The Foucault Effect 1991-2011 conference held over the last couple of days was very good. The room was packed for the opening session on Friday evening, and then a good audience throughout Saturday.
The first session included Daniel Defert on the 1970-71 Leçons sur la volonté de savoir(see my earlier thoughts here); Colin Gordon offering a retrospective and prospective look at governmentality studies; and Maria Carolina Olarte and Peter Fitzpatrick on Foucault and the death penalty. All good though Defert’s insights into a course few would have yet read were especially well received. My discussant comments – quite brief given the time – seemed to go down well and there was a good q&a afterwards. After one question I briefly outlined the ‘history of The History of Sexuality‘ project I hope to turn into a book, and I had a good follow-up conversation with Defert about this later.
There were four sessions on Saturday, with two papers in each. Some of the pairings could have been different but it did mean conversations worked between sessions rather than just within them. Bernard Harcourt and Jonathan Simon gave excellent presentations on mass incarceration in the US, which were both deeply disturbing. Fabienne Brion gave a really insightful discussion of the 1981 Louvain ‘Mal faire, dire vrai’ lectures that she and Harcourt have edited (they will be out in French in the autumn and English in the spring. The French will come with a DVD of Foucault delivering the lectures). Graham Burchell and Paul Patton both talked about the 1979 Birth of Biopolitics lectures; Burchell drawing out what Foucault said about Italy and the resources in that work to take the analysis further; Patton offered an intriguing and surprising juxtaposition of Foucault with John Rawls. Ben Golder gave a very careful discussion of Foucault and rights; Peter Miller discussed the calculating self; and Giovanna Procacci talked about security.
Thanks to Patrick Hanafin, Colin Gordon and Peter Fitzpatrick for organising this, and for asking me to be involved. The proceedings were taped and should be available soon here. There will hopefully also be a book.
Update 12th June 2011: the audio can now be found here