requiem for certainty

Archive for the ‘genealogy’ Category

‘Critical Inquiry’ article

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I have an article out in the Summer 2013 issue of the (truly excellent!) journal Critical Inquiry.  The article is co-authored with anthropologist Tomas Matza (now at Duke Univ.), a collaborator I met while I was down at UC Santa Cruz (when Tomas was over at Stanford finishing up his Ph.D.).  The article argues, in Foucault’s case at least, for the separability of analytics (or methods) and the concepts (or ideas) that these methods are used to produce. The argument is meant to be generalizable to other instances, but it is genealogy that matters for us here.  We’re both very pleased to have this come out in Critical Inquiry.  Thanks to many of you (cited in the article) for feedback on earlier versions.

The article is titled “Putting Foucault to Work: Analytic and Concept in Foucaultian Inquiry” and here is the abstract:”Is there a single area of intellectual inquiry in the humanities and social sciences where the work of Michel Foucault is not taken seriously? Discipline, biopolitics, governmentality, power/knowledge, subjectivation, genealogy, archaeology, problematization—these are just a few of the many Foucaultisms that have been adopted in fields such as philosophy, sociology, cultural anthropology, political science, history, literary studies, area studies, and much else besides. Just a short list of the forms of Foucault’s influence would necessarily include certain of his philosophical commitments, methodological strategies, discursive resources, and materials for reflection.

Cheers.  Let me know your thoughts.

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Written by Colin Koopman

July 23, 2013 at 5:18 am

My latest book now exists… as a book…

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I received copies of my Genealogy as Critique this week.  It is a real little object.  That makes me happy.  So I posed for a picture of myself holding it.  Then I went out with a few friends to celebrate its publication.  Through it all I even donned a bowtie to punctuate the occasion with what I hope was an unassuming bit of flair.

The publisher did a  handsome job with ck + gcthe typography and cover, or at least I think so.  Indeed, I’m very happy with the cover design and image (and yes, I chose the image, it’s a Duchamp, surprise surprise, and you can read about it in the book).

Here is a description from the back cover (cobbled together, of course, somewhere between me and the publishers): “Viewing Foucault in the light of work by Continental and American philosophers, most notably Nietzsche, Habermas, Deleuze, Richard Rorty, Bernard Williams, and Ian Hacking, Genealogy as Critique shows that philosophical genealogy involves not only the critique of modernity but also its transformation. Colin Koopman engages genealogy as a philosophical tradition and a method for understanding the complex histories of our present social and cultural conditions. He explains how our understanding of Foucault can benefit from productive dialogue with philosophical allies to push Foucaultian genealogy a step further and elaborate a means of addressing our most intractable contemporary problems.”

If you like, you can read more about the book on Indiana University Press’s website (http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/product_info.php?cPath=1037_1112&products_id=806494) and, one hopes, in book reviews in your favorite journals soon.  If you are coming to APA Pacific then there will be a little author-critics session on this book plus the Pragmatism one, if you feel like coming out in support.

I could say much much muchly more but I guess that’s why I wrote the thing.  Hopefully I say it all there.

And so on to the next one.

Written by Colin Koopman

February 3, 2013 at 3:40 am

Genealogy as Critique: Foucault and the Problems of Modernity

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Got the proofs for the next book today.  The ms. will soon be a real little object.

Publisher information at the Indiana UP website.  As it says there:

“Viewing Foucault in the light of work by Continental and American philosophers, most notably Nietzsche, Habermas, Deleuze, Richard Rorty, Bernard Williams, and Ian Hacking, Genealogy as Critique shows that philosophical genealogy involves not only the critique of modernity but also its transformation. Colin Koopman engages genealogy as a philosophical tradition and a method for understanding the complex histories of our present social and cultural conditions. He explains how our understanding of Foucault can benefit from productive dialogue with philosophical allies to push Foucaultian genealogy a step further and elaborate a means of addressing our most intractable contemporary problems.”

(I never post anymore, but that’s not for lack of good news, so much as for abundance of it.)

Written by Colin Koopman

September 21, 2012 at 3:00 am

Posted in foucault, genealogy

Philosophical Divides: a little story

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Picture the following.  Camps of philosophers cordon themselves off from one another by drawing lines in the still sands of a breezeless desert.  There they entrench, staring each other down from opposite sides of the line for a decade or two.  Eventually they tire of looking across the divide, and so begin to fraternize with only those philosophers in their proximity.  Later they forget about the philosophers on the other side of the line, and when the occasional hawkeyed upstart or pesky defector announces the existence of a whole country of philosophers not too far away, they retort that those on the other side of the line are not ‘real’ philosophers.  They are, the upstart and the defector are told, philosophical poseurs at best, or philosophical perverts at worst.  The language that is used, in fact, is exactly that contemptuous and contentious. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Colin Koopman

January 12, 2011 at 2:58 am

Contingency and Stability in History

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According to one usual story, necessity connotes stability whilst contingency connotes instability. Foucault is anything but the usual story. One thing that makes his work so provocative and appealing is his attribution of stability and contingency to the selfsame objects of his historical inquiries—or to put it differently, his employment of stability and contingency in the selfsame analytic for historical inquiry.

Foucault’s objects of inquiry are often remarkably stable structures such as disciplinary power and their corollary institutions such as prisons. Unlike those who take this stability as flowing from some necessity (which the historian would prove by way of a causal explanation referring to, say, economic necessity or social efficiency), Foucault shows how high degrees of stability sometimes flow from the contingent coalescence of congeries of chancy occurrences. The fact that these very stable structures and institutions emerged contingently does little to unseat or disrupt them, however. They are, after all, remarkably stable.

And that, after all, is part of Foucault’s point. This is why Foucault is not content to merely make a philosophical or ontological point but rather works in a way that combines philosophy and ontology with history. Since these stabilities are conditioned by a massive historical inertia, we cannot easily transform them. If we do wish to initiate a transformative response to the problematizations that these stable structures and institutions form, then one thing we would require is a historical inquiry that places at our disposal an understanding of the materials which conditioned the emergence of these stabilities. A historical understanding of these conditions equips us with a reflexive relationship to the contingencies which make us who we are such that we can begin the long and hard labor of transforming those remarkably stable structures to which we find ourselves subjected.

[n.b.: this is a paragraph from my genealogy book.]

Written by Colin Koopman

October 27, 2009 at 2:05 am

Foucault’s Hourglass of Threads

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To make sense of the complex relations composing the various aspects of a philosopher’s work it is often useful to package these aspects together into simple images that offer memorable portraits of their relation to one another.  Hence one of the most reliable tools of the contemporary philosopher: the chalkboard diagram: someone should, I am convinced, put together a book of our diagrams, with large high-quality images flanked by short little explanatory notes along the margins.

In the case of important parts of Foucault’s work, I often find it useful to coordinate their relation in terms of a diagrammatic image that I call Foucault’s hourglass of threads.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Colin Koopman

May 8, 2009 at 6:28 pm

Working Definition of Problematization

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I have now been working with the methodological or analytical device of problematization for long enough that I am comfortable offering a (merely tentative!) ‘definition’ or ‘specification’ of this device of inquiry.

Problematizations are formed by congeries of conceptually-specified vectors which intersect one another in such a way as to create tensions and instabilities that both render old practices problematic and provide bases for the elaboration of new practices.
– Problematizations are thus complexes.
– Problematizations are thus formed by tensions between different vectors or levels, e.g. power and knowledge.
– Problematizations are thus objects with dual functionality in that they both render problematic and provoke solutions.
– Problematizations are thus hinges of historical emergence and descent. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Colin Koopman

December 5, 2007 at 3:13 am