Intolerable: Writings from Michel Foucault and the Prisons Information Group (1970–1980), edited by Kevin Thompson and Perry Zurn, University of Minnesota Press, December 2020 [updated: April 2021]
Founded by Michel Foucault and others in 1970–71, the Prisons Information Group (GIP) circulated information about the inhumane conditions within the French prison system. Intolerable makes available for the first time in English a fully annotated compilation of materials produced by the GIP during its brief but influential existence, including an exclusive new interview with GIP member Hélène Cixous and writings by Gilles Deleuze and Jean Genet.
These archival documents—public announcements, manifestos, reports, pamphlets, interventions, press conference statements, interviews, and round table discussions—trace the GIP’s establishment in post-1968 political turmoil, the new models of social activism it pioneered, the prison revolts it supported across France, and the retrospective assessments that followed its denouement. At the same time, Intolerable offers a rich, concrete exploration of Foucault’s concept of resistance, providing a new understanding of the arc of his intellectual development and the genesis of his most influential book, Discipline and Punish. Presenting the account of France’s most vibrant prison resistance movement in its own words and on its own terms, this significant and relevant collection also connects the approach and activities of the GIP to radical prison resistance movements today.
he Prisons Information Group was a crucial part of Foucault’s political trajectory, but it was an intensely collaborative project between intellectuals, prisoners, and their families. Expertly translated and introduced, this is the definitive collection of the group’s writings. Although the focus is France, the texts also illuminate other European countries, while the Algerian war opens up questions of colonialism, and the group’s links to the Black Panthers make it important for an understanding of the politics of race. A significant book that is both long overdue and a timely intervention in contemporary debates about police and prison abolition and reform.
Stuart Elden, author of The Early Foucault
Intolerable contributes to incarceration studies by highlighting the contributions (and pointing to the contradictions) of the Prisons Information Group (GIP). By emphasizing the activism of the GIP, it demonstrates how the author and theorist as an academic activist was influenced by the militancy of political actors and revolutionaries who took great risks, especially as incarcerated intellectuals and rebels, to challenge repression structured by racial/colonial capitalism and captivity.
Joy James, author of Seeking the Beloved Community: A Feminist Race Reader