Colloquium Abstracts: 2011-2012


Thursday, May 17, 2012
Brooke M. Beloso, Ph.D.
“‘On the Other Side of Bars’:  Queer Theory, Sex Work, and Foucault’s Unreason”
Abstract:  During the late nineties, leading voices of the sex worker rights movement began to publicly question queer theory’s virtual silence on the subject of prostitution and sex work.   However, this attempt by sex workers to “come out of the closet” into the larger queer theoretical community has thus far failed to bring much attention to sex work as an explicitly queer issue.  Refusing the obvious conclusion—that queer theory’s silence on sex work somehow proves its insignificance to this field of inquiry—I trace in Foucault’s oeuvre signs of an alternate (albeit differently) queer genealogy of prostitution and sex work. Both challenging and responding to long-standing debates about prostitution within feminist theory, I offer a new queer genealogy of sex work that aims to move beyond the rigid oppositions that continue to divide theorists of sexuality and gender.  Focusing specifically on History of Madness (1961), Discipline and Punish (1975),  and History of Sexuality Volume I (1976), I make the case for an alternate genealogy of sex work that takes seriously both the historical construction of prostitution and the lived experience of contemporary sex workers.
Speaker bio:  Brooke M. Beloso (Ph.D., Comparative Literature, Emory University) is Assistant Professor of Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies at Butler University in Indianapolis.   Her recent essay, “Sex, Work, and the Feminist Erasure of Class,” is forthcoming in Signs.

Thursday, April 12, 2012
Kelsey Borrowman
“Plasticization as Necrophilia: Death, Decomposition, and the Inorganic in Foucault”
Abstract: Throughout his work, Foucault wrestles with the notion of biopolitics, which can be defined broadly as the politics of and over life.  This essay investigates the politics of death within life, specifically concerning the concept of plasticization, in order to illuminate contemporary society’s desire for an inorganic “body.”  I root the discussion within The Birth of the Clinic and Foucault’s analysis of the development of a new concept of “death.”  Just as we understand life as permeable by death, I propose that the dying or decomposing body, a remnant of the living body, is death permeated by life.  I expand Susan Bordo’s discussion of plasticization, to include not only forms of body modification like plastic surgery, but also the broader societal pressure to ‘look young.’ I propose that plasticity–an obsession with the non-decomposing, un-aging body–is, by definition, necrophilia. In the paper’s final section, I turn to the implications of my argument for biopolitics.  Should we view plasticization as part of a technology of governing bodies?  Connecting Foucault and Bordo, I argue that it is through plasticization as necrophilia that the sovereign regains a “right” to life and death.  As a consequence, we see that death is not the last remaining region of freedom from the sovereign.  Plasticization entails new techniques of power and makes already established techniques more prominent and invasive. Following Bordo, who addresses claims that the feminine body is not of political concern, I show the extent to which plasticization is political by illuminating how our obsession with the “dead” body has given the sovereign a new “right” over life.
Speaker bio: Kelsey Borrowman is a Master of Arts candidate in the Philosophy & Arts program at Stony Brook University.  She will present her paper, “Plasticization as Necrophilia,” at the Foucault Circle meeting in March 2012, and has delivered versions at the NY Society for Women in Philosophy workshop (SWIPshop) and the Radical Foucault conference at University of East London.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Bernard Gendron, Ph.D.
“Foucault’s 1968”
Abstract: Foucault’s relation to May 1968 is crucial for understanding the transformation in his theory and practice in the years (1969-1974) leading to the publication of Discipline and Punish.  This transformation is frequently interpreted as a transition from “archaeology” to “genealogy” resulting from Foucault’s discovery of basic flaws in his archaeological method.  A closer analysis shows, however, that his turn to political militancy within a post-1968 horizon was the chief catalyst for temporally halting and then redirecting his theoretical work.  These reflections appear not in his books and well-known articles, but in the mass of interviews conducted in the early 1970s.  In these texts, Foucault repeatedly shifts positions while trying both to make theoretical sense of his militant practices and to wrest from Marxism the proper interpretation of May 1968, until finally he arrives at the formulations that lead to Discipline and Punish.  The formula, “from archaeology to genealogy,” taken as such, explains little, and indeed gives an oversimplified and distorted picture of that transformation.
Speaker bio: 
Bernard Gendron is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where he taught courses on Nietzsche, Foucault, Miles Davis, and the aesthetics of popular music, among others.  He is the author of Technology and the Human Condition (St. Martins, 1976) and Between Montmartre and the Mudd Club: Popular Music and the Avant-Garde (University of Chicago, 2002).  He now lives in New York and is working on a book, Downtown Sounds: The Experimental Music Scene in New York (1970-1990).  His essay, “Foucault’s 1968” is forthcoming in The Long 1968: Revisions and New Perspectives, eds. Jasmine Alinder, A. Aneesh, Daniel J. Sherman, and Ruud van Dijk (Indiana University Press, Spring 2013).

FALL 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Dominique Johnson, Ph.D.
“Critical Dilemmas and Methodological Regimes:  Toward a Genealogy of an Empirical Borderland”
This paper engages in a Foucaultian critique of quantitative methodologies.  Situating Foucault’s discussions of the carceral society and regimes of verification in the context of work by Patricia Hill Collins and Sandra Harding, I examine the dilemmas that emerge when using critical theory to frame quantitative social research.  The paper looks carefully at the silencing of intersectional identities that often occurs when quantitative data is used for the construction, maintenance and representation of social identities, and argues that these dilemmas challenge us to expand our conceptualizations of what it is to do quantitative research, particularly for intersectional analysis.  Engaging both the risks and opportunities that arise from seeking to enter the quantitative matrix, the paper concludes by considering the various implications of living and working in the empirical borderlands while making a critical intervention into existing methodological regimes.
Speaker bio: Dominique Johnson (Ph.D., Urban Education,  Temple University) is an Assistant Professor of Law and Society and a member of the Women and Gender Studies convening group in the School of Social Science and Human Services at Ramapo College of New Jersey. Dr. Johnson is currently the Chair of the American Democracy Project at Ramapo College.  Among her publications are “Queer Theories in Education” (coauthored with C. A. Lugg) in Handbook of Research in the Social Foundations of Education (Routledge, 2011); “In Schools We Trust? Leadership in loco parentis and the Failure to Protect Students from Bullying and Harassment” in Trust and Betrayal in Educational Administration and Leadership (Routledge, 2010); “Taking Over the School: Student Gangs as a Strategy for Dealing with Homophobic Bullying in an Urban Public School District” in Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services (2007); and “Excuse Me, Sir?! Gender Queer Pedagogy in our Schools” in Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy (2007).

Friday, October 21, 2011
Devonya Havis, Ph.D.
“Arts of Resistance: Locating Black Women’s Philosophies”

Abstract: This paper works through Foucault to examine the parameters within which Black women’s lived experience can be intelligible as philosophy. Toni Morrison characterizes the condition of Black women in the US as one in which they have “nothing to fall back on; not maleness, not whiteness, not ladyhood, not anything.” It is at the juncture of self-invention, which simultaneously contests and resists imposed categories, that Black women’s philosophies emerge. As opposed to a static set of philosophical principles, Black women’s philosophies are more aptly described as philosophical strategies that perform ethico-political interventions–doing philosophy from the posture of critique. In evoking the notion of “doing philosophy,” the project calls attention to philosophy as a practice, or process of habituation, whereby one develops an active critical posture in which theory and action are necessary linked. My account enlists Foucault’s analytic of subjugated knowledges, takes up his elaborations on genealogy (as outlined in Society Must Be Defended), and explores his discussions of critique and the “Aesthetics of Existence.”
Speaker bio: Devonya N. Havis (Ph.D., Boston College) is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY. Her research engages contemporary continental philosophy with critical race theory to promote social justice. Her current work develops a conception of auditory identity as a counter to the longstanding philosophical emphasis on the visual. Recent articles include “Blackness Beyond Witness” in Philosophy and Social Criticism (2010). Courses she teaches range from introduction to traditional Western philosophical concepts to explorations of the political implications of Hip-Hop theory. She is the Conference Site Coordinator for the Foucault Circle’s 2012 Annual Meeting, taking place in Buffalo on March 30-April 1.

Updated: April 2, 2012