Foucault’s 1983 seminar at Berkeley – the two cowboy hat photographs

Back in 2015, when I was doing the research for Foucault’s Last Decade, I tried to identify and contact the people who had been part of Foucault’s 1983 seminar at Berkeley.

The famous photograph appeared in Didier Eribon’s biography, with Foucault in a cowboy hat, which was a gift from the students. This group met in parallel with the seminar on parrēsia that produced the unauthorised book Fearless Speech, edited by Joseph Pearson, which is now available in a critical edition as Discours et vérité / Discourse and Truth, edited by Henri-Paul Fruchaud and Daniele Lorenzini, and translated by Nancy Luxon.

Eribon book photos - Berkeley2
left 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

The photograph was taken by David Horn, at the house of Kotkin and Gandal. I spoke to some of the people in the photograph while doing the research, and was given a copy of a second photograph, with David Horn in place of Keith Gandal.

This second photograph was first published in a Theory, Culture and Society article – “Danger, Crime and Rights: A Conversation between Michel Foucault and Jonathan Simon”. The discussion from 1983 was previously only available as a recording in the Bancroft library at UC Berkeley. Katie Dingley transcribed it, I edited it, wrote a brief introduction and Jonathan contributed a revealing commentary at the end.

As I said in a post back in 2015:

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.

Paul Rabinow has since died, and there is a UC Berkeley tribute here.

This post was inspired by Niki Kasumi Clements using the second photograph in her fascinating series of twitter posts of Foucault fragments from the archive.

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

5 Responses to Foucault’s 1983 seminar at Berkeley – the two cowboy hat photographs

  1. Zeynep Kezer says:

    Sadly, Rabinow passed away last year.

    • stuartelden says:

      Yes, I do note this in the post.

      • Zeynep Kezer says:

        I think I jumped the gun, my bad. It is interesting to see these people altogether in the same photo, their books informed my reading list for my qualifying exam at Berkeley. I knew they’d gone to the same university, but the photos gave me a context I did not have. Thanks for posting.

      • stuartelden says:

        No problem. Yes, it’s a remarkable group of people – and the discussions must have been quite something.

  2. Clare O'Farrell says:

    Reblogged this on Foucault News.

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