Natalie Oswin, Global City Futures: Desire and Development in Singapore – UGA Press, 2019

9780820355023.jpgNatalie Oswin, Global City Futures: Desire and Development in Singapore – UGA Press, 2019

Global City Futures offers a queer analysis of urban and national development in Singapore, the Southeast Asian city-state commonly cast as a leading “global city.” Much discourse on Singapore focuses on its extraordinary socioeconomic development and on the fact that many city and national governors around the world see it as a developmental model. But counternarratives complicate this success story, pointing out rising income inequalities, the lack of a social safety net, an unjust migrant labor regime, significant restrictions on civil liberties, and more.

With Global City Futures Natalie Oswin contributes to such critical perspectives by centering recent debates over the place of homosexuality in the city-state. She extends out from these debates to consider the ways in which the race, class, and gender biases that are already well critiqued in the literature on Singapore (and on other cities around the world) are tied in key ways to efforts to make the city-state into not just a heterosexual space that excludes “queer” subjects but a heteronormative one that “queers” many more than LGBT people. Oswin thus argues for the importance of taking the politics of sexuality and intimacy much more seriously within both Singapore studies and the wider field of urban studies.

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Duncan Kelly, Politics and the Anthropocene – Polity, August 2019

Politics-and-the-Anthropocene_selected-e1538131440588Duncan Kelly, Politics and the Anthropocene – Polity, August 2019

The Anthropocene has become central to understanding the intimate connections between human life and the natural environment, but it has fractured our sense of time and possibility. What implications does that fracturing have for how we should think about politics in these new times?

In this cutting-edge intervention, Duncan Kelly considers how this new geological era could shape our future by engaging with the recent past of our political thinking. If politics remains a short-term affair governed by electoral cycles, could an Anthropocenic sense of time, value and prosperity be built into it, altering long-established views about abundance, energy and growth? Is the Anthropocene so disruptive that it is no more than a harbinger of ecological doom, or can modern politics adapt by rethinking older debates about states, territories, and populations?

Kelly rejects both pessimistic fatalism about humanity’s demise, and an optimistic fatalism that makes the Anthropocene into a problem too big for politics, best left to the market or technology to solve. His skilful defence of the potential for democratic politics to negotiate this challenge is an indispensable guide to the ideas that matter most to understanding this epochal transformation.

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Marcel M. van der Linden and Gerald Hubmann (eds.), Marx’s Capital: An Unfinishable Project? Haymarket, 2019

book.jpgMarcel M. van der Linden and Gerald Hubmann (eds.), Marx’s Capital: An Unfinishable Project? Haymarket, 2019

Good to see this is now available in paperback

For almost 150 years, scholars have been debating how to interpret Marx’s seminal work Capital while they had access to just some of Marx’s economic manuscripts. This changed in 2013 with the publication of all the known economic writings of Marx and Engels in the Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe (MEGA). One can now reconstruct the lines of intellectual development, and one can also explore in detail how Friedrich Engels went about compiling volumes II and III of Capital from the vast legacy of manuscripts that Marx left behind after his death in 1883. It should be possible, now, to develop a more comprehensive and accurate picture of Marx as an economic theoretician. This volume of essays aims to initiate this process.

Contributors are: Christopher J. Arthur, Matthias Bohlender, Timm Graßmann, Jorge Grespan, Gerald Hubmann, Heinz D. Kurz, Marcel van der Linden, Kenji Mori, Fred Moseley, Lucia Pradella, Geert Reuten, Regina Roth, and Carl-Erich Vollgraf.

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‘Terrain, Politics, History’, Dialogues lecture at the RGS-IBG conference (audio recording)

Yesterday I gave the Dialogues in Human Geography lecture at the RGS-IBG conference at the Royal Geographical Society in London on the theme of ‘Terrain, Politics, History’.

It was chaired by Jeremy Crampton and had responses from Kimberley Peters, Rachael Squire and Deborah Dixon. The Dialogues format is that the paper, the responses and then a reply from me appear in the journal. Although I’d had to send a written text a month ago, I didn’t see the responses beforehand, and so had to reply to them without time to really digest their ideas. Hopefully the written reply will do them more justice. There were also some good questions from the audience, and it was becoming a good discussion until we ran out of time.

An audio recording of my lecture part is available here – the amplification cut out at one point, and there is a slight echo, but hopefully it’s listenable.

Many thanks to all, especially Jeremy, Kim, Rachael and Deborah, and to Rob Kitchin who initially invited me. While I’m clear that this will be the last talk and paper on the topic for a while, the generous responses did make me think it might be worth further developing in the future.


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The Early Foucault update 26 – Defert, Wahl, Warsaw, Hamburg, Dumézil

EF 26.jpg

Since the last update, and a short holiday in Wales, I’ve been systematically going through each of the previously drafted chapters, and doing a bit of reorganization. I’ve also worked through all the issues of Le Magazine Littéraire which have theme sections on Foucault, many of which are revealing sources of information. More substantially, I’ve worked through the notes I took at IMEC in February, especially from the Fonds Althusser. These are helpful for looking at Foucault’s student years at the ENS, as well as the early reception of Folie et déraison.

I’ve also been consulting Daniel Defert’s revised ‘Chronologie’ in the Pléiade Oeuvres. This is somewhat abbreviated from the version in Dits et écrits, but what I hadn’t realized until recently is that some things are updated or amended. In particular, one key date is now a whole year later. I’d realized that this date had to be wrong, given the timing of various related events and hints in other sources. But it’s good to have corroboration, as instead of having to painstakingly show why a later date was more plausible, I can now write a more elegant account. Part of the reason for this discrepancy is that Foucault usually dates letters, but only by day and month. There are a few instances where sources differ as to which year. When it comes to his notes and manuscripts, as I’ve said many times, he rarely dates them at all.

I’ve also been working, again, on Jean Wahl’s courses on Heidegger, some of which Foucault attended. I’ve said before about how challenging this is – while some of his courses were published as books, others were just issued by the Centre de Documentation Universitaire as bound typescripts. Few of these are available in the UK, and some of the copies in Paris libraries are lost. Most at the BnF are only available on microfiche, on machines that seem older than me. But the courses do occasionally come up for sale, and I’ve been given a pdf of one particularly hard-to-find course.

These mainly relate to the earlier chapters of the book, which were already drafted. Most of the new writing has been on the time Foucault spent in Warsaw and Hamburg, on which there are relatively few sources. There are some crucial recent ones in Polish, English and German. I have a summary of the Polish text, have been looking at some other pieces on this time, and chasing down every scrap of evidence I can find for these two periods. Some of the people who knew or visited Foucault in these postings wrote memoirs which contain bits of info – much already mined for the biographies, but always checking. This work is an important prelude to the discussion of the Kant translation which Foucault did in Hamburg. I keep saying that will be the next major task, but then repeatedly find things that I feel I need to explore before turning to that.

Increasingly, I’ve been finding the question of Foucault’s relation to Georges Dumézil important. Didier Eribon does a lot of work on this question, in his biography of Foucault (especially the third edition), and in his book Faut-il brûler Dumézil? These are very helpful, but he also has a book of interviews with Dumézil, and quotes a lot of the Foucault-Dumézil correspondence in his book Michel Foucault et ses contemporains. I’ve also been looking at a bit of Dumézil’s own work. This is interesting, but something of a rabbit-hole – he wrote a huge amount, much of it untranslated, and it is formidably technical and specialist.

I’ve also been taking some of the material from one chapter of this manuscript and turning this into a journal article. On top of this, there have been a whole host of checking references and returning to previously consulted sources with new questions. Many of these were dead-ends. Of the books on Foucault I’ve written for Polity, this one has been by far the most difficult but in many ways the most interesting.

Next week I will be at the RGS-IBG conference, to give a lecture on ‘Terrain, Politics, History’ which I wrote earlier this summer. I’ll also get a little time in the British Library on that trip. I was planning on my next Paris trip during reading week of term 1, but that would have meant being out of the country on 31 October, and travelling either side of that date, which doesn’t seem a good idea with the car-crash of Brexit looming. So I’ll be off to Paris mid-September for a very short visit. Both in Paris and London I’ll be able to resolve a host of small reference queries and read some hard-to-find newspapers, articles and chapters.


The previous updates on this project are here; and the previous books Foucault’s Last Decade and Foucault: The Birth of Power are both available from Polity. The related book Canguilhem is also out, and is discussed a bit more here. Several Foucault research resources such as bibliographies, short translations, textual comparisons and so on, produced while doing the work for these books, are available here.

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Books received – Martin Jones, Cities and Regions in Crisis and some for the early Foucault work


A copy of Martin Jones, Cities and Regions in Crisis, generously sent by Martin, and some second-hand ones for The Early Foucault work. Clavel, Mauriac and Italiaander all knew Foucault at different times, and Pestana is a useful study of his early work.

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Antía Mato Bouzas, Kashmir as a Borderland: The Politics of Space and Belonging across the Line of Control, Amsterdam University Press, 2019

9789463729406_prom.jpgAntía Mato Bouzas, Kashmir as a Borderland: The Politics of Space and Belonging across the Line of Control, Amsterdam University Press, 2019

Kashmir as a Borderland: The Politics of Space and Belonging across the Line of Control examines the Kashmir dispute from both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) and within the theoretical frame of border studies. It draws on the experiences of those living in these territories such as divided families, traders, cultural and social activists. Kashmir is a borderland, that is, a context for spatial transformations, where the resulting interactions can be read as a process of ‘becoming’ rather than of ‘being’. The analysis of this borderland shows how the conflict is manifested in territory, in specific locations with a geopolitical meaning, evidencing the discrepancy between ‘representation’ and the ‘living’. The author puts forward the concept of belonging as a useful category for investigating more inclusive political spaces.

Dr. Antía Mato Bouzas is a researcher at Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin. Her research focus is on the politics of the South Asian region, with an interest on borders and citizenship. She currently works on a project funded by the DFG (German Research Foundation) on migration from north-eastern Pakistan to the Gulf.

This looks interesting, and especially relevant given recent events, but a shame about the prohibitive price, even for the e-book.

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Special issue: The Politics of Life. European Journal of Social Theory (2019)

European Social Theory theme issue on The Politics of Life, including a piece by Roberto Esposito (requires subscription)

Foucault News

Special issue: The Politics of Life, European Journal of Social Theory, Volume 22 Issue 3, August 2019


Guest editors: Greg Bird and Heather Lynch

Special issue introduction

Introduction to the politics of life: A biopolitical mess 301
Greg Bird and Heather Lynch

Special issue articles

Postdemocracy and biopolitics
Roberto Esposito

Me, my self, and the multitude: Microbiopolitics of the human microbiome
Penelope Ironstone

Geopower: On the states of nature of late capitalism
Federico Luisetti

Esposito’s affirmative biopolitics in multispecies homes
Heather Lynch

The eroticization of biopower: Masochistic relationality and resistance
in Deleuze and Agamben
Hannah Richter

Religion and the spontaneous order of the market: Law, freedom, and power
over lives
Elettra Stimilli

From homo sacer to homo dolorosus: Biopower and the politics of suffering 416
Charles Wells

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Nancy Luxon (ed.), Archives of Infamy: Foucault on State Power in the Lives of Ordinary Citizens – University of Minnesota Press, August 2019

imageNancy Luxon (ed.), Archives of Infamy: Foucault on State Power in the Lives of Ordinary Citizens – University of Minnesota Press, August 2019

Great to see a copy of this collection, in which I have a piece ‘Home, Street, City: Farge, Foucault and the Spaces of the Lettres de cachet‘ (preprint available here).

Expanding the insights of Arlette Farge and Michel Foucault’s Disorderly Families into policing, public order, (in)justice, and daily life

What might it mean for ordinary people to intervene in the circulation of power between police and the streets, sovereigns and their subjects? How did the police come to understand themselves as responsible for the circulation of people as much as things—and to separate law and justice from the maintenance of a newly emergent civil order? These are among the many questions addressed in the interpretive essays in Archives of Infamy.

Crisscrossing the Atlantic to bring together unpublished radio broadcasts, book reviews, and essays by historians, geographers, and political theorists, Archives of Infamy provides historical and archival contexts to the translation of Disorderly Families by Arlette Farge and Michel Foucault. This volume includes new translations of key texts, including a radio address Foucault gave in 1983 that explains the writing process for Disorderly Families; two essays by Foucault not readily available in English; and a previously untranslated essay by Farge that describes how historians have appropriated Foucault.

Archives of Infamy pushes past old debates between philosophers and historians to offer a new perspective on the crystallization of ideas—of the family, gender relations, and political power—into social relationships and the regimes of power they engender.

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Arthur Bradley, Unbearable Life: A Genealogy of Political Erasure – Columbia University Press, October 2019


Arthur Bradley, Unbearable Life: A Genealogy of Political Erasure – Columbia University Press, October 2019

In ancient Rome, any citizen who had brought disgrace upon the state could be subject to a judgment believed to be worse than death: damnatio memoriae, condemnation of memory. The Senate would decree that every trace of the citizen’s existence be removed from the city as if they had never existed in the first place. Once reserved for individuals, damnatio memoriae in different forms now extends to social classes, racial and ethnic groups, and even entire peoples. In modern times, the condemned go by different names—“enemies of the people;” the “missing,” the “disappeared,” “ghost” detainees in “black sites”—but they are subject to the same fate of political erasure.

Arthur Bradley explores the power to render life unlived from ancient Rome through the War on Terror. He argues that sovereignty is the power to decide what counts as being alive and what does not: to make life “unbearable,” unrecognized as having lived or died. In readings of Augustine, Shakespeare, Hobbes, Robespierre, Schmitt, and Benjamin, Bradley asks: What is the “life” of this unbearable life? How does it change and endure across sovereign time and space, from empires to republics, from kings to presidents? To what extent can it be resisted or lived otherwise? A profoundly interdisciplinary and ambitious work, Unbearable Life rethinks sovereignty, biopolitics, and political theology to find the radical potential of a life that neither lives or dies.

In this book, Arthur Bradley identifies the antinomical point of crossing, hitherto obscure, between the paradigms of biopolitics and political theology in the sovereign prerogative of making life, or death, never happen. It is a conceptual passage of extreme interest that, by rethinking the performative role of negation, widens the boundaries of political ontology. The sources used—ancient, modern, and contemporary—place this work at the center of current philosophical and political debate. Roberto Esposito, author of Immunitas: The Protection and Negation of Life

Arthur Bradley poses here a dramatic and unsettling challenge: to think a new natality. Not a renaissance, but a powerful call for ‘future political children’ to be born, who would break the cycles of a sovereign power intent on erasing countless existences that, beyond annihilation, would simply never have been. By way of Augustine, Shakespeare, Hobbes, Schmitt, and others, Unbearable Life presents us with a generalized martyrology, reading with unceasing insights the remarkable figures of Cacus and of Jephthah’s daughter, of Robespierre and the Zapatistas, in order to diagnose and combat a nihilopolitics that, older and stronger than we wish to admit, very much persists today. Gil Anidjar, author of Blood: A Critique of Christianity

There is no ‘murderous consent’ organized by the state more radical and absolute than the one that declares the very existence of an individual or a community to be intolerable. What sovereign power then organizes is that individual or community’s confinement to a state of inexistence that culminates in its erasure. Because such consent takes us to the heart of the modern theological-political imaginary, it is important to write its genealogy. Revisiting anew the thought of Foucault, Augustine, Shakespeare, Hobbes, Schmitt, and Benjamin, this is what the decisive analyses of Unbearable Life propose: a plunge into the roots of the violence that the contemporary world does not stop imposing upon us with increasing urgency. Marc Crépon, author of Murderous Consent: On the Accommodation of Violent Death

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