last Decade and its prequels many years later.

I never did understand the cover. I quite like the colour, and the black inner cover of the original (now lost with the print-on-demand version). But the brain scans were always an odd choice. I used to call it the Grateful Dead album cover choice. And its subtitle really should have been … and the Politics of a Spatial History. Even today, my experience is that authors and editors tend to lose struggles with publishers on two things, covers and titles. (Polity and University of Chicago Press are the exceptions!) And my titles have got shorter too.

A lot of the book was written in West London, where I lived in various shared houses during the PhD, and in the two places I mention in the acknowledgements, just outside of Bath and Chamonix in the Alps. I did a lot of work in libraries too, especially at the British Library, then in the old reading room of the British Museum, and at the University of Essex, on trips home to see family. The book is dedicated to my Dad, who died about a year before I submitted the PhD. And in between submitting the thesis and revising it as a book, I met Susan. So it’s a book that has a personal history as well as an intellectual one for me.

Posted in Derek Gregory, Foucault's Last Decade, Henri Lefebvre, Mapping the Present, Mark Neocleous, Martin Heidegger, Michael Dillon, Michel Foucault, Speaking Against Number, Understanding Henri Lefebvre | 3 Comments

Stuart Elden: The Early Foucault reviewed by Michael Maiden, Phenomenological Reviews

The Early Foucault (Polity, 2021) is reviewed by Michael Maiden at Phenomenological Reviews

Stuart Elden’s The Early Foucault is the third of a four-volume study of the origins and development of Michel Foucault’s thought. This book is the first one regarding the period it covers, basically the 1950s, but it is the third to be published. It will be soon followed by a fourth and final book, that will cover the ‘archaeological’ period and Foucault’s forays into art history and literary criticism. External factors explain the disconnect between the order of production and the chronology. Elden’s first two books dealt with the publication of Foucault’s lectures at the Collège de France. The publication of the Lectures began in 1997, with the publication of the sixth lecture, Il faut défendre la société (1975-1876). Additional volumes followed it, released not in the order of their delivery by Foucault, but on the availability of audio recordings of the lectures. Foucault’s preparatory notes and other ancillary materials later supplemented and eventually displaced the recordings. Elden’s earlier books responded to the availability of the Lectures and the will to integrate the new material into a coherent picture.The First Foucault and the forthcoming book on Archaeology deal with the archive material made available to the public in recent years. This material includes reading and preparatory notes, lectures of the period before his appointment to The College de France, manuscripts in different degrees of development, philosophical diaries, bibliographies, etc.

Elden is one of the first to attempt a synthetic picture of this wealth of materials. He relies on archival material from Foucault and his contemporaries, detailed comparisons between different editions of published works, and a thorough familiarity with the secondary literature. [continues here]

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