Peter Cryle and Elizabeth Stephens, Normality: A Critical Genealogy, University of Chicago Press, 2017

9780226484051.jpgPeter Cryle and Elizabeth Stephens, Normality: A Critical Genealogy, University of Chicago Press, 2017

The concept of normal is so familiar that it can be hard to imagine contemporary life without it. Yet the term entered everyday speech only in the mid-twentieth century. Before that, it was solely a scientific term used primarily in medicine to refer to a general state of health and the orderly function of organs. But beginning in the middle of the twentieth century, normal broke out of scientific usage, becoming less precise and coming to mean a balanced condition to be maintained and an ideal to be achieved.

In Normality, Peter Cryle and Elizabeth Stephens offer an intellectual and cultural history of what it means to be normal. They explore the history of how communities settle on any one definition of the norm, along the way analyzing a fascinating series of case studies in fields as remote as anatomy, statistics, criminal anthropology, sociology, and eugenics. Cryle and Stephens argue that since the idea of normality is so central to contemporary disability, gender, race, and sexuality studies, scholars in these fields must first have a better understanding of the context for normality. This pioneering book moves beyond binaries to explore for the first time what it does—and doesn’t—mean to be normal.

via Normality: A Critical Genealogy (2017) on Foucault News

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50 Years of Environment and Planning – new website, launch of EPE: Nature and Space and 50 free-to-access articles


A new website for the journals, launch of Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space, renaming of A, B and C, and 50 free to access articles from the journals.

First published in June 1969, the first issue of Environment and Planning was one of two issues that year. An immediate success, the journal quickly expanded, spawning a second series, Environment and Planning B in 1974 and adding Environment and Planning C and D in the 1980s. The launch of Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space in 2018 speaks to the extraordinary vitality of this family of journals, as well as to the remarkable contributions that the Environment and Planning series has made to the interdisciplinary study of space; the stuff of not only of human geography but today a matter of concern for a growing number of related social-science disciplines.

These achievements are those of the community of researchers, readers, reviewers that has grown up around, and with, the Environment and Planning journals. To celebrate this, and 50 years of Environment and Planning, we have invited the editors of the suite of journals, including the newly appointed editors of EPE: Nature and Space, to make a selection of articles from the now-extensive back catalogue. To mark the 50th anniversary, we are making each of these 50 articles free to access throughout 2018. We will continue to augment and develop this new website in the coming months, so that it can become a conversation space for the multidisciplinary communities that engage with the Environment and Planning journals. Please celebrate 50 years with us!

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Geoff Mann and Joel Wainwright, Climate Leviathan: A Political Theory of Our Planetary Future – now out with Verso

9781786634290-cd1f707f0730fb7a1de528215cd48d03Geoff Mann and Joel Wainwright, Climate Leviathan: A Political Theory of Our Planetary Future – now out with Verso.

Despite the science and the summits, leading capitalist states have not achieved anything close to an adequate level of carbon mitigation. There is now simply no way to prevent the planet breaching the threshold of two degrees Celsius set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. What are the likely political and economic outcomes of this? Where is the overheating world heading?

To further the struggle for climate justice, we need to have some idea how the existing global order is likely to adjust to a rapidly changing environment. Climate Leviathan provides a radical way of thinking about the intensifying challenges to the global order. Drawing on a wide range of political thought, Joel Wainwright and Geoff Mann argue that rapid climate change will transform the world’s political economy and the fundamental political arrangements most people take for granted. The result will be a capitalist planetary sovereignty, a terrifying eventuality that makes the construction of viable, radical alternatives truly imperative.

“Urgent, provocative and elegantly executed, Climate Leviathan provides a map for climate politics in the stormy decades ahead. As the boat rocks ever more violently and we seek to set the compass, this work will be of foundational importance.”

– Andreas Malm, author of Fossil Capital

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Miguel de Beistegui, The Government of Desire – forthcoming with University of Chicago Press

Miguel de Beistegui, The Government of Desire: A Genealogy of the Liberal Subject – forthcoming with University of Chicago Press in May 2018.

Liberalism, Miguel de Beistegui argues in The Government of Desire, is best described as a technique of government directed towards the self, with desire as its central mechanism.  Whether as economic interest, sexual drive, or the basic longing for recognition, desire is accepted as a core component of our modern self-identities, and something we ought to cultivate. But this has not been true in all times and all places. For centuries, as far back as late antiquity and early Christianity, philosophers believed that desire was an impulse that needed to be suppressed in order for the good life, whether personal or collective, ethical or political, to flourish.  Though we now take it for granted, desire as a constitutive dimension of human nature and a positive force required a radical transformation, which coincided with the emergence of liberalism.

By critically exploring Foucault’s claim that Western civilization is a civilization of desire, de Beistegui crafts a provocative and original genealogy of this shift in thinking. He shows how the relationship between identity, desire, and government has been harnessed and transformed in the modern world, shaping our relations with others and ourselves, and establishing desire as an essential driving force for the constitution of a new and better social order. But is it? The Government of Desire argues that this is precisely what a contemporary politics of resistance must seek to overcome. By questioning the supposed universality of a politics based on recognition and the economic satisfaction of desire, de Beistegui raises the crucial question of how we can manage to be less governed today, and explores contemporary forms of counter-conduct.

​Drawing on a host of thinkers from philosophy, political theory, and psychoanalysis, and concluding with a call for a sovereign and anarchic form of desire, The Government of Desire is a groundbreaking account of our freedom and unfreedom, of what makes us both governed and ungovernable.

Daniele Lorenzini, Columbia Center for Contemporary Critical Thought

The Government of Desire is a challenging, original, and convincing attempt to address the crucial question of the forms taken by contemporary liberal and neoliberal governmentality, and of their capacity to produce and exploit subjects of desire. This fascinating book should become a fundamental reference for both students and scholars, not only in relation to Foucault studies, but more broadly within the fields of political and social philosophy.”

Leonard Lawlor, Pennsylvania State University

“Miguel de Beistegui contributes to what Foucault called a history of the present by pursuing the idea of desire across three categories: economic, sexual, and symbolic. By interweaving the historical and theoretical aspects of these together, he argues that desire is not a transcendental feature of subjectivity, but rather an ‘assemblage’ of knowledge and power. Bolstered by a remarkable amount of research, The Government of Desire is a compelling, persuasive, and original work of philosophy.”

Among many other things, this looks of real interest for its bringing together Foucault’s work on neoliberalism and governmentality into relation with his wider work on subjectivity and sexuality. Here’s the full table of contents:

Introduction: Why Desire?
Part One Homo Oeconomicus
1 The Birth of Homo Oeconomicus
2 Man’s “Vain and Insatiable Desires,” or the “Oeconomy of Greatness”
3 Neoliberal Governmentality
Part Two Homo Sexualis
4 “Abnormal Desires” and “Barbarous Instincts”: The Birth of the Sexual Pervert
5 Instincts or Drives? The Birth of Psychoanalysis
Part Three Homo Symbolicus
6 Recognition, That “Most Ardent Desire”
7 Struggles for Recognition
8 The Consolations of Recognition
Conclusion: Desire, Again . . .

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Marnia Lazreg, Foucault’s Orient: The Conundrum of Cultural Difference, From Tunisia to Japan

LazregFoucaultMarnia Lazreg, Foucault’s Orient: The Conundrum of Cultural Difference, From Tunisia to Japan – now out with Berghahn. Looks fascinating, and the use of archives and interviews should make this revealing. The Introduction is available online and has some interesting, though not unproblematic, claims. But the price for the book! £92 or $130…

Foucault lived in Tunisia for two years and travelled to Japan and Iran more than once. Yet throughout his critical scholarship, he insisted that the cultures of the “Orient” constitute the “limit” of Western rationality. Using archival research supplemented by interviews with key scholars in Tunisia, Japan and France, this book examines the philosophical sources, evolution as well as contradictions of Foucault’s experience with non-Western cultures.  Beyond tracing Foucault’s journey into the world of otherness, the book reveals the personal, political as well as methodological effects of a radical conception of cultural difference that extolled the local over the cosmopolitan.

“This is a serious and pivotal book that shows the limits of Foucault’s rejection of universalism and humanism. Lazreg’s book allows us to re-read Foucault within his boundaries.” · Massimiliano Tomba, University of Padua.


Chapter 1. The Chinese Encyclopedia and the Challenge of Difference
Chapter 2. Madness and Cultural Difference
Chapter 3. Foucault and Kant’s Cosmopolitan Anthropology
Chapter 4. Foucault’s Negative Anthropology
Chapter 5. Foucault’s Anthropology of the Iranian Revolution
Chapter 6. The Heterotopia of Tunisia
Chapter 7. The Enigma of Japan
Chapter 8. Japan and Foucault’s Anthropological Bind


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Discussion of Foucault’s Les Aveux de la chair in Quartz (in English, open access)

Olivia Goldhill, “Foucault has a new book out, and it’s the key to understanding his entire work on sexuality“, Quartz, 14 February 2018

Another piece on Foucault’s Les Aveux de la chair, including some quotes from me. I’ve added this to the list of pieces on the book.

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“Michel Foucault, l’Iran et le pouvoir du spirituel” – previously unpublished 1979 interview

16420742.jpgMichel Foucault, l’Iran et le pouvoir du spirituel – previously unpublished 1979 interview in Bibliobs (requires subscription). A shorter version is published in the print version of L’Obs, 8 February 2018. I have the print version, but if anyone can access the online version please let me know.

Many thanks to Sebastian Budgen for the link.

C’est un document fascinant, daté du 1979 et retrouvé l’année dernière dans ses archives: un entretien avec “l’Obs”, jamais publié, où le philosophe justifie son intérêt pour la révolution iranienne et défend la spiritualité comme force politique. Le voici dans son intégralité.

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Territory’s Value: An Interdisciplinary Workshop with Charles Maier, Queen Mary, University of London, 14 February 2018

This afternoon at Queen Mary I’ll be speaking about my work on Shakespeare in a workshop on Territory’s Value with Charles Maier and many others.

Progressive Geographies

QM Territory14 February 2018, Territory’s Value: An Interdisciplinary Workshop with Charles Maier, Queen Mary, University of London,Francis Bancroft Building, Room 3.26 (see here for a map of the campus).

I’ll be speaking about my forthcoming book Shakespearean Territories.

Registration is free, but required.

A half-day symposium bringing together scholars from across London and the UK to discuss themes of territory and its relationship to political struggle and to the history of the political more broadly. From empire to secessionism to populism, what work does territory do? How is it imagined and reconstructed over time? Professor Maier will respond to the papers presented.

Co-hosted by the Schools of History, Law and Geography and the QMUL Centres for Law and Society in a Global Context (CLGSC) and History of Political Thought(CHPT).

Chaired by Simon Reid-Henry (QMUL)


Territory and States – Joe Painter (Durham)

Territory beyond Terra – Phil Steinberg (Durham)

View original post 42 more words

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Big Cities – Small Changes: Thinking Creatively Through Urban Infrastructure – British Academy, 20 Feb 2018

Big Cities – Small Changes: Thinking Creatively Through Urban Infrastructure

Tuesday 20 February 2018, 9.00am – 4.30pm
The British Academy, 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, SW1Y 5AH

Full details available here – Big Cities – Small Changes 20 Feb (pdf)

If you’d like to attend please contact Hayley Fowler

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‘Key’ fourth book of Foucault’s History of Sexuality published in France – The Guardian

untitled‘Key’ fourth book of Foucault’s History of Sexuality published in France

There is a discussion of Foucault’s Les Aveux de la chair in The Guardian including some quotes from John Forrester, the editor Frédéric Gros, and me.


I’ve added this to the list of media discussion of the book on this site.

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