Books received – Nietzsche, Chow, Heidegger, Stimilli, Anthony, Renfrew, Mallory

The latest volume in the Nietzsche complete works from Stanford, Rey Chow, A Face Drawn in Sand: Humanistic Inquiry and Foucault in the Present from Columbia, three books from SUNY in recompense for review work, and three second-hand books as background for the Georges Dumézil editing work.

Posted in Friedrich Nietzsche, Georges Dumézil, Martin Heidegger, Michel Foucault, Mircea Eliade | Leave a comment

Stuart Hall, Writings on Media: History of the Present, edited by Charlotte Brunsdon – Duke University Press, October 2021

Stuart Hall, Writings on Media: History of the Present, edited by Charlotte Brunsdon – Duke University Press, October 2021

Volumes on Marxism and race and difference appeared recently, and this is the next collection in the series of Stuart Hall: Selected Writings.

Writings on Media gathers more than twenty of Stuart Hall’s media analyses, from scholarly essays such as “Encoding and Decoding” (1973) to other writings addressed to wider publics. Hall explores the practices of news photography, the development of media and cultural studies, the changing role of television, and how the nation imagines itself through popular media. He attends to Britain’s imperial history and the politics of race and cultural identity as well as the media’s relationship to the political project of the state. Testifying to the range and agility of Hall’s critical and pedagogic engagement with contemporary media culture—and also to his collaborative mode of working—this volume reaffirms his stature as an innovative media theorist while demonstrating the continuing relevance of his methods of analysis.

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Hannah Arendt papers at the Library of Congress online

The extensive collection of Hannah Arendt’s papers held at the Library of Congress are available online.

The papers of author, educator, political philosopher, and public intellectual Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) constitute a large and diverse collection (25,000 items; 82,597 images) reflecting a complex career. The collection spans the years 1898 to 1977, with the bulk of the material beginning in 1948, three years before Arendt’s naturalization as an American citizen. The papers contain correspondence, articles, lectures, speeches, book manuscripts, transcripts of Adolf Eichmann’s trial proceedings, notes, printed matter pertaining to Arendt’s writings, family and personal materials, evidence of Arendt’s network of fellow intellectuals, editors, writers, and theorists, and documentation of her academic affiliations and courses taught.

Arendt biographer Samantha Rose Hill has a good piece at Literary Hub on the archives and her own work with them.

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Stuart Elden, The Early Foucault – Polity, June 2021 now published

Stuart Elden, The Early Foucault – Polity, June 2021

The book is now published, in both hardback and paperback, and is in bookstores, though getting copies outside of the UK might still take a while. It’s available as an e-book too.

There is a piece at the Polity blog about the book here.

This is my tenth authored book, and the third in what has become a four-volume series on Foucault’s intellectual history. The Early Foucault was the hardest of the Foucault series to write, even before the pandemic made completing it very difficult. The book was maybe 95% finished before everything changed. I wrote a series of updates on the research process, which can be found here. The fourth and final book of the series is well underway, and will hopefully be completed in early 2022, though much depends on travel restrictions and getting back to the archives.

Many thanks to all at Polity for their work on bringing The Early Foucault to a successful conclusion. While it took me a bit longer to complete it, Polity have seen this through the production process with their customary efficiency. It’s a book I’m very pleased with, as it discusses some little-known parts of Foucault’s trajectory. I learned a huge amount in researching it, so I hope that some of that comes across to its readers. But of course, there will be things I don’t discuss and other things will become clearer as more research is done. The publication of early manuscripts and teaching notes will hopefully lead to more interest in this period. I hope my book is a useful map for others to follow and fill in detail.

Here’s the back cover text and the three generous endorsements:

It was not until 1961 that Foucault published his first major book,  History of Madness. He had been working as an academic for a decade, publishing a few works including a short book, teaching in Lille and Paris, organizing cultural programmes and lecturing in Uppsala, Warsaw and Hamburg. Although he published little in this period, Foucault wrote much more, some of which has been preserved and only recently become available to researchers.

Drawing on archives in France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and the USA, this is the most detailed study yet of Foucault’s early career. It recounts his debt to teachers including Louis Althusser, Jean Hyppolite, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Jean Wahl; his diploma thesis on Hegel; and his early teaching career. It explores his initial encounters with Georges Canguilhem, Jacques Lacan, and Georges Dumézil, and analyses his sustained reading of Friedrich Nietzsche, Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger. Also included are detailed discussions of his translations of Ludwig Binswanger, Victor von Weizsäcker, and Immanuel Kant; his clinical work with Georges and Jacqueline Verdeaux; and his cultural work outside of France.

Investigating how Foucault came to write  History of Madness, Stuart Elden shows this great thinker’s deep engagement with phenomenology, anthropology and psychology. An outstanding, meticulous work of intellectual history,  The Early Foucault sheds new light on the formation of a major twentieth-century figure.

This book is the third of four major intellectual histories of Michel Foucault, exploring newly released archival material and covering the French thinker’s entire academic career.  Foucault’s Last Decade was published by Polity in 2016;  Foucault: The Birth of Power followed in 2017; and  The Archaeology of Foucault will publish in the early 2020s.

‘Elden’s compendious coverage of Foucault’s intellectual career constitutes the contemporary apogee of scholarship on Foucault.’
Mark G. E. Kelly, Western Sydney University

‘This is a work of immense scholarship. Stuart Elden provides a wealth of contextual information on Foucault’s less familiar early career.’
Clare O’Farrell, Queensland University of Technology

‘Stuart Elden’s comprehensive, finely crafted investigation of the early Foucault is much more than a contribution to Foucault studies. It’s an exemplary guide to writing intellectual history.’
Michael J. Shapiro, University of Hawai’i, Manoa

Posted in Books, Foucault's Last Decade, Foucault: The Birth of Power, Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Foucault, The Early Foucault, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Archaeology of Foucault update 6: the state of the manuscript, limited work in libraries, and editing work on Lefebvre and Dumézil

The big news for my Foucault work is the publication of The Early Foucault later this week. There is a piece on the Polity blog about the book here.

But I’ve also been slowly working on the last of this series, The Archaeology of Foucault. It’s been over three months since the last update on its writing. It’s been very hard to make much progress on this during term-time and even over the Easter break. But most of my marking is now complete apart from some moderation and a few pieces of work where students have extensions. As the last update said, much of the work in the first part of 2021 was on connected projects. I am well behind where I’d expected to be on this book, partly because of the inability to get to archives, but also because the teaching this year has been much harder, and I’ve just not had the time. I’d expected that the end of term 2 would be the beginning of a long period of research leave, but that was postponed and it’s still not clear when it will be reinstated. I’d thought I’d be nearly finished with Foucault by now. The danger is that my head is already beginning to be in the next project, when this one isn’t complete. But while the logistics of doing this work remain complicated I will focus here on what I have managed to do.

In the last couple of weeks of term 2 I did manage to send off two of those shorter pieces to the editors of the volumes in which they will hopefully appear. These have now come back with initial comments, and I have a bit of work to do on them. I took part in a discussion of “Foucault and the Social Contract” with Mark Kelly and Christopher Watkin on 13 April, in which I talked about some themes from the Foucault and Dumézil paper. The video of the talks and discussion is on Youtube, and it also available as a podcast.

I also applied for a no-cost extension to the small grant I have to fund archival work on Foucault. It took a while to get a positive decision, which concerned me, given the cuts to other funding that has been in the news recently. This grant will be used to fund some trips to Paris and the USA which were already booked in 2020 when the first lockdown meant they all had to be cancelled. But I now have quite a bit more time to try to reschedule them. I’m hopeful I can get to Paris sometime in the summer, and then can plan a US trip. Initially I’d planned to do Yale, Princeton and New York in one trip, and the west coast in the other, but I might now combine them. But at the moment even getting to Paris is complicated. I also submitted a fellowship application for what I hope will be the next big project after the Foucault work is complete.

Some of the manuscript is in quite good shape, which has somewhat surprised me, given the disjointed way in which it’s been coming together. Other parts have substantial holes where I need to write a section on a text, often one I can’t access at the moment with restrictions on international travel. But there are also sizable parts which I just need to knuckle down and write. In recent days I’ve made some good progress on the chapters on literature and art for which most of the key texts are available. Although not knowing when I can get to Paris to do the archival work with unpublished materials is difficult, I am going to try to get this manuscript except for those sections completed this summer. 

With Birth of the Clinic, Raymond Roussel and the published versions of Les mots et les choses/The Order of Things and The Archaeology of Knowledge there is no reason why I can’t write those parts. The discussions of the draft materials for The Archaeology of Knowledge, the early version of Les mots et les choses which Foucault gave in Brazil, and the surviving materials from Tunisia and Vincennes will have to wait. I have looked at all that material at least once, but I want some time with those files again. There are a load of things I want to look at in other Paris libraries, and several references I want to check there, but those too will have to wait.

I had a few days in the British Library once that reopened in April. I’m certainly grateful for the way the staff have made this possible. But it also made me appreciate how much I used this before, and how little I can do in a three-hour slot. I had two days in the Rare Books room, mainly looking at some memoirs of Foucault’s students and others from his time in Tunisia, and one day in the Newsroom working though some microfilms of old French newspapers, mainly in relation to his time at Vincennes. I also checked some original language sources for the Foucault and Dumézil work. I have a few more days booked in June and hope to make more visits over the summer.

I’ve mentioned before that one very long-running project, the collection of Lefebvre’s works on rural sociology and political economy, has finally gone into production. There are some more details on that work, co-edited with Adam David Morton and forthcoming in 2022 with University of Minnesota Press, here. I did realise recently that of the eleven books by Lefebvre or collections of his work to be translated into English in the last 20 years, I’ve been involved in seven in some way. This has either been that I’ve co-translated (Rhythmanalysis, State, Space, World), edited or co-edited (Key WritingsState, Space, WorldMetaphilosophyOn the Rural), and/or introduced them (all the previous ones, plus Marxist Thought and the City and Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche). 

There are two other possible Lefebvre volumes which I’ve had preliminary discussions with publishers about. This kind of work is interesting, and I hope useful to others. But it is very time-consuming, especially given how bad Lefebvre’s referencing is, and the work that goes into checking, completing and adding these can be substantial. It’s poorly recognised institutionally, and in terms of research assessment, though that isn’t a great concern to me now. And while I’m not always successful at this, I do try to encourage publishers to translate works, or bring out-of-print ones back into circulation. I’ve been more successful with this with Lefebvre than anyone else. 

The next editing project will be the latter kind of work, and with a new thinker for me to work with. I proposed a reedition of Georges Dumézil’s Mitra-Varuna to HAU books, and they enthusiastically accepted. The plan is that we use the existing but out-of-print translation by Derek Coltman as the base, but that I compare this carefully to both the French text of the 1948 edition which he translated, and the original 1940 edition. Depending on that work, I’ll add editorial notes. I may also add detail to Dumézil’s own notes, and I’ll certainly write an Introduction. Mitra-Varuna is a text which Foucault certainly knew, and to which he makes an oblique reference in one of his lectures. There are other texts by Dumézil which he explicitly discusses at different points in his career. I discuss some of this in my piece on Foucault, Dumézil and sovereignty, and give some indications in the Monash talk mentioned above. But I thought Dumézil’s text deserved to be more widely available, so I took the work into my own hands. Since there is already a good quality translation, I’m hoping this won’t be too much work, and now looking forward to being able to get to a library with the 1940 edition to begin the comparative work.

Previous updates on The Archaeology of Foucault are here, and updates for The Early Foucault here. A list of the resources on this site relating to Foucault – bibliographies, audio and video files, some textual comparisons, some short translations, etc. – can be found here. The earlier books Foucault: The Birth of Power and Foucault’s Last Decade are both available from Polity. The Early Foucault will be published in June 2021 in Europe and July 2021 in the rest of the world. The e-book is already available.

Posted in Adam David Morton, Georges Dumézil, Henri Lefebvre, Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Foucault, The Early Foucault | Leave a comment

Mark Olsson, Constructing Foucault’s Ethics: A Poststructuralist Moral Theory for the Twenty-First Century – Manchester University Press, June 2021 and A Normative Foucauldian: Selected Papers of Mark Olssen – Brill, July 2021

Updated with cover images and new description and table of contents of the first of these books.

Progressive Geographies

Mark Olsson, Constructing Foucault’s Ethics: A Poststructuralist Moral Theory for the Twenty-First Century – Manchester University Press, June 2021

updated 28 May 2021 with new description and table of contents

In popularizing the term ‘speaking truth to power’, now widely used throughout the world, Michel Foucault established the basis upon which a new ethics can be constructed. This is the thesis that Mark Olssen advances in Constructing Foucault’s ethics. Olssen not only ‘speaks truth’ to existing moral and ethical theories that have dominated western philosophy since Plato, but also shows how, by using Foucault’s insights, an alternative ethical and moral theory can be established that both avoids the pitfalls of postmodern relativism and simultaneously grounds ethical, moral, and political discourse for the present age.

Taking the late ‘ethical turn’ in the philosopher’s thought as its starting point, this ambitious study seeks to construct an ethics beyond anything Foucault ever…

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Jeff Malpas & Kenneth White, The Fundamental Field: Thought, Poetics, World – Edinburgh University Press, 2021

Jeff Malpas & Kenneth White, The Fundamental Field: Thought, Poetics, World – Edinburgh University Press, 2021

The Scottish poet Kenneth White and the Australian philosopher Jeff Malpas came together by chance when Malpas heard an interview with White on ABC radio. Malpas contacted White, and from there they exchanged books and ideas. They arranged to meet at White’s place on the Breton coast, where a conversation about poetry and philosophy developed over four days. Inspired by poets from John Donne to Hölderlin, and philosophers from Nietzsche to Heidegger, they discussed the world, place, narrative, language and politics. This book records that conversation.

The Fundamental Field is made up of two essays: the first is by White on Malpas; the second is by Malpas on White. The volume closes with a set of three new philosophical poems by White.

Engages two constellations of ideas – White’s geopoetics and Malpas’ ‘topology/topography’

Perhaps the only work to take up White’s work in a more general way in English

Explores ideas of place and world in a way that is directly informed by the thought of two already well-established figures

When the substantial poetics of Kenneth White meet the conceptual philosophy of Jeff Malpas, what takes place is a fundamental renewal of world-space and a keen sense of living on earth.– Arnaud Villani, author of Gilles Deleuze. La guêpe et l’orchidée

White and Malpas gift us a book of conversations and blurred lines. Poetry and philosophy, the sensory and conceptual, the particularities of location and the possibilities of connection: all arise on the ‘fundamental field’ of place and the wider openings it founds. A closely crafted and wonderfully generous book. – Jessica Dubow, University of Sheffield

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William Walters, State Secrecy and Security: Refiguring the Covert Imaginary – Routledge, May 2021

William Walters, State Secrecy and Security: Refiguring the Covert Imaginary – Routledge, May 2021

In State Secrecy and Security: Refiguring the Covert Imaginary, William Walters calls for secrecy to be given a more central place in critical security studies and elevated to become a core concept when theorising power in liberal democracies. 

Through investigations into such themes as the mobility of cryptographic secrets, the power of public inquiries, the connection between secrecy and place-making, and the aesthetics of secrecy within immigration enforcement, Walters challenges commonplace understandings of the covert and develops new concepts, methods and themes for secrecy and security research. Walters identifies the covert imaginary as both a limit on our ability to think politics differently and a ground to develop a richer understanding of power. 

State Secrecy and Security offers readers a set of thinking tools to better understand the strange powers that hiding, revealing, lying, confessing, professing ignorance and many other operations of secrecy put in motion. It will be a valuable resource for scholars and students of security, secrecy and politics more broadly.

“State Secrecy and Security reverses the inattention to secrecy in critical security studies and proposes to unsettle the limits to how we understand secrecy and security. Walters probes how secrecy is problematised and assembled across a range of complex sites, from weapons testing to public inquiries and immigration enforcement. The book will be crucial reading for critical scholars analysing techno-social apparatuses of security and interdisciplinary research grappling with secrecy methodologically and conceptually.” – Claudia Aradau, Professor of International Studies, King’s College London.

“William Walters makes an excellent case for putting secrecy at the center of critical security studies. He expands the concept of secrecy to cover such topical and pervasive practices as strategic ignorance and conspiracies of silence. His case studies then show how these practices operate through emotions such as jealousy and fear, and how they reinforce social hierarchies. His book deserves to be widely read. It should inspire exciting new research agendas.” – Mark Bevir, Professor of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley.

“Can you keep a secret? You can? Well, just between you and me, this is a great book. William Walters looks at the ways that secrecy is used to organize and structure state security. He does so through four compelling case studies that examine espionage and cryptanalysis; covert military research sites; national inquiries and disclosure; and the public secret of immigration deportation. State Secrecy and Security exposes how covert imaginaries are constituted and reconstituted through places, technologies, publics and artefacts so that they become core to projects to both the making and unmaking of national security. You could keep all of these fascinating insights all to yourself. But you won’t want to. You’ll want to tell everyone you know.” – Emily Gilbert, Professor of Geography, University of Toronto.

“Through a meticulous probing of a series of case studies in secrecy, Walters exposes and unravels the covert imaginary at the heart of our political condition. This imaginary involves a matrix of assumptions, structures, images, and attitudes about secrecy that limit our political understanding, impoverish our ability to understand state power, and thwart attempts at critical analysis of security. The challenge, he argues, is not to define, delimit or measure secrecy, but to establish the political work that secrecy does, in the hope that we might then start to imagine politics differently.” – Mark Neocleous, Professor of the Critique of Political Economy, Brunel University London.

Expensive hardback, but the e-book is more reasonable.

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What the Foucault? BBC Radio 4 discussion with Shahidha Bari

What the Foucault? BBC Radio 4 discussion with Shahidha Bari

Last December Liz Truss made a speech. The Minister for Women and Equalities spoke about her memories of being at school in Leeds. She was taught about sexism and racism, she said, but not enough time was spent on being taught how to read and write. “These ideas,” said Truss, “have their roots in post-modernist philosophy – pioneered by Foucault – that put societal power structures and labels ahead of individuals and their endeavours.”

So do Foucault’s ideas pose a real danger to social and cultural life in Britain? Or is he a “bogeyman” deployed by some politicians to divide and distract us from real issues?

In this edition of Analysis, writer and academic Shahidha Bari tries to make sense of Foucault’s influence in the UK – and asks whether his ideas really do have an effect on Britain today.

Producer: Ant Adeane
Editor: Jasper Corbett


Agnes Poirier, journalist and author of Left Bank: Art, Passion, and the Rebirth of Paris, 1940-50

Michael Drolet, Senior Research Fellow in the History of Political Thought, Worcester College, University of Oxford

Lisa Downing, Professor of French Discourses of Sexuality at the University of Birmingham

Richard Whatmore, Professor of Modern History at the University of St Andrews and Co-Director of the Institute of Intellectual History 

Matthew Goodwin, Professor of Politics in the School of Politics and International Relations at the University of Kent

Clare Chambers, Professor of Political Philosophy at the University of Cambridge

Charlotte Riley, Lecturer in Twentieth-Century British History at the University of Southampton

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Books received – Eliade, Waltham-Smith, Marx-Scouras, Foucault, Olsen, Olander & Kristiansen

Mainly bought second-hand, but also the long-awaited Foucault, Binswanger et l’analyse existentielle, edited by Elisabetta Basso, and the new book by Warwick colleague Naomi Waltham-Smith, Shattering Biopolitics: Militant Listening and the Sound of Life.

Posted in Ludwig Binswanger, Michel Foucault, Mircea Eliade | Leave a comment