Foucault’s Last Decade – seventh update

Recent work has been across a number of chapters.

First, further work on Chapter Three entitled ‘Pervert, Hysteric, Child’. As well as the pieces I wrote on Psychiatric Power and The Abnormals, in my files I also had a draft of a paper which drew extensively on this course on political animals, leadership and perversity that I never actually finished. All were valuable resources for the chapter. But some of what I’ve written is entirely new. In particular I wrote a much longer section on hysteria (which took a while to get right), some extra on monsters, a bit more on hermaphrodites and children, and a paragraph on prostitution. The analysis of prostitution in Psychiatric Power is much indebted to La société punitive the previous year, and makes more sense in its light. I now have a decent working draft of the whole of Chapter Three.

The second area of work was on La société punitive itself. I wrote a review of this, but have plenty more to do – a section for Chapter One on this course, and a reading of Surveiller et punir/Discipline and Punish in its light (probably for Chapter Two).

Chapter Four, on ‘Society Must be Defended‘, was comparatively straight-forward. I had an article that served as the basis for this chapter, along with sections of other writings. Of course, checking all the French references to the English translation changed a few things; I rearranged quite a lot; and wrote some new sections and cut some other bits. The chapter is now in reasonable shape. This is truly remarkable course – the first one published in 1997 towards the end of my PhD. I can remember the shock of reading it then, and thinking of the challenge it threw down to the traditional history of political thought as much as standard stories about Foucault. I went away and read some of the people Foucault discussed – Boullainviller, Sieyès, and so on – and still think there is more to be done excavating its insights and responding to its provocations.

I have previously written quite a bit on the collaborative projects Foucault was involved with in the mid-1970s, drawing both on published work and the archived material at IMEC. Some of the discussion was in pieces that also covered this course. I’ve now disentangled these, and have a substantial section of about 8,000 words on these projects – on urban infrastructure, modes of governance, social defence, health, habitat and green spaces. I’m not sure where this will fit in the book yet, but I think it’s important and certainly a neglected topic in Foucault research.

Along the way I made a translation of the missing question from Foucault’s 1977 ‘Confession of the Flesh’ interview; reread Foucault’s post-History of Madness pieces on madness for Chapter Two; filled in a whole range of dual-language page references; and wondered about some minor questions concerning the publication of Foucault’s “About the Concept of the ‘Dangerous Individual’” lecture…

I’ve now got to pack up only a few books to take with me on an eight-week trip to Melbourne. This partly dictates what I am likely to work on next, though where there are specific lectures from earlier courses I need to refer to again I am scanning them and taking them as pdfs. Going in the bag will be Du gouvernement du vivants, Mal faire, dire vrai and La société punitive; along with Discipline and Punish and History of Sexuality I in both English and French.

The Foucault’s Last Decade book project generally, with links to all previous updates, now has a dedicated page.

Foucault update 7

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