Here’s the abstract for my plenary lecture to the Time Served: Discipline and Punish Forty Years On conference, to be held at The Galleries of Justice, Nottingham, 11-12 September 2015.
Before the Punitive Society: The Inquiry of Théories et institutions pénales
This presentation will situate Discipline and Punish in relation to two of Foucault’s lecture courses at the Collège de France, Théories et institutions pénales and La société punitive. Delivered in 1971-1972 and early 1973, these courses develop both theoretical tools of analysis and study material that would be utilized in the book. Yet there are important divergences too – neither course can be seen as merely preparatory. Theoretically, while the question of power is central, the courses are the second and third part of Foucault’s initial triptych of courses, which treat the interlinked themes of measure, inquiry and examination. The focus here will be particularly on the notion of the inquiry, analysed in the Théories et institutions pénales course in relation to popular revolt, trial by ordeal and the question of proof. In the second half of the course, Foucault examines a variety of economic, political and military apparatuses. To interrogate them he explores a wide set of themes, including legal codes, crimes and punishments, different mechanisms of rule in medieval Europe and pre-state political formations, and in particular the code of talion – a punishment of retribution on the basis of equivalence. This analysis provides some valuable detail on the system of punishment that the punitive, or disciplinary society displaces.
I’ll be speaking about this course at other events in the next few months. I’ll be speaking about the ceremony in “Foucault and Shakespeare: Ceremony, Theatre and Politics”, at the Theatre, Performance, Foucault! workshop in July, and have submitted an abstract for the Historical Materialism conference on the engagement with historical debates about the Nu-pieds. My review of the course can be found at Berfrois, and it will be a major focus of the Foucault: The Birth of Power book.