Foucault in Rio 1973-74

The ‘Truth and Juridical Forms’ lectures

Between 21-25 May 1973, Foucault gave five lectures in Rio de Janeiro. These were under the collective title of ‘Truth and Juridical Forms’. They were published in Portuguese in 1974, in French in 1994 in Dits et écrits (text no 139); and in English in the ‘Power’ volume of Essential Works in 2000 (without the 23 page roundtable discussion that followed the fifth lecture). [Update: I translate a few bits of this here.]

The topics of the five lectures can be briefly summarised as

  1. Introduction and Nietzsche
  2. Oedipus – a variant of the ‘Oedipal Knowledge’ manuscript
  3. The Inquiry, Feudal law and the Carolingian Empire
  4. Panopticism
  5. Institutions

From the newly published and translated Lectures on the Will to Know (which includes ‘Oedipal Knowledge’ as an appendix), it’s clear that the overall framing of the lectures, and the content of the first two, were very closely related to this course.

The third lecture, on the inquiry, appears to be drawn from the 1971-72 Collège de France course, ‘Penal Theories and Institutions’. At least, so it would seem on the basis of the course summary of those lectures (DE II, 390-391; EW I, 18-19), since the full course is not yet published. It may well be that the course title is somewhat misleading as to the actual content of that course. From the summary, Foucault notes that “This year’s course was meant to serve as a historical preliminary [underlined SE] to the study of penal institutions (more generally, of social controls and punitive systems) in French society of the nineteenth century” (EW I, 17). Daniel Defert describes it as a course which “outlines, from antiquity to the nineteenth century, the juridico-political matrices of certain types of knowledge” (‘Chronology’, p. 48). The course summary suggests it had two parts—the first on the inquiry in the Middle Ages; the second on “new forms of social controls” since the 16th century.

Lectures four and five appear to be drawn from the 1972-73 Collège de France course, ‘The Punitive Society’. That course isn’t yet published, but will be out in French in autumn 2013. So we will see very soon how closely lectures 4 and 5 relate to the Collège de France course. This make sense—Foucault finished teaching in Paris in around March each year, and then took the lectures on the road with him. There are plenty of examples of his drawing on that work for lectures elsewhere.

But ‘Penal Theories and Institutions’ may not be out for another year or two – I’ve heard that the 1980-81 course will be next, and that was even scheduled before the 1972-73 one, which may suggest at least two years for 1971-72. So, along with the course summary, the third ‘Truth and Juridical Forms’ lecture is the best insight into that course that is currently published. It promises to be a really interesting course, especially since it discussed confession, the Middle Ages, and the inquisition. Foucault would return to these questions, with different emphasis, in 1974-75 and 1979-80.

The lectures on Social Medicine

Foucault gave three more lectures in Rio in October-November 1974

  1. Crisis of Medicine or Crisis of Anti-Medicine (Dits et écrits no 170; translated in Foucault Studies).
  2. The Birth of Social Medicine (Dits et écrits no 196; translated in Essential Works III: Power).
  3. The Incorporation of the Hospital in Modern Technology (Dits et écrits no 229; translated in Space, Knowledge and Power: Foucault and Geography).

These were published in 1976, 1977 and 1978, respectively. (Richard Lynch’s bibliography of English translations [in A Companion to Foucault] notes that he has made revised translations of these three lectures. But this needs to be done carefully. The original publication of the lectures was in Portuguese, then Spanish, and the French versions in Dits et écrits are themselves translations. So translating directly from the French would potentially create errors—the translation would be third generation, as opposed to second. A first generation translation would appear to be impossible without the original French version, which may be lost or simply locked in the archive.)

What is interesting about these lectures, for me, is that Foucault did not, as far as I can tell, draw on Collège de France lecture material. When I first wrote about these Rio lectures (here), I assumed that he had drawn on the Psychiatric Power lecture course on 1973-74. But when that course was published I discovered this was not the case (see my article on the course here). They are closer to work pursued in that year’s seminar. (He gave some lectures in Montreal in March-April 1974, the topic of which seems to be unknown. Defert notes that he rewrote “several parts of his ‘book on punishment’” in his apartment in Montreal on this trip. This book is of course Discipline and Punish, finally completed on 26 August 1974, and published in February 1975. It’s possible he lectured on that book material in Montreal, though he’d moved away from that in his Collège de France lectures.)

The closest relation to the material developed in these Rio lectures, in publications authorised by Foucault in French, was the essay ‘The Politics of Health in the Eighteenth Century’, published in the collaborative volume Les machines à guérir in 1976 (Dits et écrits no 168). There was a re-edition of the text in 1979, with significant variants in Foucault’s text (published in Dits et écrits as no 257). Only the first is available in English (in Power/Knowledge, The Foucault Reader and Power). Lynch has made a translation of the second version, but this is currently unpublished.

This entry was posted in Foucault's Last Decade, Michel Foucault. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Foucault in Rio 1973-74

  1. Pingback: Foucault’s Last Decade – third update | Progressive Geographies

  2. Clare O'Farrell says:

    Reblogged this on Foucault News.

  3. Pingback: A few translated excerpts from the discussion following Foucault’s ‘Truth and Juridical Forms’ lectures in Rio | Progressive Geographies

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