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If we think of Michel Foucault as engaged in writing histories, or genealogies, of his own present designed to undercut the sense of the obviousness of certain practices and ways of thinking, categorizing, and knowing, we can easily imagine that he might now be questioning different aspects of our contemporary “present” than the ones standardly associated with his name, namely, panopticons and surveillance, discipline, criminalization, the biopolitics of health, the normal and the abnormal, etc. In this course we address the question: How is the present we find ourselves living today different from the one that the author Foucault wrote about in the 1960s, 70s and early 80s before his untimely death in 1984? What differentiates today from yesterday? And what present practices and ways of thinking and knowing might be questioned using Foucault’s tools, genealogy in particular, for resisting unnecessary constraints on freedom and the perpetuation of unnecessary suffering? What is his legacy today? In this tutorial you will read from a selection of Foucault’s texts (books, lectures, interviews) in order to acquire a firm grasp of his method of “critique” and his way of looking at the interconnections between forms of power and the knowledge associated with particular disciplines. We will also read more recent work by scholars that draw on Foucault to address problems in today’s present. Among the contemporary texts assigned might be the following: Bernard Harcourt’s Exposed: Desire and Disobedience in the Digital Age, Saidiya Hartman’s Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments (2019), Verena Ehrlenbusch’s Terrorism: A Genealogy, Cressida Heyes’ Anaesthetics, Ladelle McWhorter’s Racism and Sexism in Anglo-America: A Genealogy, and Active Intolerance: Michel Foucault, The Prisons Information Group, and the Future of Abolition, eds. Perry Zurn and Andrew Dilts.
Format: tutorial/conference; I will meet with students in a seminar format at various points throughout the semester. I have requested a class block for this reason.
Grading: no pass/fail option,
no fifth course option
evaluation will be based on written work (six 5- to 6-page papers, and six 2-3 page commentaries on their partner's papers) as well as the quality and level of preparation and intellectual engagement in our weekly meetings.
Relevant background in critical theory, social theory, political theory or philosophy.
I will give preference to philosophy majors and to upper class students with a demonstrated background in critical theories. Some sophomores may be eligible.
Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
This is a tutorial. Students will write five or six 5-6-page papers during the course of the the semester and receive significant feedback on each paper. At the end of each tutorial meeting the student is asked to reflect on how they would approach the paper differently if they were to rewrite it. In this version of the course, I may ask students to select one paper to revise as a final assignment.
In this course we address power and domination, reflect on the difference between them, and treat power relations as not only an inevitable feature of any society, but as both enabling and constraining. Moreover, we will read material that uses Foucauldian tools to address contemporary issues involving sexism and racism, digital surveillance, and the abolition of prisons.
PHIL History Courses