Reading Foucault in Nigeria

The key work I did in Nigeria, aside from editing Society and Space, was on Foucault. This is for two, interrelated, projects. The first is to to write a chapter for the book coming out of The Foucault Effect 1991-2011 conference. My discussant comments were not intended to be the basis for a published paper, so instead I’ll be writing a piece on how Foucault contributes to the project of writing a history of the concept of territory, of which The Birth of Territory is the key output. I used this as an opportunity to work through the Security, Territory, Population and The Birth of Biopolitics lectures again. The intention is to discuss Foucault in two registers – first, how his explicit comments on territory are often misleading, which I will illustrate drawing upon the work I’ve conducted myself; but also how he is indispensible to such a project in terms of approach and in related questions. I did something not entirely dissimilar in my essay ‘Governmentality, Calculation, Territory’ which was published in 2007 and based on papers delivered in early 2005, using the French texts. The chapter will be a new text, but there will inevitably be some relation. This was my first time reading the English translations, so there will be some changes on the basis of that, as well more substantial ones on the basis of the much more detailed reading I have of the history of the tradition on the basis of writing The Birth of Territory. The second register will hopefully treat the relation between different approaches to writing the history of thought, of which Quentin Skinner, Reinhart Koselleck and Foucault will be key figures.

The second project was for my lecture to the Radical Foucault conference in September. So I worked through Leçons sur la volonté de savoir in detail (see my earlier notes on a fast, first reading here), and took extensive notes. I’m now reshaping these into a lecture. After some opening remarks on the text, how this complicates Foucault’s chronology, and the structure of the course, I’ll be talking about how power emerges as a theme in these lectures, out of the knowledge/truth/power relation, through the engagement with Nietzsche, and the reading of the Greeks. The last is the one I’m most interested in, especially in terms of juridical and political practice.

This entry was posted in Conferences, Michel Foucault, Quentin Skinnner, Reinhart Koselleck, The Birth of Territory. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Reading Foucault in Nigeria

  1. Pingback: Nigeria | Progressive Geographies

  2. Toby Seddon says:

    I was at the Foucault Effect conference and found your discussant comments very interesting. What are the plans for the book of the conference? And do you think it will have as bracing an intellectual effect as the 1991 book did?

    • stuartelden says:

      Yes, there are plans for a book, though early days and no fixed details yet. I think the list of contributors is impressive, but there is so much more material on Foucault now than in the early 1990s when the first one came out. I think it will be an important moment, but hard to tell how it will compare to its predecessor.

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