requiem for certainty

Posts Tagged ‘critical inquiry

‘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.


Written by Colin Koopman

July 23, 2013 at 5:18 am


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Late last week I attended a strategic reorientation meeting for ARC—the Anthropology of the Contemporary Research Collaboratory, a small group of philosophically-minded anthropologists to whom I was introduced by Paul Rabinow at UC Berkeley while on my UC Santa Cruz postdoc.  Those looking for reflections on ARC and related projects might take a look at Designs for an Anthropology of the Contemporary, a refreshing little book recording conversations amongst Rabinow and some ARC and non-ARC collaborators.

Over the past few years of (somewhat sporadic) involvement I have found ARC a refreshing and invigorating venue for fashioning new forms of cross-disciplinary inquiry.  One primary objective of ARC, or so it seems to me, is experimenting with forms of academic research.  Two projects I was involved in are the ARC Collaboratory (collaboration + laboratory) and one of Rabinow’s Labinar (laboratory + seminar) graduate courses in Anthropology at UC Berkeley.  The recent meeting provides an occasion for now looking back at my involvement in these two experiments in order to discern what has worked well and what still needs more work.  This will be useful (for me at least) as some of us seek to re-energize ARC as a venue for shared work going forward. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Colin Koopman

June 15, 2010 at 2:57 am

How does internetworking work? (Talk at Metaphi.)

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This is for a little (2-minute!) talk I am giving tonight at Metaphi: <>.

What are media?  What is a medium?  We hear a lot these days about new media, old media, broadcast media, collaborative media, social media, civic media, and all other kinds of new-and-exciting media.  At the center of all this hubbub is the hub of hubs, that thing that we all call the internet.  But is that all that the internet is?  Is it just some new medium or new media?

What is the internet?  This seems like an easy question.  But it’s not.  Nobody in this room, given an hour of time, could craft a definition that would satisfy most of the other people in the room.  My sense is that we do not even yet have a concept for the thing that we call the internet, namely that thing we all use on a daily basis to send our flurries of emails, publish our articles, read the Times, and watch all those funny but exasparatingly innane YouTube memes.

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Written by Colin Koopman

May 10, 2010 at 11:46 pm

Challenging Philosophy: Richard Rorty, Bernard Williams, Michel Foucault

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The three most important philosophers of the second half of the twentieth century were Bernard Williams, Michel Foucault, and Richard Rorty. The importance of each can in large part be attributed to the profound challenges they posed to entrenched assumptions about philosophy, its role in our lives, and its place midst our liberal democratic cultures. I insist on referring to the challenges posted by these three thinkers as profound—for their challenges, when taken seriously, run very deep indeed. By the time that Williams, Foucault, and Rorty had each finished laying out the intellectual projects characteristic of their mature work, it was clear that they had overturned many of the working assumptions of the philosophical tradition in which they had been reared. In this way, each of these thinkers challenged their respective traditions to move on to more ambitious and cunning conceptions of philosophy. Each exhibited inspiring levels of intellectual rigor and critical courage in provoking their respective traditions of thought to adopt a new self-image.

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Written by Colin Koopman

November 19, 2009 at 6:02 am

Castells: Seeing Networks Everywhere He Looks

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A little obligatory reading lately, namely Manuel Castells on the network society.  This is for my ongoing research project on emerging internetworking practices (i.e., what most people misleadingly refer to as ‘the internet’).  Castells I regard as obligatory here insofar as my object of inquiry in many respects overlaps with that on which his impressive body of work is focused.  But in a first pass through some of his most recent suitably-sized (i.e., <50 page) self-summaries of his work, I am struck by the extent to which my method is quite different.  So what are the differences? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Colin Koopman

February 7, 2009 at 2:32 am

Ars Synthetica Conference

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Ars Synthetica: The Anthropology of the Contemporary took place this past Friday at UC Santa Cruz.  I organized this event to bring Paul Rabinow, some of his students in UC Berkeley Anthropology, and other colleagues working in collaboration in recent years, down to UCSC to present their work.  At the center of the event as we envisioned it was Rabinow’s newest offerings under the auspices of the Ars Synthetica web forum.  My thanks to all participants (both presenters and audience) for making this such an engaging, inspiring, and generative event.  It is exactly what I needed as I prepare to dive into a solid two weeks of revision and polishing before I send my Foucault manuscript off to the publisher for review.  Following is a short summary of the day’s three sessions.

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Practices, Problems, Sites

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As a philosopher I have standard discipline-anxieties whenever confronted with some rather usual (but nonetheless perplexing) social scientific questions concerning how one should conceptualize, represent, and present one’s research where one take as their material for inquiry actually-functioning practices.  A great talk by James Clifford at the Center for Cultural Studies at UCSC the other week provided me with a much-needed bit of confidence in the face of my ongoing difficulties with these questions.  Clifford unashamedly noted that problems such as those I have been wrestling with are ones that he too faces in his present work even if they were not posed to him as problems back when he was a graduate student.  In short, my problems concerning these matters are not just my problems as a philosopher interested in taknig up social science into my work, but these are the problems which anyone in a similar position faces (or at least ought to face if they are sufficiently self-reflective).  A few notes, then, on these problems as they’ve been foisting themselves on me in recent months.  Provoked this time by Michel de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life.

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Written by Colin Koopman

October 31, 2008 at 2:53 am

Foucault Pubs. & Presntns. & Work

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A quick update on some of my recent work on Foucault. First, a few pubs:

  • I recently published an article on Foucaultian methodology and the philosophy of history in a great new journal, Journal of the Philosophy of History.  The issue in which my paper came out also offers excellent articles on similar themes in Foucault by David Hoy, Mark Bevir, Martin Saar, Thomas Biebricher, and Tyler Krupp.  My paper can be found at:  Citation is as follows: Koopman, Colin. “Foucault’s Historiographical Expansion: Adding Genealogy to Archaeology” in Journal of the Philosophy of History, v2n3, Fall 2008: 338-362.
  • I have an article on philosophy of history in Foucault and Bernard Williams coming out in an excellent short collection being edited by Carlos Prado entitled Foucault’s Legacy and due out with Continuum within the next few months (I suspect). I’m not really making this available until the volume comes out but if you are eager you can always ask.
  • Another article is (and has been) forthcoming in Philosophy & Social Criticism (probably next year I hope).  This one offers an against-the-grain rereading of Disicpline and Punish and History of Madness. The title is “Revising Foucault: The History and Critique of Modernity”. I just put this up at SSRN at

In related work I also recently gave two presentations on Foucault both of which were great (for me, at least):

  • A paper on Foucault and Deleuze at SPEP. Thanks to Jana Sawicki, Paul Patton, Ed McGushin, Zach Vanderveen, and Jared Hibbard-Swanson for excellent questions. (The latter two, by the way, are grad students at Vanderbilt and Penn State, respectively, working on interesting dissertations which involve both Foucault and Dewey — obviously work that is very much after my own heart — so keep your eyes out for their stuff).
  • A paper on Foucault and Habermas in which I argue that the two can be reconciled for methodological purposes of a philosophically-informed social science. My many thanks to Ron Sundstrom for his wonderful comments. Also my many thanks to BACPA organizers Gerard Kuperus and Marjolein Oele — this is a great new venue for Continental Philosophy in the Bay Area.

All of this is part of a ms. on Foucaultian critique which I have recently finished the first draft of.  Next round of revisions coming up.  The working title is Genealogy as Problematization: Contingency, Complexity, and Critique in Foucault.

Written by Colin Koopman

October 31, 2008 at 2:30 am

Political Theory Reporter on Quentin Skinner lecture

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I have a report on Quentin Skinner’s lecture at Berkeley from the other night over here at the new Political Theory Reporter blog.

While I’m at it: anyone interested in joining me over there? It’d be nice to have colleagues all around reporting on the wealth of intellectual scholarship in political theory (including of course political history, political anthropology, political sociology, legal theory, and political philosophy) currently taking place but unfortuantely not yet taking advantage of internet interconnectedness. The idea is to keep everyone up on the latest in political theory as it unfolds. It would be nice to eventually have reporters around the Bay Area, Cambridge, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and elsewhere both across the country and overseas. I’ll make a fuller push to recruit a fuller suite at some point. For now I’m just kicking this off.

Written by Colin Koopman

September 17, 2008 at 6:31 am

Online Deliberation Conference

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I presented last week at a conference over at the Berkeley iSchool entitled ‘Tools for Participation’ on the subject of ‘Online Deliberation and Directions and Implications of Advanced Computing’ (DIAC/OD 2008).  There were a number of interesting projects, papers, and technologies presented, all of them focused around online participation, collaboration, and deliberation.  My experience at the conference reinforces my hunch that now is the time (for me) to take up cross-disciplinary collaborations in the context of internet research.  These should be collaborations amongst theorists and empirical inquirers (but also with practitioners, users, and developers).  One of the best ways of doing this is collaborative concept work – since concepts face both theory and practice at once.  Conceptualization need not aim for theoretical system-building nor empirical fact-collecting, but can rather aim for articulating our practices in the sense of both explicating their theoretical commitments (articulation as explication) and drawing out their empirical interconnections (articulation as linkage).  A guiding thought for me in this context is that we currently lack concepts adequate to the emerging internet practices that take an increasingly prominent place in our lives.  These practices demand the labor of conceptualization. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Colin Koopman

July 1, 2008 at 7:35 pm