The Early Foucault Update 13: Writing during Termtime

IMG_2883Even though it is now well into term, with all the things that entails, I have been able to make small bits of progress on The Early Foucault manuscript. I’ve said before how I try to write for two hours in the morning before going onto campus, which can make for some long days but equally means I’m moving things forward, however slowly. In conversations with several colleagues about their summer writing, there was a constant theme of ‘and of course I won’t look at again until Christmas’. I try not to work that way.

On the last writing day before term began, I made a list of small, discrete tasks which I thought could be done in short periods of time. Some were things I could do on campus when there were odd moments spare – collect things from the library, scan old journal articles from things that are not online, fill out inter-library loan forms, check references to things I have in the office. Others were bits of writing – a paragraph or part of a section – that I thought I could do in short periods of time. Some days, writing is excruciating; most days it’s just hard work. But a bit each day adds up. Even adding 200 or 300 words a day or a few times a week keeps things ticking along.

In the introduction to Binswanger’s ‘Dream and Existence’, Foucault quotes from René Char’s Partage Formel. David Macey highlights this as an early instance of Foucault’s slapdash referencing, and I wanted to check them all to see how bad it was. It’s made harder to spot because the editors of Dits et écrits and the English translator have silently corrected or completed most or all of them. So it was a case of checking the original 1954 text. There are five passages – one as the epigraph and four late in the text Foucault only provides references for two of the five, and one of those is incorrect. Not a great score.

I also followed up on a source Macey references about the Fresnes prison, which led me to another piece about the Centre National d’Orientation where Foucault worked with Jacqueline Verdeaux. I’ve said before how meagre the sources are for this part of Foucault’s career, so these helped fill in a bit more detail.

As before, checking the original source of early publications – as opposed to the reprint in Dits et écrits – yielded a few helpful bits of evidence. There are also some helpful documentary sources collected in later editions of Didier Eribon’s biography or by Phiippe Artières and his colleagues in French collections. These were also things that I could re-read and write about in short bursts of writing. Another small task was going back over some references in the von Weizsäcker translation made by Foucault and Daniel Rocher, and reworking a few paragraphs in the discussion of that text.

I’ve also got a list of things I know I need to write which will take me longer than a couple of hours. I’m saving those back for when I have a day or two I can devote to writing. Although it is not ideal, I think you can  build up longer texts from smaller pieces, rather than wait for the time to write whole sections or chapters in one go or in sequence. A paragraph or two in a short writing session, or a section in a day all adds up, and I’m making slow, but steady progress on building up material. It might be obvious, but this is in no sense linear work – I have bits of Chapters 1-4 and 8-10 written and lots of working files of notes for other sections.


The previous updates on this project are here; and Foucault’s Last Decade and Foucault: The Birth of Power are now both available from Polity. Several Foucault research resources such as bibliographies, short translations, textual comparisons and so on are available here. On the related Canguilhem project, see this page.

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“I have endeavoured to tidy up Sartre’s haphazard references…”

Jonathan Webber on one of the tasks of a translator or editor:

“I have endeavoured to tidy up Sartre’s haphazard references, giving full bibliographical information, but this has not always been possible. I have not added references where Sartre gave none”.

“Notes on the Translation”, in Jean-Paul Sartre, The Imaginary, p. xxx

I have done this quite a bit – for Lefebvre’s Metaphilosophy (some comments here), Axelos’s Introduction to a Future Way of Thought (see here and here), and also for some earlier Lefebvre translations – Key Writings (with Eleonore Kofman and Elizabeth Lebas),
(with Gerald Moore), and State, Space, World (with Neil Brenner). I’ve tended to try to find the missing references, not just correct though. And at some point fairly soon I’m going to be doing it again…

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Books received – Derrida, Sartre and Quarmby

IMG_2893 copy.jpgA few books received in recompense for review work for Routledge – some older works by Derrida and Sartre, King Leir – the anonymous play which precedes the one by Shakespeare with the similar title, and The Disguised Ruler in Shakespeare and his Contemporaries by Kevin A. Quarmby.

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Building Ruptures, Architectural History Symposium and Exhibition, UCL 27 Oct 2017

UCLLater this month I’ll be speaking at Building Ruptures, an Architectural History Symposium and Exhibition, at the Bartlett School of University College London, 27 October 2017.

Please join the MA Architectural History 2016/17 cohort for Building Ruptures, a symposium, exhibition and publication launch. Building Ruptures will feature a series of position papers from guest speakers, presentations by graduating students, discussions with guest respondents and an exhibition of students’ work. The symposium sessions will cover a diverse range of topics including territories and places, materialities and subjectivities, histories and materialisms, site writing and theorising practices.

The symposium will feature Stuart Elden, Owen Hatherley and Katie Lloyd Thomas as speakers and Jon Astbury as a respondent.

The event is free and open to all with no registration required.

Presentations and discussions from 10am until 5.30pm, followed by a performance by Sean McBride (of Martial Canterel / Xeno & Oaklander), publication launch and drinks

Full details here


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Territory Beyond Terra, edited by Kimberley Peters, Philip Steinberg, and Elaine Stratford – forthcoming in December 2017

Now in production, with a scheduled date of early 2018 (see

Progressive Geographies

593b8b09f5ba741adc68db03Territory Beyond Terra, edited by Kimberley Peters, Philip Steinberg, and Elaine Stratford – forthcoming in December 2017.

At the root of our understanding of territory is the concept of terra—land—a surface of fixed points with stable features that can be calculated, categorised, and controlled. But what of the many spaces on Earth that defy this simplistic characterisation: Oceans in which ‘places’ are continuously re-formed? Air that can never be fully contained? Watercourses that obtain their value by transcending boundaries?

This book examines the politics of these spaces to shed light on the challenges of our increasingly dynamic world. Through a focus on the planet’s elements, environments, and edges, the contributors to Territory beyond Terra extend our understanding of territory to the dynamic, contentious spaces of contemporary politics.

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Tobias Menely and Jesse Oak Taylor (eds.), Anthropocene Reading: Literary History in Geologic Times – now out

978-0-271-07872-4md_294Tobias Menely and Jesse Oak Taylor (eds.), Anthropocene Reading: Literary History in Geologic Times – now out from Penn State Press. Apparently you can reduce the price by 30% with the code TMJT17 when ordered direct from the publisher (thanks to In the Middle for the link).

Few terms have garnered more attention recently in the sciences, humanities, and public sphere than the Anthropocene, the proposed epoch in which a human “signature” appears in the lithostratigraphic record. Anthropocene Reading considers the implications of this concept for literary history and critical method.

Entering into conversation with geologists and geographers, this volume reinterprets the cultural past in relation to the anthropogenic transformation of the Earth system while showcasing how literary analysis may help us conceptualize this geohistorical event. The contributors examine how a range of literary texts, from The Tempest to contemporary dystopian novels to the poetry of Emily Dickinson, mediate the convergence of the social institutions, energy regimes, and planetary systems that support the reproduction of life. They explore the long-standing dialogue between imaginative literature and the earth sciences and show how scientists, novelists, and poets represent intersections of geological and human timescales, the deep past and a posthuman future, political exigency and the carbon cycle.

Accessibly written and representing a range of methodological perspectives, the essays in this volume consider what it means to read literary history in the Anthropocene.

Contributors include Juliana Chow, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, Thomas H. Ford, Anne-Lise François, Noah Heringman, Matt Hooley, Stephanie LeMenager, Dana Luciano, Steve Mentz, Benjamin Morgan, Justin Neuman, Jennifer Wenzel, and Derek Woods.

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Sawyer & Steinmetz-Jenkins (eds.), Foucault, Neoliberalism and Beyond – forthcoming in 2018

59b383cef5ba740228e84989Stephen W. Sawyer & Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins (eds.), Foucault, Neoliberalism and Beyond – forthcoming in 2018 from Rowman & Littlefield International.

Few philosophers have garnered as much attention globally as Michel Foucault. But even within this wide reception, the consideration given to his relationship to neoliberalism has been noteworthy. However, the debate over this relationship has given rise to a great deal of polemics and confusion.

This volume brings together leading figures in the field to provide a reliable guide to one of the most controversial subjects in recent continental thought. It puts across the case for Foucault’s importance for post-colonial, race, queer and feminist studies, among other areas, and opens up his relationship to neoliberalism to offer a broader picture of tensions brewing within the Left more generally.

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CFP Modern-Colonial Geographies in Latin America: The Mirage of The Civilizing City and The Archaic Countryside

Call for papers for an interesting conference organised by Mara Duer and Simone Vegliò.

Modern-colonial Geographies in Latin America

London (King’s College London) 5-6 April 2018

Wanting to be modern seems crazy: we are condemned to be so, given that the future and the past are prohibited’ (Octavio Paz, 1966: 5)

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Investigating Infrastructures Forum at Society and Space open site

Society and Space open site forum on Investigating Infrastructures


Some really interesting pieces. Below are the links to individual pieces and this is from the introduction by Deborah Cowen:

In the sample of work below, you will find creative engagement with infrastructure in its seemingly banal and innocuous forms, like the jersey barrier, or the airport washroom. Some authors focus instead on the affective, intimate, and aspirational dimensions of infrastructure in engagements with im/mobility and undocumented youth, Palestinian homes, and anti-colonial artistic practice. One author challenges popular and professional conceptions of transit efficiency by engaging infrastructure from their perspective and experience of dis-ability. A number of pieces address questions of force and violence through engagements with the infrastructures of petroleum extraction, the construction of national borders, colonial scientific observatories, and the internment of racialized peoples. Together, the essays examine infrastructure in the making and begin to rethink how intimacy, law, family, territory, able bodiedness, and race produce and require…

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Matthew W. Wilson, New Lines: Critical GIS and the Trouble of the Map – now out with UMP

imageMatthew W. Wilson, New Lines: Critical GIS and the Trouble of the Map – now out with University of Minnesota Press.

A provocative critique of Geographic Information Science

New Lines considers a society increasingly drawn to the power of the digital map, examining the conceptual and technical developments of the field of geographic information science as this work is refracted through a pervasive digital culture. This book draws together archival research on the birth of the digital map with a reconsideration of the critical turn in mapping and cartographic thought.

“With rapidly shifting digital technologies, geo-surveillance, everyday cartography, privatized georeferenced data, and neoliberalization, New Lines offers a reflexive reassessment of the scholarly praxis of critical GIS, an increasingly anachronistic term. Attentive also to contemporary philosophical debates, Matthew W. Wilson’s lively and ambitious manifesto pushes the reader to re-examine everything they thought they knew about the topic”.

Eric Sheppard, author of Limits to Globalization: The Disruptive Geographies of Capitalist Development

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