requiem for certainty

Posts Tagged ‘foucault

‘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

Foucault & Deleuze

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Heading to Purdue University for a conference on Foucault & Deleuze. All the other speakers have done great work in one or the other (or both), so am very much looking forward.

I will try to rise to the occasion with a paper on the status of critique in F & D. The idea is to make sense of the idea of critique beyond (or outside of the sway of) the dialectic. Critique is experimental not dialectical for F & D. An experiment works on problems and responses, and thereby avoids the work of negation.

The pretty conference flyer:

Written by Colin Koopman

November 29, 2012 at 4:17 pm

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time for you to check out Hey, Michel Foucault

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a fun interlude from your day or night is always to be found at

Written by Colin Koopman

September 29, 2012 at 7:20 pm

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Dewey on Method in Political Theory (1927)

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In his Public and Its Problems (1927) John Dewey adopts a four-component methodological strategy that is more or less implicit in his earlier broadly philosophical contributions, such as Reconstruction In Philosophy (1920) and Experience and Nature (1925).  Dewey often referred to this method as “instrumentalism” and as “historical-empiricism” but it’s probably best known these days as “pragmatism”.  The method, in short, involves four methodological distinctions, which Dewey lays out in Chapter One.  A proper understanding of his methodological apparatus prepares us to understand the way in which Dewey addresses himself to the pressing problem of pluralism that was his lifelong obsession with respect to liberal democratic theory (as argued in posts from the last two weeks here and here).  Herein a brief review of these four methodological decisions, followed by commentary.

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Written by Colin Koopman

April 26, 2011 at 3:27 am

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

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.

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Written by Colin Koopman

May 8, 2009 at 6:28 pm

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