Colloquium Abstracts: Spring 2011

2011 Colloquium: New Research in Foucault Studies

Thursday, March 3, 2011
Stephanie Clare (Rutgers University)
“Foucault, Geopower, and the Transformation of the Earth”
This paper introduces an analysis of “geopower”–the force relations that transform the earth–by reading Foucault’s Discipline and Punish and Security, Territory, Population alongside the archive of Canadian settler colonialism, specifically the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the nineteenth century.  Geopower physically transforms the earth through techniques such as urban planning, architecture, engineering, agriculture, and surveying–as well as digging, logging, and marking territory. Its analysis demonstrates that power relations are not only operative between humans: multiple forms of life transform the earth. Although geopower subtends both biopower and sovereign power, it is a repressed presence in Foucault’s writing, perhaps because it does not have humans as its target.  This analysis therefore puts pressure on Foucauldian understandings of power.
Speaker bio:  Stephanie Clare is a PhD candidate in Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University.  Her dissertation, “Earthly Encounters: Readings in Poststructuralism, Feminist Theory, and Canadian Settler Colonialism,” touches upon feminist, queer, and postcolonial theory, twentieth-century French philosophy, and settler colonial studies. She has published articles in Hypatia and Exit Nine, and has received grants from SSHRC and FQRSC.

Thursday, March 24, 2011
Verena Erlenbusch (University of Sussex and Emory University)
“Sovereignty and Governmentality: Mapping Power With Butler and Foucault”

Verena Erlenbusch

Abstract: The paper investigates the relation between sovereignty and governmentality by comparing and contrasting the work of Judith Butler and Michel Foucault. It argues that Butler’s reworking of this relationship is supported by Foucault’s genealogy of liberalism. Both Butler and Foucault shun any attempt to formulate a unitary theory of power and instead insist on the coexistence of multiple forms of power. For Foucault, this coexistence takes the form of a superimposition of different kinds of power, while Butler identifies an anachronistic resurgence of sovereignty within a field of governmentality. The paper concludes that Butler’s account of power under conditions of a permanent War on Terror anticipates and at the same time recreates the narrative Foucault developed in more depth in his lectures on biopolitics.
Speaker bio:  Verena Erlenbusch is a PhD candidate at the University of Sussex and a visiting research scholar at Emory University. Drawing from the work of Foucault, her dissertation entitled “A History of Terrorism in the Age of Freedom” traces a philosophical history of terrorism and situates it within a wider development of contemporary power relations.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Governmentality and Vulnerable Populations

Adrian Guta (University of Toronto)
“Critically Reflecting on the Use of  ‘Peer Researchers’ in Community-Based Participatory Research”
Sarah Flicker, PhD (YorkUniversity) and Brenda Roche PhD (Wellesley Institute).
Abstract:  The disappointing results of many public health interventions have been partially attributed to the lack of meaningful engagement of those most affected in the process of research and evaluation. Community-based participatory research (CBPR) has emerged as an alternative research paradigm which develops research questions from a community-identified need. Increasingly, CBPR projects directly involve community members in the research process (design, data collection, analysis, and dissemination). Through what has been termed “peer research”, community members are trained to participate as co-researchers alongside academics and clinicians. Peer researchers are understood to contribute expertise by providing lived experience, divergent perspectives, and facilitating entry into “hard to reach communities.” Their involvement is said to be an “empowering experience” which “builds their capacity.”
     This paper discusses findings from a recent qualitative study investigating the experiences of 18 peer researchers recruited for studies in Toronto, Canada. These individuals brought to their respective projects a lived understanding of homelessness, HIV, migration, transgender identity, and mental illness. Findings from these interviews will be discussed with an attention to Michel Foucault’s concept of “governmentality,” and situated within discourses of scientific citizenship. While peer researchers spoke about joining CBPR initiatives to provide ‘lived experience’ and improve conditions for their communities, these emancipatory goals were often subsumed within corporatist research environments. Overall, the integration of peer researchers into health sciences research serves as a site through which to explore the “will to empower” and its unintended potential as a tool for dominating and regulating vulnerable and marginalised communities.
Speaker bio: Adrian Guta, MSW, is a PhD Candidate in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, Joint Centre for Bioethics at University of Toronto.

Kevin S. Jobe (Stony Brook University)
“The BioPolitics of Homelessness”
There is now little doubt that we are in the midst of a “growing tide” of hatred, prejudice and egregious violence directed against homeless populations across the United States. 1 2 The number of fatal crimes reported against the homeless in the last decade has grown to more than twice that of crimes committed against all groups currently protected under federal hate crime legislation combined. 3 This raises an important question: what lies behind this epidemic of killings and violence against homeless populations?  Towards this end, I’d like to turn our focus towards Foucault’s remarks on the modern biopolitical state in Society Must Be Defended, where we learn that the precondition of “killing” the other (exposing to the risk of death) is racism. Extending Foucault’s analysis of racism into The Birth of Biopolitics, I discuss two ways in which racism functions within a broader strategy of governmental naturalism: 1) a strategy of abandonment and exposure to the “elements” and “natural risks” of urban space, and 2) the “naturalization” and essentialization of these urban vectors of disease and risks of death within homeless bodies and populations themselves. I argue that by looking at the social logic behind hate crimes against the homeless, we discover that this logic mirrors a broader strategy of neoliberal government that “makes free by letting die.”
Speaker Bio: Kevin S. Jobe is a graduate student in the PhD program in Philosophy at Stony Brook University. He is the author of The Epistemology of Pathology: Essays on Mental Health from Plato to Foucault (VDM-Verlag 2009). His research interests lie at the intersection of political philosophy and the philosophy of race.
Notes:  1 “Attacks on Homeless Bring Push on Hate Crime Laws.” The New York Times, August 7, 2009. In August of 2007, Maxim magazine ran a piece titled “Hunt the Homeless,” which poked fun at the annual Hobo Convention that was being held in Iowa at the time with a blurb that read, “Kill one for fun. We’re 87 percent sure it’s legal.”
2 ‘
“Killings of Homeless Rise to Highest Level in a Decade.” The New York Times, August 19, 2010.
3 Hate Crimes Against the Homeless: America’s Growing Tide of Violence. Report by the National Coalition for the Homeless, August 2010, p. 8