Description and Objectives
This course will examine extensively two sets of writings: those around Foucault and his genealogies of power in (mostly) the first half of the 1970s, and writings in and surrounding Derrida’s lecture course on the death penalty in 1999-2000. (Note well: many of these lectures courses, both by Derrida and Foucault, have only recently been made available and published in the last half decade.) The Foucault of this period provides “genealogies of the present” in order to understand the contingency of naturalized institutions (such as the prison), all to understand their historical conditions of possibility. Foucault’s 1960s work, from Madness and Civilization to The Order of Things and beyond, had taken as its method “archaeologies” that would discern different epistemic periods that were heterogeneous to one another. For example, famously, Foucault detected an epistemê at the end of the order of things called “Man”—that is the transcendental-empirico dublet—and that this epistemê, this very manner of understanding ourselves as the human and such would come to an end. His genealogical period—he borrows from Nietzsche the term genealogy—aimed at discerning forms of society power as they concatenated in modernity—from sovereign power of the 16th to 18th centuries, to disciplinary power, to biopower, and so on. Delineating these quite different forms of power was central to his work and his own political activism during this period. Thus Foucault would see a form of sovereigntism as something like the passé of political state—yes something quite around us, but not as central to thinking the political as it once was.
In Derrida’s death penalty lectures, we see quite a different elaboration: a focus principally on sovereignty and its right over life and death. At times in these lectures, Derrida redefines “deconstruction” as principally an elaboration of how to remove ourselves from an era of thinking the death penalty in all its guises. In this way, too, Derrida takes up central questions about politics and punishment while also teasing out what is happening under the name deconstruction. Like Foucault, Derrida found any attempt to reduce his readings and work to a “method” a gross misreading, a vast simplification by readers who couldn’t understand that this wasn’t about subjects doing a method, but rather, in some sense, genealogies and deconstruction always already underway in institutions and texts, for example, to which Foucault and Derrida are responding. We will come back to this point throughout the course. Nevertheless, it’s true that the manner of reading and the resources Foucault and Derrida bring to bear are quite different: Foucault is more likely to argue for that his historical judgments and so on work from the ground up, if you will, seeing crystalizations of power often hidden from the political philosophy, who rigidly keeps herself within her discipline. Derrida, on the other hand, follows closely Heidegger’s Destruktion of the history of ontology and with it, a long and necessary deconstruction of its political theology. That is to say, I think it’s fair to say that Derrida would find Foucault blind to a certain “metaphysics” diagnosed by Heidegger for the very condition of possibility of those histories he’s elaborating. There were other disagreements between them, but the task of this course is three fold:
- To understand Foucaultian genealogy. We will have to handle any comparison to the 60s work through questions, since we do not have the time to read closely his texts on archaeology, and so any difference between his “method” (all caveats on this should be taken) of the 1960s and the 1970s will need to be discussed that way. But we must also understand where he sees his work as both continuous with Nietzsche’s own genealogies, and finally how this plays out in his texts on punishment during the 1970s. What does a genealogy of the present seek to do? Why is it “of the present”? Finally why is it not simply a step by step method that can be applied to different historical circumstances? This, by the way, will be the subject of your first short paper in the course.
- To understand the practices of deconstruction. In some way, Derrida is lecturing in his course to those who already knew his long past work on this question. I will fill in the gaps on this, but what’s interesting in this course is that while many take deconstruction take it to be some “method” for reading texts, Derrida is explicit that it’s not a method, but is that which happens and is always already underway in the history of institutions and states, texts and peoples. He’s also clear, too, that he thinks deconstruction must both account for the death penalty and also look to a “post-deconstructive” thinking that would step unsteadily beyond a history of political theology of sacrifice that made it possible. Your second paper will be to answer “what is deconstruction”?
- Thus you will need to use the writings in the course to think a certain style of reading (one that be rigidified by bad readings into an A-B-C…method) and how those styles differ between Foucault and Derrida. They wrote on each other—often quite critically—but I will not cover those in this course. (The simple reason: Derrida’s major critique came early in both their careers and I find they are both arguing while missing that each’s later ideas would complicate their first set of critiques.) What I want to do instead is to look to the content of these lectures to think how, often discussing overlapping periods in history, they come to different conclusions about how counter-practices may be able to operate against forms of marginalization in the contemporary period.
Reading Schedule and Resources
Tuesday, September 9 (protocol by Shannon)
- Foucault and Derrida, once again: Introduction to their mutual critiques, then a discussion of why we have to rethink their relation.
- Foucault, “Truth and Power,” from The Foucault Reader
- Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” from The Foucault Reader
- Foucault, “Question of Method.
Recommended Resources: Thomas Flynn, “Mapping Foucault on History,” and Joseph Rouse, “Power/Knowledge,” from the Cambridge Companion to Foucault, ed. G. Gutting (2005). Also helpful background is Kojiro Fujita’s “Force and Knowledge: Foucault’s Reading of Nietzsche,” Foucault Studies (2013)
Tuesday, September 16 (protocol by Sarah M and Kyla B)
- Foucault, Ch. 1 and 2, “Lecture on Nietzsche” and “Course Summary” from The Will to Know (1970-1 lecture course).
Recommended Resources: Stuart Elden, Power, Nietzsche and the Greeks: Foucault’s Leçons sur la volonté de savoir, Berfois (July 20, 2011); Michael C. Behrent, “The Genealogy of Genealogy: Foucault’s 1970-1971 Course on The Will to Know,” Foucault Studies (2012).
Tuesday, September 23 (protocol by Fintan)
Foucault, Discipline and Punish, Part I and Part III, ch. 1. (available in bookstore)
Tuesday, September 30 (protocol by Kyla)
Foucault, Discipline and Punish, Part III, ch. 3; Part IV, chapter 3
Tuesday, October 7
Monday, October 20 (4-7pm)
Foucault, Society Must Be Defended, chs. 8, 10, 11, and “Course Summary” (protocol by Alexander G.)
Recommended: Michael Kelly, “Racism, Nationalism, and Biopolitics: Foucaults ‘Society must be Defended.”
Also, Peter Gratton, chapter 4, The State of Sovereignty (2012).
Tuesday, October 21
Derrida, “Ethics and Politics Today,” from Negotiations (protocol by Shannon)
Derrida, “Nietzsche and the Machine,” from Negotiations (protocol by Chris R.)
Derrida, “Forgiveness” (protocol by Nadja)
Recommended: Len Lawlor, “Deconstruction” from A Blackwell Companion to Derrida (2013)
Tuesday, October 28
Derrida, The Death Penalty Vol. 1, Sessions 1-3. (protocol by Sarah M.)
Derrida, “For Mumia Abu-Jamal”
Death Penalty Information Center, “Fact Sheet” (September 19, 2014)
Recommended: Michael Naas, “The Philosophy and Literature of the Death Penalty: Two Sides of the Same Sovereign,” The Southern Journal of Philosophy, V. 50 (2012).
Tuesday, November 4
Derrida, The Death Penalty Vol. 1, Sessions 4-7. (protocol by Fintan)
Samir Haddad, Derrida and the Inheritance of Democracy, chapter 1. (protocol by Michael L.)
Tuesday, November 11
Derrida, The Death Penalty Vol. 1, Sessions 8-12. (protocols by Chris F.)
Samir Haddad, Derrida and the Inheritance of Democracy, chapters 3-4 (protocol by Chris R.)
Recommended: Judith Butler, review of The Death Penalty Vol. 1, London Review of Books
Tuesday, November 18
Derrida, Rogues, Part I, ch. 1-5. (protocols by Nadja and Michael L)
Tuesday, November 25
Derrida, Rogues, Part I, ch. 5-end. (Protocol by Alexander)
Tuesday, December 2
Final Class: Catch-up day
Noon, December 10, Final Papers Due