A few translated excerpts from the discussion following Foucault’s ‘Truth and Juridical Forms’ lectures in Rio

20130507-112649Between 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 as “A verdade e as formas jurídicas” (easily available online), in French in 1994 in Dits et écrits (text no 139 – a retranslation from the Portuguese); and in English in the ‘Power’ volume of Essential Works in 2000.

I say a bit more about the lectures in a previous post on Foucault in Rio. There is also a forty-years on discussion in Portuguese here (from which I borrowed the picture).

The English translation does not include the 23 page discussion that followed the fifth lecture. The discussion covers Deleuze and Guattari, Oedipus, the relation of strategy and discourse, the Sophists, Dumézil and Lévi-Strauss, Jean-Pierre Vernant, Robert Castel and his archaeological work. The whole thing would be good to translate, though I recognise the reasons why it wasn’t – for I suspect similar reasons of cost and space to why the discussion that followed ‘The Meshes of Power’ was omitted from Space, Knowledge, Power: Foucault and Geography.

Here are a few of the choice bits from the discussion, translated from the French retranslation – I’m aware of the problems in doing this, but they didn’t seem to concern the editors of the Essential Works. I did check a couple of things in the Portuguese though. References are to the original four volume Dits et écrits.

Archaeology is “a historico-political attempt [tentative – Portuguese: tentativa] which is not grounded on relations of resemblance between the past and the present, but rather on relations of continuity and on the possibility of defining currently the tactical objectives of the strategy of struggle, precisely according to that” (DE no 139 II, 644).

Unnamed questioner: “Is archaeology a miraculous machine?”

MF: “Archaeology is a machine, certainly, but why miraculous? A critical machine, a machine which puts in question certain relations of power, a machine which has – or at least tries to have – a liberating function” (DE no 139 II, 644).

“It must be underlined that I do not agree without restriction with what I have said in my books… Fundamentally, I write for the pleasure of writing” (DE no 139 II, 645)

“I would like to add that archaeology, this kind of historical-political activity, does not necessarily translate well into books, or speech [discours], or articles. In the final analysis, and what actually bothers me currently, is precisely the obligation to transcribe [transcrire], to capture [d’enfermer] everything in a book” (DE no 139 II, 645)

In a discussion with psychoanalyst Hélio Pellegrino – excerpted here – Foucault is accused of having an “extremely curious” position in relation to Oedipus (DE no 139 II, 624). Foucault responds by suggesting that ‘Oedipus’ does not exist for him, and that he is interested in the figure mobilised in the texts Oedipus rex and Oedipus at Colonnus by Sophocles, along with other classical Greek sources. Foucault suggests that many analyses of Oedipus – it seems clear he is including Pellegrino – are pre-Deleuzian, though post-Freudian (DE no 139 II, 625). It continues:

MF: You find me hateful [détestable], and you are right: I am hateful. Oedipus, I don’t know. When you say of Oedipus – this is desire, that is not desire – I reply: if you want. Who is Oedipus? What on earth is that [Qu’est ce que c’est que ça – Portuguese: o que é isso]?

HP: A fundamental structure of human existence.

MF: Then I will reply in Deleuzian terms – and here I am entirely Deleuzian – that this is absolutely not a fundamental structure of human existence, but a certain kind of constraint, a certain relation of power that society, the family, political power etc. establishes over individuals .

HP: The family is an incest factory.

MF: Take things in another way… (DE no 139 II, 625-6).

Foucault keeps trying to bring this to a close, eventually rather exasperated he tries to say that he can’t speak for Deleuze, and that psychoanalysis is more the domain of Guattari than Deleuze in any case. Later, in another exchange with Pellegrino he says “I repeat that I am not a psychoanalyst… Let me speak as a historian” (DE no 139 II, 640-1).

There are lots of other interesting things here – including some that seem especially charged given the situation in Brazil at the time – these are just some passages I found intriguing.

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

3 Responses to A few translated excerpts from the discussion following Foucault’s ‘Truth and Juridical Forms’ lectures in Rio

  1. Pingback: Foucault in Rio 1973-74 | Progressive Geographies

  2. Peter Gratton says:

    Reblogged this on PHILOSOPHY IN A TIME OF ERROR and commented:
    Stuart Elden, as part of his Foucault’s last decade project, picks up on interesting notes in his May ’73 Rio lectures.

  3. Pingback: Foucault’s Last Decade – Update 11 | Progressive Geographies

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