“About the Concept of the ‘Dangerous Individual’ in Legal Psychiatry of the 19th Century” – details of variant English and French texts

A couple of months ago [update: in January 2014], I asked three minor questions concerning Foucault’s ‘About the Concept of the Dangerous Individual’ lecture in Toronto in 1977.

  • is the version in Dits et écrits the original French, or a re-translation with an uncredited translator?
  • was the conference at the Clark Institute or York University, or a joint event?
  • why is the paragraph from the course summary discussing the seminar omitted from «Il faut défendre la société» and the subsequent English translation Society Must Be Defended?

Following a useful exchange of comments with Javier Velásquez, it is clear that we have the answer to the first. The text in Dits et écrits is not a translation; but nor is it the entirety of the original French. It is an edited version of the original.

We have constructed a clear chronology of the publication history of this text to help explain this. Richard Lynch’s bibliography provides some useful detail, though it is slightly inaccurate, and Dits et écrits is both inaccurate in detail and incomplete. This text, like the introduction to the Herculine Barbin memoir, should have been printed there with critical apparatus to show the reorganisation and excision; or, like ‘The Politics of Health in the Eighteenth Century’ appeared twice in its two variant forms.

The key point: there is no published French version of the full, original text. [Update: a photocopy of a 36pp. typescript of this text is available at IMEC: reference FCL 1.10: “A propos de la notion d’individu dangereux dans la psychiatrie légale au XIXe siècle”. This copy breaks off very slightly incomplete. The final sentence ends ‘… alors’; there is no French text according to ‘the judicial machine ceases to function’. It looks like the photocopy missed this line at the foot of the page] However, we do have Foucault’s final, preferred version of the text published in French.

Here’s the chronology, noting publication status.

  1. Original French text – 1977? Unpublished; available at IMEC FCL 1.10.
  2. First English translation, by Carol Brown, of text 1, used as the basis for Foucault’s presentation at a conference in Toronto held on 24-28 October 1977. In text 3, this is described as “an initial translation of this paper for public reading, under extreme pressure of time”. Unpublished.
  3. ‘About the Concept of the ‘Dangerous Individual’, International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, Vol 1 No 1, 1978, pp, 1-18, translation of text 1, translated by Alain Boudot and Jane Couchman, with some reference to earlier translation (text 2). Also available here. [Richard Lynch’s bibliography erroneously attributes this translation to Carol Brown. Given the poorly phrased note in text 5 it is understandable why.]
  4. French version, “L’évolution de la notion d’«individu dangereux» dans la psychiatrie légale du XIXe siècle“, Déviance et société, Vol 5 No 4, 1981. This text has some reorganization and excision of some material.
  5. “The dangerous individual” in Lawrence Kritzman (ed.) Politics, philosophy, culture: interviews and other writings, 1977-1984 (New York, Routledge, 1988), pp. 125-151. Reprint of 3 [Lynch suggests this is a different translation. Again, given the editor’s note in this text it is understandable why].
  6. Reprint of 4 in Dits et ecrits as text 220. Although this references the text at 3, and does not reference 4, it only provides the text of 4. But it appears as a 1978 publication. Strictly speaking, according to the editors’ normal practice, there should be a text in sequence in 1981 that points to this one. There is therefore no extant French version of how it appears in text 3.
  7. “About the concept of the ‘dangerous individual’ in Nineteenth-century legal psychiatry” James Faubion (ed.) Power (New York: New Press, 2000), pp. 176-200.
Reprint of 3.
  8. “About the concept of the ‘dangerous individual in nineteenth-century legal psychiatry” Paul Rabinow and Nikolas Rose (eds.) The essential Foucault (New York: New Press, 2003), pp. 208-228. Reprint of 3.

My thanks to Javier for his textual detective work. This matters because there are parts of 3 that are not available in French.

I’d still be grateful for answers to the other two questions.

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

2 Responses to “About the Concept of the ‘Dangerous Individual’ in Legal Psychiatry of the 19th Century” – details of variant English and French texts

  1. stuartelden says:

    Reblogged this on Progressive Geographies and commented:

    I’ve updated this post from March 2014 because a photocopy of a 36pp. typescript of the original French text is available at IMEC. It appears in the catalogue as reference FCL 1.10: “A propos de la notion d’individu dangereux dans la psychiatrie légale au XIXe siècle”.
    This copy breaks off very slightly incomplete. The final sentence ends ‘… alors’; there is no French text according to ‘the judicial machine ceases to function’. The remainder of the material in the original post is correct.

  2. Pingback: Foucault: The Birth of Power update 8 – working at the IMEC archive and another visit to the Bibliothèque Nationale | Progressive Geographies

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