A ‘new Foucault’ with lively implications – or ‘the crawfish advances sideways’

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Abstract

This paper argues that we may now speak of a ‘new Foucault’ with more to say to contemporary human geography than might at first be suspected. A number of recent publications – notably the collected and translated Collège de France lecture series – paint a picture of Foucault that arguably departs from presumptions of him as the chronicler-theorist of discursively constituted, totalising power. The paper has two objectives: first, to offer a synoptic introduction to the lecture series, spotlighting the geographical resonances; and secondly, to thread an interpretative line through these materials demonstrating Foucault’s concern for the vital problematics of lively bodies and unpredictable populations, always threatening to over-spill different forms of power (sovereign, disciplinary, biopolitical, governmental, pastoral, psychiatric). An attempt is made to address Nigel Thrift’s non-representationalist critique of Foucault, and to propose that the gulf between Thrift and Foucault is not as great as the former may imply – a finding of value when identifying future possibilities for critical-geographical inquiry.

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