2009-10 Reading Group: Foucault(s) Beyond Foucault: Essays, Interviews, Lectures (1976-84)

Our Fall 2009-Winter 2010 Reading Group explored lesser-read works from Foucault’s later period, 1976-84.  We read lectures, interviews, and essays, many of which have become available in English translation only in the past decade.  Our first meeting was held on Friday, October 9, 7:00-9:30pm, at the CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, Room 5414. 

 About the Reading Group:

 The period 1976-84–between the publication of The History of Sexuality‘s first volume in 1976 and the later two volumes in 1984–was an incredibly productive, if intellectually troubling, time for Foucault.  Yet critics have too often viewed this period as an eight-year silence.  Our reading group aimed to move beyond the tendency of some social theorists to preserve, as in a fossil, the Foucault of Discipline and Punish or The History of Sexuality, Volume I (reducing his ideas to a few pages on panopticism or a slogan, “power/knowledge”).  We also interrogated the critical tendency to focus on reconciling this “break” between Foucault’s early and late work.  (After all, how could the antihumanist who proclaimed the death of Man turn to such a homely problem as the self, or the astute historian of disciplinary power turn to the question of ethics?)  Recognizing that the recent publication of Foucault’s lectures on state racism, governmentality, and liberalism is beginning to generate new approaches, we also maintain that work remains to be done on his shorter pieces.

Our reading group began with Society Must Be Defended, considering Foucault’s intimations of a methodological crisis in Lectures 1 and 2.  We then followed Foucault’s various trajectories and intellectual experiments–his methodological concerns, his encounter with Iranian politics, his re-engagement with Kant, and his experiments with an ethics of the self.  Rather than aiming to reconstruct a continuous intellectual history or determine the real or final Foucault, we treated the apparent discontinuities and ruptures of thought in these texts as so many Foucaults capable of destabilizing the author function.  What new directions for our own contemporary research are opened up by Foucault’s work of this period?

Open to the public.  No experience necessary.  Advanced researchers and graduate students were encouraged to share their research in progress. 

 Reading list:

First and Second Meetings: A Crisis in Foucault’s Thought?

Society Must Be Defended (Lectures I & II)  •  “Truth and Power”  •  “Lives of Infamous Men”

• Gilles Deleuze, Negotiations (Part Three, “Michel Foucault”) •

Third and Fourth Meetings: “Getting Free of Oneself”

•  “Questions of Method”  •

• “Remarks on Marx: Interviews with Duccio Trombadori” (Selections) •

Janet Afary & Kevin B. Anderson, “Foucault and His Critics: An Annotated Translation” in Foucault and the Iranian Revolution

Fifth and Sixth Meetings: New Directions

•  The Uses of Pleasure (Introduction)  •  

• “On the Genealogy of Ethics: An Overview of a Work in Progress” •

• “The Ethics of the Concern for the Self as a Practice of Freedom” •

• “About the Beginning of the Hermeneutics of the Self” •

Seventh and Eighth Meetings: Enlightenment and Spirituality

 “What Is Enlightenment?”  •  “Kant on Enlightenment and Revolution” 

•  The Hermeneutics of the Subject (Lectures I & II)  •  

•  “The Subject and Power”  •  Maurice Flaubert, “Michel Foucault” 


Reading Group Organizer: Aaron Weeks, Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology, CUNY Graduate Center.