Foucault’s 1983 seminar at Berkeley – tracing the people in the ‘cowboy hat’ photograph

In Didier Eribon’s biography of Foucault, there is a picture of Foucault in a cowboy hat, together with Paul Rabinow and some students at Berkeley. The hat was a gift from the students. This group met in parallel with the seminar on parrēsia that produced the book Fearless Speech.

Eribon book photos - Berkeley2left to right – Mark Maslan; Eric Johnson; Thomas Zummer (part-hidden); Stephen Kotkin; Kent Gerard (crouching); Michel Foucault; David Levin (seated); Keith Gandal; Jonathan Simon; Arturo Escobar; Paul Rabinow; Jerome (Jerry) Wakefield.

If anyone can identify the unknown person, who was apparently an undergraduate, perhaps in history, please contact me.

The photograph was taken by David Horn, at the house of Kotkin and Gandal. This is a black and white reproduction of a picture originally in colour, though I have yet to see that. A second unpublished colour photo which I have seen was taken by Gandal with Horn in his place.

In the course of the research for my Foucault books, I’ve met Simon, spoken to Gandal by phone, and had email exchanges with Horn, Maslan, Levin, Escobar, Wakefield and Rabinow. Unfortunately I cannot trace Gerard or Johnson and have yet to speak to Zummer and Kotkin.

What’s extraordinary is what this group went on to do – professors at Chicago, UC Berkeley, Princeton, City College of New York, Ohio State, North Carolina, UC Santa Barbara, NYU and the European Graduate School. Rabinow was of course already well known and still works at Berkeley. Cathy Kudlick (San Francisco State) and Jacqueline Urla (UMass) were also involved in discussions.

Horn, Kotkin and Gandal all published books that developed out of their collaborative work with Foucault – respectively Social Bodies: Science, Reproduction, and Italian Modernity, Princeton University Press, 1994; Magnetic Mountain: Stalinism as a Civilization, University of California Press, 1995; and The Gun and the Pen: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, and the Fiction of Mobilization, Oxford University Press, 2008. This collaborative project was planned to be on ‘New Arts of Government in the Great War and Post-War Periods” with the US, USSR, France and Italy as the countries examined. The idea was that this work would continue in fall 1984. The IMEC archive has a description of the project by Gandal, and History of the Present No 1 contains more information in a piece by Gandal and Kotkin.

A footnote to Foucault’s career, but it seems in Berkeley he was on the verge of establishing the kind of collaborative working seminar he kept saying he wanted to have at the Collège de France. Of course, Foucault never lived to conduct his own work on France, or indeed to return to Berkeley, but the books Horn, Kotkin and Gandal published cover the other three countries. Escobar also told me that his Encountering Development book was greatly influenced by conversations with Foucault, and several of the others have published on Foucault or were also inspired by his work.

[updated on 10 June 2015, with Eric Johnson identified by Richard Dienst]

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

6 Responses to Foucault’s 1983 seminar at Berkeley – tracing the people in the ‘cowboy hat’ photograph

  1. Pingback: Top posts this week on Progressive Geographies | Progressive Geographies

  2. Fascinating article. As someone with friends at Berkeley, I’m sure they’d be interested in knowing this as well.

  3. stuartelden says:

    Reblogged this on Progressive Geographies and commented:

    The missing name has been provided by Richard Dienst – the man second left is Eric Johnson.

  4. Pingback: Top posts on Progressive Geographies this week | Progressive Geographies

  5. Pingback: Foucault’s Last Decade update 24 – other work while waiting for the reports, and the draft cover blurb | Progressive Geographies

  6. Pingback: Audio recordings of recent talks on Foucault – on Foucault, Porshnev and the Revolt of the Nu-Pieds, and Foucault’s Collaborative Projects | Progressive Geographies

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