Two new reviews of Henri Lefebvre, On the Rural (University of Minnesota Press, 2022)

Two new reviews of Henri Lefebvre, On the Rural: Economy, Sociology, Geography (University of Minnesota Press, 2022)

Caleb Gallemore in New Political Science

Joseph Pierce in Economic Geography

Both require subscription, unfortunately.

Here’s the start of Pierce’s review:

Stuart Elden and Adam David Morton, as editors of On the Rural, have assembled a strange, slightly lumpy set of conference presentations, chapters, scholarly essays, and even a review essay of another text into a volume that illustrates a key arc in the intellectual life of Henri Lefebvre: his slow journey from a focus on agrarian and peasant concerns to a focus on the urban. In the end, I think the book reveals more to today’s urban scholars than to its ruralists. Yet, precisely where the text fits in the canon surrounding Lefebvre’s writing is hard to definitively articulate because of how his work 1 has been extended by Anglophone scholars since the 1990s. This is a worthwhile book, but I think it will leave some audiences cold and others uneasy about the implications it has for the past thirty years of scholarship building on Lefebvre in translation.

Elden and Morton’s lengthy introduction serves as an excellent interpretive orientation to the text—which is good, because this amalgamation absolutely requires one. The introduction is eloquent, readable, and usefully knits the various texts together, pro- viding essential historic and scholarly context for the chapters that follow. At a high level, the book is organized largely chronologically from the late 1940s to the early 1960s, with two exceptions: the introduction to From the Rural to the Urban, which sits at the beginning of this volume but was initially published in French in 1969; and The Marxist-Leninist Theory of Ground Rent, positioned in the middle of the volume but first published in French [actually Spanish, SE] in 1964. I will return to the latter of these in a moment.

And the end of Gallemore’s review:

In closing, a few words of caution are in order. First, Lefebvre can be a very frustrating writer, even with the help of a carefully curated translation and a very clear introductory essay from the volume’s editors. I suspect that for most readers (certainly including myself), multiple readings will be necessary for the ideas in these essays to be of use or inspiration. On the other hand, it is certainly a testimony to the depth of these materials that they reward multiple readings. Second, as the editors note in their introduction, Lefebvre’s analysis of gender is almost nonexistent and, where present, relatively superficial. The same is generally true for issues of race. In short, for those wishing to go beyond a fairly strict class analysis of agricultural transitions to capitalism, it will be absolutely necessary to put Lefebvre in dialogue with other authors. Third, while the empirical detail present in some of these essays is quite impressive and sheds light on Lefebvre as a sociologist and historian, it may be a bit irrelevant to those not already interested in European agricultural history. Still, as existence proofs of some of Lefebvre’s claims, even these sections can be interesting. This is particularly the case for the final essay in the volume, which provides a detailed history of the complex institutional struggles over land control in the area sur- rounding a village in the Pyrenees, illustrating the complex ways past institutional choices impinge on current practices.

In short, On the Rural is likely to intrigue readers with a diverse set of interests, but they will be best served to approach the volume with a clear idea of what they hope to get out of it, alongside a recognition that getting something out of it may require some fairly careful textual work. It is a valuable contribution to the body of Lefebvre’s work available in English translation.

An earlier review in Cleveland Review of Books by John Lepley is available open access.

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Serge Livrozet (1939-2022)

News of the death of Serge Livrozet, who worked with Foucault in the GIP in the early 1970s, along with a link to the documentary about him by Nicolas Drolc, La Mort se mérite.

Foucault News

L’écrivain Serge Livrozet, anarchiste et militant anti-carcéral, est mort à 83 ans
franceinfo: Culture 30/11/2022

Figure des milieux anarchistes, il fut l’un des meneurs des révoltes qui ébranlèrent les prisons françaises dans les années 70. Il s’est éteint chez lui dans la région niçoise, “des suites d’une longue maladie”, ont annoncé mercredi ses proches à l’AFP.

Il était une figure des milieux anarchistes et anti-carcéraux, du Comité d’action des prisonniers de Michel Foucault à Mai-68 et il avait participé aux débuts du quotidien Libération. Serge Livrozet est mort dans la région de Nice à 83 ans, ont annoncé mercredi ses proches à l’AFP. L’intellectuel s’est éteint “des suites d’une longue maladie”, ont-ils précisé, rappelant qu’il fut “l’un des meneurs des révoltes qui secouèrent les prisons françaises dans les années 1970”.

Plombier, perceur de coffres-forts, puis écrivain
Né le 21 octobre 1939 à Toulon, issu d’un milieu modeste, Serge Livrozet racontait…

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Special Issue – Call for papers: Foucault’s Legacy in Contemporary Thinking (2022)

Special Issue of Foucault Studies – Call for papers: Foucault’s Legacy in Contemporary Thinking: Forty Years Later (1984-2024)

Foucault News

Special Issue – Call for papers: Foucault’s Legacy in Contemporary Thinking

Foucault Studies and special issue editors Valentina Antoniol and Stefano Marino invite authors to reflect on Foucault’s legacy forty years after his untimely death in 1984 and submit their manuscripts for this special issue.

Please see the following document for more details on the topic and submission details:

Call for Paper – Foucault’s Legacy in Contemporary Thinking

Please note that the referencing and footnotes must be in accordance with the Foucault Studies guidelines. Please see attached document for guidance:

Foucault Studies Author Guidelines footnotes references

Foucault’s Legacy in Contemporary Thinking: Forty Years Later (1984-2024)

Special issue editors
Valentina Antoniol, University of Bologna Stefano Marino, University of Bologna

Michel Foucault has been undoubtedly one of the most important and most influential intel- lectuals of the 20th century. With such seminal works as Histoire de la folie à l’âge classique

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Colloque international. Michel Foucault et les années 1950 Entre philosophie et sciences humaines (2022)

Colloque international: Michel Foucault et les années 1950
Entre philosophie et sciences humaines, 8 et 9 décembre 2022 | Université Paris 8

Foucault News

Colloque international
Michel Foucault et les années 1950
Entre philosophie et sciences humaines

8 et 9 décembre 2022 | Université Paris 8

Accès libre dans la limite des places disponibles.
Contact :

Programme PDF

Colloque international organisé par Orazio IRRERA en collaboration avec le Département de Philosophie de l’Université Paris 8 Vincennes – Saint-Denis, le Laboratoire des Logiques Contemporaines de la Philosophie (LLCP, EA 4008), le Centre Michel Foucault et la revue « materiali foucaultiani ».

La tout récente parution des trois volumes de la série « Cours et travaux de Michel Foucault avant le Collège de France » dans la collection « Hautes études » chez les éditeurs EHESS-Gallimard-Seuil, Binswanger et l’analyse existentielle (2021), Phénoménologie et psychologie (2021), La question anthropologique. Cours. 1954-1955 (2022), dont l’édition a été réalisée à partir des matériaux inédits du Fonds Michel Foucault déposé à la Bibliothèque nationale (NAF 28730), contribue à jeter…

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Mary Bosworth and Lucia Zedner (eds.), Privatising Border Control: Law at the Limits of the Sovereign State – Oxford University Press, January 2023

Mary Bosworth and Lucia Zedner, Privatising Border Control: Law at the Limits of the Sovereign State – Oxford University Press, January 2023

In recent years, many breaches of immigration law have been criminalised. Foreign nationals are now routinely identified in court and in prison as subjects for deportation. Police at the border and within the territory refer foreign suspects to immigration authorities for expulsion. Within the immigration system, new institutions and practices rely on criminal justice logic and methods. In these examples, it is not the state that controls the national border: instead, it is often privately contracted companies. 

This collection of essays explores the growing use of the private sector and private actors in border control and its implications for our understanding of state sovereignty and citizenship. Privatising Border Control is an important empirical and theoretical contribution to the growing, interdisciplinary body of scholarship on border control. It also contributes to the academic inquiry into the growing privatisation of policing and punishment. These domains, once regarded as central to the state’s police power and its monopoly on violence, are increasingly outsourced to private providers. 

With contributions from scholars across a range of jurisdictions and disciplines, including Criminology, Law, and Political Science, Privatising Border Control provides a novel and comparative account of contemporary border control policy and practice. This is a must-read for academics, practitioners, and policymakers interested in immigration law and the growing use of the private sector and private actors in border control.

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Books received – Lévi-Strauss, Althusser, Leroi-Gourhan, Person, Loyer, Soulier, Derrida

Mainly bought new and second-hand in Paris, but also A. Person, Directorship: Searching for Politics’ Copernican Moment, sent to me anonymously by the author.

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Foucault on the radio, 1975 – a different, edited translation of an interesting interview

In 1975, Foucault was interviewed by Jacques Chancel on the radio. It is reprinted in Dits et écrits as text 161, “Radioscopie de Michel Foucault”. The French text is here and the recording here.

Comparing the transcription and the recording shows that it has been cleaned up quite a bit – the recording is a bit more informal in places, and some of the hesitations or the bits where Foucault and Chancel talk over each other have been tidied.

The translation which I knew about before is included in Foucault: Live as ‘Talk Show’. Like other translations in that collection it isn’t always entirely reliable, and it’s possible that it was made direct from the recording, rather than the publication. Especially towards the end, some bits are not translated.

But there is a different, albeit heavily edited, translation of this interesting interview, which appeared in Impulse, Vol 15 No 1, Winter 1989, pp. 50-55. It was transcribed by Lisa Webster, and translated by Ronald B. DeSousa.

The scans are taken from a copy of Impulse from the library of Amy White, an artist based in the US, who brought this version of the interview to my attention. A pdf of the translation is available here.

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Robyn Bartel & Jennifer Carter (eds.), Handbook on Space, Place and Law – Edward Elgar, 2022

Robyn Bartel & Jennifer Carter (eds.), Handbook on Space, Place and Law – Edward Elgar, 2022

Unlike many of these handbooks, this is available as a paperback and e-book as well as hardback. Some sample material is available here.

This innovative Handbook provides an expansive interrogation of the spaces and places of law, exploring how we engage relationally in a material world, within which we are inter-dependent and reliant, and governed by laws in a dynamic process. It advances novel insights into the numerous intersections of space, place and law in our lives.

International contributors offer a range of activity-orientated analyses, focusing on methodology, embodied experience, legal pluralism, conflict and resistance, and non-human and place agency. The Handbook examines a number of cross-cutting themes including social inequality, environmental justice, sustainability, urban development, indigenous legal systems, the effects of colonialism and property law. Representing a diversity of locales from all around the world, the chapters encompass both urban and rural, terrestrial and marine areas, agential and storied spaces, and fictional as well as ‘real’ places.

Taking a multi-disciplinary approach that incorporates law, human and legal geography, planning, sociology, political ecology, anthropology, and beyond, this comprehensive Handbook will be critical reading for scholars and students of these and cognate areas. Its discussion of empirical examples will also be beneficial for practitioners and policymakers interested in these fields. 

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Biko Mandela Gray and Ryan J. Johnson, Phenomenology of Black Spirit – Edinburgh University Press, 2022

Biko Mandela Gray and Ryan J. Johnson, Phenomenology of Black Spirit – Edinburgh University Press, 2022

Just an expensive hardback at the moment, unfortunately, but Ryan has shared a 30% discount code (NEW30).

What if the protagonist of Hegel’s Phenomenology were Black? 

Ryan Johnson and Biko Mandela Gray study the relationship between Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit and Black Thought from Frederick Douglass to Angela Davis

  • The first philosophy book written, in a single voice, by a Black philosopher and a white philosopher
  • Dramatizes a dialectical parallelism between Hegel’s Phenomenology and Black Thought
  • Diversifies and transforms the history of philosophy by forcing canonical thinkers into direct dialogue with 19th-20th-century African American, African, and Africana thinkers
  • Expands Hegel Studies by including habitually excluded perspectives and voices
  • Champions the history of African American Philosophy
  • Articulates the expansiveness and interdisciplinarity of Black Thought

This staging of an elongated dialectical parallelism between Hegel’s classic text and major 19th-20th-century Black thinkers explodes the western canon of philosophy. Johnson and Mandela Gray show that Hegel’s abstract dialectic is transformed and critiqued when put into conversation with the lived dialectics of Black Thought: from Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs through to Malcolm X and Angela Davis.

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Indo-European thought project update 7: Working on Dumézil’s teaching, a few research resources, and some archival work in Paris

I’ve made some progress with the Indo-European project over the past few weeks. Not as much as I’d hoped, and it feels a bit unsystematic at this point, but early work is often like that. This has included a couple of trips to Paris to work through archival material, mainly at the Collège de France.

Both there and generally I’ve been working on Georges Dumézil, filling in some details about his work beyond what I wrote in the Introduction to the re-edition of Mitra-Varuna. In Paris, the concentration has been on his Collège de France teaching from 1949 to 1968. I’ve also been working on both his early teaching and the so-called bilan period – the years immediately after his retirement from teaching in which he brought together a number of his earlier studies, updated and extended them to provide a summary of his research. 

As I did with the Foucault work, I’ve also been sharing some research resources. These are often things I wanted to use or consult, looked for, and when I discovered they didn’t exist, set out to make my own. So, for example, I thought it would be useful to have a clearer sense of how Georges Dumézil’s work on the warrior function developed over time, from Aspects de la fonction guerrière chez les Indo-Européens in 1956 to Heur et malheur du Guerrier in 1969 and a second edition in 1985. They are basically three versions of the same book, but each expanded by about a third. But although there were some indications in secondary literature, there wasn’t what I wanted, so I did the comparison and shared the preliminary analysis here. [I should clarify that there are other works which discuss this function, notably Horace et les Curiaces from 1942.] Equally, Dumézil’s masterwork, the three-volume Mythe et épopée, has only been partly translated into English – none of the first volume, most of the second across three English books, and parts of the third – so I checked exactly what, and shared the results here. I’ll do more of these as the work progresses, and hope someone finds them useful.

I also shared a new Foucault resource –a list of the preannounced titles of Foucault’s seminars at the Collège de France, about which we still don’t know much. And a wrote a short post about an interdisciplinary seminar on structuralism in 1970 at which Foucault spoke about Dumézil’s work.

Romulus and Remus at the Square Samuel Paty

With Dumézil, there is a detailed list of his teaching at the Collège de France, which has been valuable for me as I’ve been working through the files in the archive of these lecture materials. It used to be online, but I can no longer find a link to share. That material was taken from the Annuaire du Collège de France, and uses both the reports on the courses and the pre-announced titles. I’ve mentioned before that Dumézil provides little detail in his course summaries. In contrast, Foucault or Lévi-Strauss shared sufficient information that these summaries were in each case collected as books, giving a good overall sense of their teaching. Dumézil was concerned that sharing too much would give less scrupulous people information he wanted to use himself in publications. And it does seem that he very often published material from his courses quite quickly afterwards. Foucault, in contrast, didn’t publish any of his courses, although some are clearly preparatory research for his books. I don’t know Lévi-Strauss as well, but my sense is that he is somewhere in the middle.

But while Dumézil’s Collège de France courses are all listed in a single document, I don’t think the same is true for his courses at the École Pratique des Hautes Études. The references for annual summaries are listed in Hervé Coutau-Bégarie’s bibliography, but there are a couple of omissions, and he only lists the reports after the courses had been delivered. But importantly, as with the Collège de France, courses were preannounced, so I slowly worked through the records to identify what Dumézil said they would be on. I’ve put together a preliminary list of these, which I will next work through in relation to the reports on what he actually did. Some of the preannounced titles are very vague, but others are more interesting. And, in time, this list will be helpful as I go through the archival papers relating to this teaching.

Dumézil taught at the Collège de France from 1949 until 1968, when he retired at the statutory age of 70. He taught at the EPHE from 1933 to 1935 as a temporary lecturer, and then from 1935 until 1968, for the last period in parallel to the Collège de France. Before 1933 he had taught in Warsaw, Istanbul and Uppsala. His courses directly informed some of his books, in the temporary years at the EPHE he delivered courses which became Ouranos-Varuna and Flamen-Brahman, and then a little later Mitra-Varuna. Often he simply seems to have written up his notes and published them. He also taught Armenian at the École des langues orientales in the 1930s and 40s.

One interesting thing is that a 20-year-old Roger Caillois attended his classes right from the start, both in the 1933-34 and 1934-35 years. Another is that in the 1934-35 year, another one of the temporary lecturers was A. Kojevenikoff, who gave a course on Hegel’s religious philosophy. He would soon change his name, and become Alexandre Kojève. These lectures on The Phenomenology of Spirit, which continued for a few years, are of course famous, even legendary. There are various – sometimes conflicting – reports about his extraordinary audience, but the list of attendees in the records for 1934-35 are already quite a rogues’ gallery – [Henri] Corbin, [?] Adler, [Raymond] Queneau, [Gaston] Fessard, [Georges] Bataille, [Jacques] Lacan, [Boris] Poplavski, [?] Stern, [Éric] Weil, Mme [?] Tatarinoff.

What I found extraordinary is that Dumézil never took a sabbatical. Foucault took one after six years at the Collège de France (in the 1976-77 year), and could presumably have taken another had he lived longer. But not Dumézil. There are records for each of the 19 years he taught there, and he gave two courses just about every year – there are a couple of instances where the course was a double-length one in consecutive hours. Foucault gave 13 courses in total, the last three as double-length, along with the seminars for 10 of those years. (The requirement was 26 hours of classes a year, of which no more than half could be seminars.) As far I know, Dumézil never ran a seminar there. I’ve done an initial pass through most of the Collège de France courses in the archive, and this was the main work in the last two visits to Paris. One more week there should complete that initial survey, but there is a lot more to do, both with these courses and teaching elsewhere.

At the EPHE, Dumézil taught every year from 1933-34 to 1967-68 with the exception of the year he was suspended from teaching. This was by the Vichy regime, because he had been a free-mason before the war. He regained his position about a year later, in a complicated story for which there are various sources. I’ll be digging into that more, of course. Checking the pre-announced courses did at least give me details of what he had planned to do. The teaching reports are a bit erratic for the beginning and end of the war, for obvious reasons, but I think I’ve found the crucial records.

I’ve also done a little bit of work on some other aspects of the project – finding out a bit about the Mission Paul Pelliot, which led to some of Émile Benveniste’s early publications; following up some references on some of the political questions which I will be exploring much more in time; and reading some of the work of André Leroi-Gourhan, who succeeded Dumézil at the Collège de France, and published one of his books in a series Dumézil edited. And I had a couple of half-days back the Bibliothèque nationale archives, working with the Foucault papers. There I was looking back at some materials I’d previously seen which mentioned Dumézil, and at a couple of other places where there is something related to him in the files – one a page of notes, another a mention in working notebooks. I am trying to resist getting drawn back into the Foucault material, which remains endlessly interesting, but this more focused visit was worthwhile for the new work.

Previous updates on this project can be found here, along with links to the resources and forthcoming publications, including the reedition of Dumézil’s Mitra-Varuna. There is a lot more about the Foucault work here. The final volume, The Archaeology of Foucault, is out next month!

Posted in Claude Lévi-Strauss, Emile Benveniste, Georges Dumézil, Indo-European Thought, Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Foucault | Leave a comment