Foucault in fact took great care with the texts that appeared under his name. He did not authorize interviewers to publish transcripts of recorded conversations with him; he insisted on going over the texts of interviews he gave before he allowed them to appear; and he typically made extensive revisions and corrections, so as to be sure the final versions reflected his intended meaning and considered views. He was vehemently opposed to the posthumous publication of his unfinished or unrevised writings. The transcript of his conversation with Jean Le Bitoux indicates why. In it, Foucault allows himself to try out different ideas with varying degrees of seriousness or thoughtfulness; he is frank and often speculative, giving voice to tentative notions to which he is not committed and has not yet thought out. He makes a number of mischievous jokes. He would surely have cut, revised, reconsidered, and reformulated his remarks before allowing this interview to be published, and it was therefore altogether reasonable for Daniel Defert and François Ewald, the editors of the four-volume definitive collection of Foucault's papers, Dits et écrits 1954–1988, to omit the interview when they published that massive compilation in 1994.
Its publication here is nonetheless very welcome. First of all because, to misappropriate Auden, Foucault belongs to us now: he has become too important to retain proprietary ownership over himself. [...]
David M. Halperin is the W. H. Auden Distinguished University Professor of the History and Theory of Sexuality at the University of Michigan, where he is also professor of English language and literature, women's studies, comparative literature, and classical studies. He coedited Before Sexuality: The Construction of Erotic Experience in the Ancient Greek World (1990), The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader (1993), and Gay Shame (2009); he also cofounded GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, which he coedited from 1991 to 2005. He is the author of Before Pastoral: Theocritus and the Ancient Tradition of Bucolic Poetry (1983), One Hundred Years of Homosexuality and Other Essays on Greek Love (1990), Saint Foucault: Towards a Gay Hagiography (1995), How to Do the History of Homosexuality (2002), What Do Gay Men Want? An Essay on Sex, Risk, and Subjectivity (2007; rev. ed. 2009), and How to Be Gay (forthcoming).
The interview with Michel Foucault translated here is anything but an “unpublished manuscript” [inédit], in the juridical sense of the term. It is rather an adjustment, a finalization, a restatement [mise au point]. Hopefully, it will put an end to the unfortunate quarrel that turned this encounter into a controversial myth. For while everything had indeed taken place and the words had been spoken, a controversy flared up almost immediately, fueled by ill-intentioned exegetes. Why did the interview not appear in the first issue of Gai Pied in 1979? What is the status of the Dutch version published while Foucault was still alive? Why does the “transcript” published in France in 1988 differ so much from the Dutch version? Why was the interview not included in Dits et écrits, published by Gallimard in 1994? Did this interview actually take place?
Jean Le Bitoux (1948–2010) was a French journalist and a fervent activist for gay rights in France. He was the founder of FHAR (Front Homosexuel d'Action Révolutionnaire) and a cofounder of the monthly magazine Gai Pied (1979). He authored four books about (his) homosexuality and about gay resistance against Nazi deportations during World War II: Moi, Pierre Seel, déporté homosexuel (with Pierre Seel, 1994); Les Oubliés de la mémoire (2002); Citoyen de seconde zone (with Hervé Chevaux and Bruno Proth, 2003); and Entretiens sur la question gay (2005). The interview he recorded with Michel Foucault in July 1978 was one of the first occasions in which Foucault talked publicly about his homosexuality. Nicolae Morar is a PhD candidate in the Department of Philosophy at Purdue University, where he founded the Bioethics Lecture Series and is completing a thesis analyzing the ways in which current biotechnologies are altering traditional conceptions of human nature. He is currently coediting a book (with V. Cisney) on New Directions on Biopower: Ethics and Politics in the Twenty-First Century. Daniel W. Smith is an associate professor in the Department of Philosophy at Purdue University. He is the translator of Gilles Deleuze's Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation and Essays Critical and Clinical (with Michael A. Greco), as well as Pierre Klossowski's Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle and Isabelle Stenger's The Invention of Modern Science. A collection of his essays on the work of Gilles Deleuze will be published in 2011.
And the cost of a repressive power is very high—not only the economic cost but also people's anger and that of their neighbors when faced with intolerance. This intolerance angers current liberation movements as much as the intellectual agitation, which itself plays a role as well. Which means the political cost of repression rises as well.
To put things crudely: Why blame homosexuals? What is the advantage of a society that hunts down homosexuals? The birthrate? In the age of the pill? The struggle against syphilis? The technocrats and princes that govern us, even if they aren't malicious, aren't imbeciles either, and they know perfectly well that the struggle against syphilis, for example, doesn't happen through the repression of certain categories of individuals but through information campaigns. For example, in some American baths, there are small consultation offices at the entrance that allow one to know what's going on. This, in effect, is the only way. A rationalization of the exercise of power does not necessarily happen through an increase in repression; on the contrary. Repression has cost too much politically, and it runs the risk of costing even more in the current climate, with all these movements running through society. So it's much more interesting to try to make people accept the rate of hyperunemployment they've been facing, and will so for years and years to come, rather than to piss everyone off by hunting down homosexuals in nightclubs and in the bushes. We've known this for a long time, but it has become clearer now. Power costs something. The exercise of power does not have a clear-cut benefit. Every time we commit an act that is an exercise of power, it has a cost, and not only an economic cost.
Michel Foucault (1926–1984) held the chair in the History of Systems of Thought at the Collège de France. jean le bitoux (1948–2010) was a French journalist and a fervent activist for gay rights in France. He was the founder of FHAR (Front Homosexuel d'Action Révolutionnaire) and a cofounder of the monthly magazine Le Gai Pied (1979). He authored four books about (his) homosexuality and about gay resistance against Nazi deportations during World War II: Moi, Pierre Seel, déporté homosexuel (with Pierre Seel, 1994); Les Oubliés de la mémoire (2002); Citoyen de seconde zone (with Hervé Chevaux and Bruno Proth, 2003); and Entretiens sur la question gay (2005). The interview he recorded with Michel Foucault in July 1978 was one of the first occasions in which Foucault talked publicly about his homosexuality. Nicolae Morar is a PhD candidate in the Department of Philosophy at Purdue University, where he founded the Bioethics Lecture Series and is completing a thesis analyzing the ways in which current biotechnologies are altering traditional conceptions of human nature. He is currently coediting a book (with V. Cisney) on New Directions in Biopower: Ethics and Politics in the Twenty-First Century. Daniel W. Smith is an associate professor in the Department of Philosophy at Purdue University. He is the translator of Gilles Deleuze's Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation and Essays Critical and Clinical (with Michael A. Greco), as well as Pierre Klossowski's Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle and Isabelle Stenger's The Invention of Modern Science. A collection of his essays on the work of Gilles Deleuze will be published in 2011.
Who is Pandora? A being fashioned out of clay moistened with water by Hephaistos at the request of Zeus and, in accordance with his instructions, designed to be offered to humans as a gift—as a counterpart to fire, which Prometheus had stolen and given to them. As long as the gods and humans still mingled with one another, there was no need for women; the world did not yet include them. It is in fact from this Pandora, devised by Zeus at the time of his quarrel with Prometheus, that the entire race of women descends. What then does the “artificiality” of this first human female creature signify? What does it mean that she was fabricated like a statue or a mannequin instead of either being born from the earth or having emerged, when her turn came, in the line of descent from Gaia? In the account of the genealogical development that is narrated in the Theogony, Pandora constitutes an exception. She is regarded as a supplement. No other being was created as she was by a technical procedure—and on the initiative of Zeus. This innovation does not only concern, by way of Pandora, the entire tribe of women, whose nature she will stamp as secondary, supplementary, and false, in contrast to males. Rather, she institutes the status of the human creature in general.
The late Jean-Pierre Vernant (1914–2007) held the chair of the Comparative Study of Religion at the Collège de France. His work ranged across the entire field of ancient Greek religion, philosophy, art, politics, and literature, joining exact philological scholarship to exciting and innovative theoretical paradigms. Acknowledged as one of the most formidable and influential Hellenists of the twentieth century, he radically revised our traditional notions of ancient Greece in a prolific body of work, especially with regard to its categories of thought, cultural outlook, and social structures. The majority of his books are available in English translation. Froma Zeitlin is Ewing Professor of Greek Language and Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature, Emerita, Princeton University. She has written extensively about Greek literature, from the epic to the novel, ranging from the archaic age to the Greco-Roman period, with a special focus on myth, religion, visuality, and gender. She is particularly known for her work on Greek tragedy.
Apparently, nobody rejects the fact that the diversity of cultural models is the only guarantee of respect for this “humanity” for which we have no other definition than hospitality, while technical and robotic standardization is, obviously, the easiest and the more immediate treachery. But let's be careful. Hospitality should not merely be a juxtaposition of differences, with one model dominant over all others; on the contrary, hospitality within diversity requires that we take into consideration other forms of logic, other liberties, so as to make each mode of being more multiple, more complex. Humanity, for which I am seeking—along with Europe— the definition, is perhaps a process of complexification. Would this be a different way of saying European culture?
Julia Kristeva is a writer, psychoanalyst, and professor at the Institut Universitaire de France. Officer of the Legion of Honor, Officer of the Order of Merit, and the first laureate of the Holberg Prize in December 2004, Kristeva was awarded the Hannah Arendt Prize in December 2006 and the Vaclav Havel Prize in 2008. She is the author of some thirty works including Revolution in Poetic Language (1984), Tales of Love (1987), Black Sun: Depression and Melancholia (1989), Proust and the Sense of Time (1993), Possessions: A Novel (1998), the trilogy Female Genius (Hannah Arendt , Melanie Klein , and Colette ), Murder in Byzantium (2006), The Incredible Need to Believe (2009), and two works soon to be published in English, Seule une femme (2007) and Thérèse mon amour (2008). Nicolae Morar is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Philosophy at Purdue University, where he founded the Bioethics Lecture Series and is completing a thesis analyzing the ways in which current biotechnologies are altering traditional conceptions of human nature. Vernon Cisney is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Philosophy at Purdue University, where he is finishing his doctoral thesis on the concept of difference in Derrida and Deleuze. In addition, he is currently coauthoring a book with Leonard Lawlor, titled Derrida's Voice and Phenomenon: An Edinburgh Philosophical Guide, for Edinburgh University Press. Morar and Cisney are coediting a book titled New Directions in Biopower: Ethics and Politics in the Twenty-First Century.
[W]hat motivates these scholars is the desire to contest a certain account of how, in their view, political argument and rationality have been thought to operate. These theorists are gripped by the notion that most philosophers and critics in the past (Kantians, neo-Kantians, Habermasians) have overvalued the role of reason and rationality in politics, ethics, and aesthetics, with the result that they have given too flat or “unlayered” or disembodied an account of the ways in which people actually form their political opinions and judgments. The claim is that we human beings are corporeal creatures imbued with subliminal affective intensities and resonances that so decisively influence or condition our political and other beliefs that we ignore those affective intensities and resonances at our peril—not only because doing so leads us to underestimate the political harm that the deliberate manipulation of our affective lives can do but also because we will otherwise miss the potential for ethical creativity and transformation that “technologies of the self” designed to work on our embodied being can help bring about.
Ruth Leys is the Henry Wiesenfeld Professor of the Humanities in the Humanities Center at Johns Hopkins University. Her recent books include Trauma: A Genealogy (2000) and From Guilt to Shame: Auschwitz and After (2007). The present essay is part of a book in preparation on the history of experimental and theoretical approaches to emotion and affect from the post-World War II period to the present.
I want to claim the right to look. This claim is, neither for the first nor the last time, for a right to the real.1 It might seem an odd request after all that we have seen in the first decade of the twenty-first century on old media and new, from the falling of the towers, to the drowning of cities, and to violence without end. The right to look is not about merely seeing. It begins at a personal level with the look into someone else's eyes to express friendship, solidarity, or love. That look must be mutual, each inventing the other, or it fails. As such, it is unrepresentable. The right to look claims autonomy, not individualism or voyeurism, but the claim to a political subjectivity and collectivity: “the right to look. The invention of the other.”2
1. Any such claim stands on the shoulders of the critical thinking about vision and visuality that (in recent times) runs from Laura Mulvey's foundational work to that of W. J. T. Mitchell, Anne Friedberg, Martin Jay, and other theorists of the look and the visual. My most recent account of this discourse is An Introduction to Visual Culture (1999; New York, 2009).
2. Jacques Derrida and Marie-Françoise Plissart, Droit de regards (Paris, 1985), p. xxxvi; trans. David Wills under the title Right of Inspection (New York, 1998); I have modified the translation used by Wills because “right of inspection” attempts to bridge the gap between right and law, which I feel should be kept open.
Nicholas Mirzoeff is professor of media, culture, and communication at New York University. His publications include The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality (2011); An Introduction to Visual Culture (2009); and Watching Babylon: The War in Iraq and Global Visual Culture (2005). He is a coeditor at Media Commons (mediacommons.futureofthebook.org). His blog “For the Right to Look” is at www.nicholasmirzoeff.com/RTL
Yet out there in the world, nothing has changed. It is not that atemporal phenomena—the beauty of a landscape, say, or of an individual's personality—have suddenly become less valuable, in real terms. It is just that we are paying less and less attention to them, and that it is more and more difficult, accordingly, to create a space for their perception. The question is, how is this to be done? How can we rescue nonnarrative phenomena from the tsunami of diachronic thinking that threatens to sweep everything away with it? How, in an age obsessed with change, can we enable people to see what sits quietly in front of them?
Joshua Landy is associate professor of French at Stanford University, where he codirects Stanford's Initiative in Philosophy and Literature. He is author of Philosophy as Fiction: Self, Deception, and Knowledge in Proust (2004); editor, with Claude Bremond and Thomas Pavel, of Thematics: New Approaches (1995); and editor, with Michael Saler, of The Re-Enchantment of the World: Secular Magic in a Rational Age (2009). He is currently completing a second book, How to Do Things with Fictions.
The nude figure in the painting Self-Portrait as Tahitian (1934) is striking in her composure; she is resolutely female, self-possessed, and full of repose (fig. 1). The artist—Amrita Sher-Gil, the part-Indian, part-Hungarian painter who stands at the cosmopolitan helm of modern Indian art—was apparently responding to Paul Gauguin's stylization of the female nude, one of modernism's master tropes for the colonial other, by inhabiting, with her own corporeality, this overburdened representational form. In her painting, “Tahitianness” takes the form of her own brown body, but it is also projected through her straight, black hair, which is tied in an unfussy ponytail, marking simplicity or indigenity as the absence of couture. I recall experiencing a sense of vertigo on first encountering this painting and the dizzying sets of questions it raised. What were the conditions that made possible such an account of Gauguin by a woman and a colonial subject in 1934? What precisely was meant by Sher-Gil's self-conscious self-placement into the body of a Tahitian nude? How could art history have missed this painting, so deliberate a citation of art-historical precedent? And how could such far-reaching coordinates—Paul Gauguin in the 1890s, Amrita Sher-Gil in the 1930s, Paris, Tahiti, India, Hungary—be plotted onto our existing map of modernism's unfolding in the twentieth century?
Saloni Mathur is an associate professor in the Department of Art History at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is author of India by Design: Colonial History and Cultural Display (2007), editor of The Migrant's Time: Rethinking Art History and Diaspora (forthcoming), and coeditor with Kavita Singh of No Touching, Spitting, Praying: Modalities of the Museum in South Asia (forthcoming).
See also: Karen C. C. Dalton and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., African American Dance Seen through Parisian Eyes · Hal Foster, "Primitive" Scenes · Nicholas Thomas, "Kowhaiwhai" and Aesthetics in Aotearoa New Zealand
In trying to evolve a language that would allow the political to be understood on its own terms, Arendt and Rancière nevertheless find themselves describing the political in language that is borrowed from another institution—that of theater. I am less interested in the possible deficiencies of a theatrical model of politics than I am in the logic that informs this—what? analogy? metaphor? identity? Rancière comes close to embracing the last of these in stating flatly that “politics is always about creating a stage. … Politics always takes the form, more or less, of the establishment of a theater.”45 Perhaps the physical configuration of Athens, in which the Theater of Dionysos resembles the Assembly but stands at a distance from it, provides a kind of topographical model for the relation of theater and politics in both Rancière and Arendt.
45. Quoted in Hallward, “Staging Equality,” p. 142. Hallward's essay is a searching examination of the promises and limits of Rancière's “theatocracy.”
Richard Halpern is Sir William Osler Professor of English at Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of Norman Rockwell: The Underside of Innocence (2006), Shakespeare's Perfume: Sodomy and Sublimity in the Sonnets, Wilde, Freud, and Lacan (2002), Shakespeare among the Moderns (1997), and The Poetics of Primitive Accumulation: English Renaissance Culture and the Genealogy of Capital (1990).
Critical Inquiry mourns the passing of our dear friend, colleague, and member of our editorial board, Miriam Hansen. Her many friends knew Miriam as a scholar of rare brilliance and passion, deeply original and learned at the same time. Her colleagues knew her as a tirelessly guiding presence in the labyrinths of academia. Her many students adored her as a demanding and inspiring mentor. The world of film studies is bereft at her departure. [...]
The editors are pleased to announce that Irene C. Hsiao is Critical Inquiry's new manuscript editor. We wish Andrew Skomra, former manuscript editor, all the best in his new endeavors.