Foucault’s Risks – by Anna Shechtman, Peter Raccuglia & Susan Morrow – Review – Los Angeles Review of Books

Nov 17, 2014 by

Editor’s note: On October 17–18, 2014, Yale University hosted a conference exploring the intellectual and political legacy of Michel Foucault. The Los Angeles Review of Books asked three Yale graduate students to respond to this conference by focusing on what Foucault means for them, as scholars and theorists beginning their careers.

Michel Foucault

WHEN JUDITH BUTLER came to Yale this month to speak at a conference on “Michel Foucault: After 1984,” she brought the police with her. Students and faculty packed the auditorium to see her, lining the walls and even the stage on which she spoke. If the overcrowded auditorium was a testament to the cult of Butler — echoing the cult of Foucault before her — it also posed a fire hazard. Butler’s public intellectualism became a public safety concern, ushering in campus security to keep the aisles clear. The “policing” of Yale’s Foucault conference was an irony lost on no one — least of all Butler, who made conspicuous eye contact with the officers when referring to Discipline and Punish.

Butler was one of seven scholars Yale invited to reassess Foucault’s legacy on the 30th anniversary of his death. Foucault’s impact on the American academy — on the methodologies and frames of reference available to scholars new and old — is unrivaled in its scope and endurance. It is hard to imagine fields like Gender Studies and Queer Studies without Foucault’s shaping influence. The so-called “historical turn” in the humanities, inspired by the New Historicism that Foucault’s dialogues with colleagues at Berkeley helped shape, has informed the expectations placed on graduate students for the past 20 years. Where students in literature departments might once have been asked “What’s your theory?” we are now far more likely to be asked “What’s your archive?” — a shift that bears traces of Foucault’s legacy.

 

To read the rest of the review, please visit Foucault’s Risks – Los Angeles Review of Books

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