Michel Foucault, Folie, Langage, Litterature, edited by Henri-Paul Fruchaud, Daniele Lorenzini and Judith Revel, Vrin, September 2019
The latest collection of pieces from the archive, with an introduction by Judith Revel.
La folie, le langage et la littérature ont longtemps occupé une place centrale dans la pensée de Michel Foucault. Quels sont le statut et la fonction du fou dans nos sociétés « occidentales », et en quoi se différencient-t-ils de ce qu’ils peuvent être dans d’autres sociétés? Mais également : quelle étrange parenté la folie entretient-elle avec le langage et la littérature, qu’il s’agisse du théâtre baroque, du théâtre d’Artaud ou de l’œuvre de Roussel? Et, s’il s’agit de s’intéresser au langage dans sa matérialité, comment l’analyse littéraire s’est-elle elle-même transformée, en particulier sous l’influence croisée du structuralisme et de la linguistique, et dans quelle direction évolue-t-elle?
Les conférences et les textes, pour la plupart inédits, réunis ici illustrent la manière dont, à partir des années 1960 et pendant plus d’une décennie, Foucault n’a eu de cesse de tisser, de reformuler et de reprendre ces questionnements. Éclairant d’un jour nouveau des thématiques que l’on croyait connaître, ils permettent également de percevoir l’étonnant regard de lecteur que Foucault portait par exemple sur La Recherche de l’Absolu de Balzac, ou sur La Tentation de saint Antoine et Bouvard et Pécuchet de Flaubert.
‘Foucault in the Valley of Death‘ – Andrew Marzoni on Simeon Wade’s Foucault in California in The Baffler (online and in issue #46).
I spoke to Marzoni by phone during his research for this piece, and am briefly quoted in it. Although it uses the Wade memoir, it goes quite a way beyond that, and quotes the correspondence between Foucault and Wade which is now archived at USC.
THE FIRST TIME that Simeon Wade read Michel Foucault was in a graduate seminar at Harvard in the 1960s. Madness and Civilization had been translated into English in 1965, and the book excited Wade, who had been vice president of the Baptist student union at the College of William and Mary only a few years earlier. But it was The Order of Things, a bestseller in France upon its publication in 1966, that caused the young Marxist to “discard Hegelianism,” as he later explained, for the humanistic “equivalent of Watson and Crick’s analysis of the double helix.” Wade earned a doctorate in the intellectual history of Western civilization in 1968, writing a thesis on “The Idea of Luxury in Eighteenth-Century England,” and after teaching in Boston for a couple of years, hitched a ride with his fraternity brother Jet Thomas, who had officiated the wedding of Gram Parsons, to California, where Thomas owned a cabin on Mount Baldy. [continues here]
Judith Butler: When Killing Women Isn’t a Crime – interview with George Yancy in The New York Times. Thanks to Morris Kaplan for the link.
Among other things it talks of her forthcoming book The Force of Non-Violence, forthcoming with Verso (and distributed by Penguin).
I reached out to the philosopher Judith Butler last year, not long after I wrote an article titled “I Am A Sexist,” as the #MeToo movement was in full swing. I hoped to get an unvarnished critique of the essay. I got much more: A bracing and profound exchange that led to this interview and the reminder that violence against women, in its many forms, is a global tragedy.
Judith Butler is known for her decades of work in philosophy, feminism and activism worldwide. A professor in the department of comparative literature and the program of critical theory at the University of California, Berkeley, she is the author of numerous influential books, including “Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly” and the forthcoming book, “The Force of Non-Violence.” The interview was conducted by email.
Achille Mbembe, Necropolitics – Duke University Press, October 2019
In Necropolitics Achille Mbembe, a leader in the new wave of francophone critical theory, theorizes the genealogy of the contemporary world, a world plagued by ever-increasing inequality, militarization, enmity, and terror as well as by a resurgence of racist, fascist, and nationalist forces determined to exclude and kill. He outlines how democracy has begun to embrace its dark side—what he calls its “nocturnal body”—which is based on the desires, fears, affects, relations, and violence that drove colonialism. This shift has hollowed out democracy, thereby eroding the very values, rights, and freedoms liberal democracy routinely celebrates. As a result, war has become the sacrament of our times in a conception of sovereignty that operates by annihilating all those considered enemies of the state. Despite his dire diagnosis, Mbembe draws on post-Foucauldian debates on biopolitics, war, and race as well as Fanon’s notion of care as a shared vulnerability to explore how new conceptions of the human that transcend humanism might come to pass. These new conceptions would allow us to encounter the Other not as a thing to exclude but as a person with whom to build a more just world.
‘Necropolitics’ is the title of perhaps Mbembe’s best known essay in English, but I believe this is a translation of the French book Politics de l’inimitié. Thanks to Derek Gregory for the alert, in a post which rounds up a number of interesting forthcoming books from Duke.
My article ‘Why should people interested in territory read Shakespeare?‘ is now published in Territory, Politics, Governance. It’s been available online for a while, but is now officially in an issue of the journal. If you don’t have institutional access, then the first 50 downloads are open access (here), but if that no longer works, please email me for a copy. The article is a summary of some of the themes of my book Shakespearean Territories (University of Chicago Press, 2018). My thanks to the editors of the journal, particularly Martin Jones for the invitation to write this piece.
This paper argues that territory is more than a simple concept, and that William Shakespeare is a valuable guide to understanding its complexities. Shakespeare’s plays explore many aspects of geography, politics and territory. They include ideas about the division of kingdoms in King Lear, the struggle over its control in Macbeth and many of the English history plays, to the vulnerability of small territories with powerful neighbours in Hamlet. However, the plays also help us to understand the legal and economic issues around territory, of the importance of technical innovations around surveying and cartography, and the importance of landscapes and bodies. Shakespeare is especially interesting because debates in political theory at this time concerned a recognizably modern understanding, and European states were consolidating their own rule, marking boundaries and seizing colonial possessions. Shakespeare dramatizes many of these themes, from The Tempest to plays set in the Eastern Mediterranean such as Othello. Territory is a word, concept and practice, and their interrelation is explored with Shakespeare as a guide. This builds on the author’s previous work on territory, but also develops the understanding further, especially around the colonial, corporeal and geophysical. Historical work on our contemporary concepts can also be revealing of our present.
Hannah Arendt on What Freedom and Revolution Really Mean – previously unpublished essay at LitHub (also in print in The New England Review). Thanks to Peter Gratton for the link.
In the 1960s, some years after the publication of her book On Revolution, Hannah Arendt lived in a world of revolutionary events, to which she was particularly sensitive. Such events included the expulsion of Krushchev in the Soviet Union; the construction of the Berlin Wall dividing Germany into two states; the Cuban missile crisis; the so-called “Quiet Revolution” in Canada, nationalistic in character; the Civil Rights movements here and abroad; anti-war protests, some of which were deadly, here and in Europe; military coups in South Korea, Vietnam, and Greece; Pope John XXIII’s profoundly revolutionary Second Vatican Council; the horror of the Cultural Revolution in China; the scientific revolution best known as “the conquest of space”; and the ongoing decolonization and independence battles in formerly imperial domains.
This manuscript, never before published, is marked “A Lecture” and dated “1966-67.” Where and when it was delivered, or if it was delivered, is not known. The manuscript seems too long for a single lecture. It might have been given at the University of Chicago where Arendt was teaching at the time in the School on Social Thought. Or it could have been at the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research, which Arendt agreed to join in 1967, primarily to be in New York, close to her husband, Heinrich Bluecher, who was unwell. The where and when of the lecture have not been confirmed, though extant records have been thoroughly searched.
“The Truth That Hurts, or the Corps à Corps of Tongues: An interview with Jacques Derrida” – new translation in Parallax (requires subscription), No abstract, so first note below:
1 Translator’s note [TN]: What follows is a translation of an interview with Jacques Derrida conducted by Évelyne Grossman in December 2003. The interview, entitled ‘La vérité blessante, ou le corps à corps des langues’, was published in the French journal Europe in May 2004, five months before Derrida’s death. A portion of the interview was translated into English by Thomas Dutoit and published in 2005 in the collection Sovereignties in Question: The Poetics of Paul Celan. I would like to thank the editor-in-chief of Europe, Jean-Baptiste Para, as well as Évelyne Grossman, Thomas Dutoit, and Pierre Alferi for allowing us to translate and publish the interview in this special issue of parallax. I would also like to express my gratitude to Donald Cross and Eric Prenowitz, who helped me revise this translation. A few words about the title: the phrase ‘La vérité blessante’ is a play on the French expression il n’y a que la vérité qui blesse – a rough equivalent of ‘only truth hurts’. The French verb blesser can refer to a physical wounding but also to a moral offence, to the hurting of someone’s feelings. The homophony with the English ‘blessing’ might be a deliberate choice by Derrida and Grossman – a hypothesis that the themes addressed in the interview could certainly back up. I have decided to leave the French expression corps à corps as such, both in the title and in the interview. The French phrase literally means ‘body(ies)-to-body(ies)’. It usually refers to a close encounter, a duel, a hand-to-hand combat or attack that involves bodily contact. It can be a form of wrestling, generally without mediation, at least without long-distance weaponry: ‘body-to-body’. But the expression is also used to refer to sexual embrace, intercourse or lovemaking. Both dimensions are present in the interview; in the title, the erotic, corporeal connotation is highlighted by the proximity of langues, ‘languages’ or ‘tongues’.
Alex Jeffrey, The Edge of Law: Legal Geographies of a War Crimes Court – Cambridge University Press, December 2019
The Edge of Law explores the spatial implications of establishing a new legal institution in the wake of violent conflict. Using the example of the establishment of the War Crimes Chamber of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Alex Jeffrey argues that legal processes constantly demarcate a line of inclusion and exclusion: materially, territorially and corporally. In contrast to accounts that have focused on the judicial outcomes of these transitional justice efforts, The Edge of Law draws on long-term fieldwork in Bosnia and Herzegovina to focus on the social and political consequences of the trials, tracing the fraught mechanisms that have been used by international and local political elites to convey their legitimacy. This book will be of interest to socio-legal and geographical scholars working in the fields of transitional justice, legal systems, critical geopolitics and criminology.