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Abstract

While Michel Foucault’s writings have been taken up extensively to explore gender and sexuality, until recently there was little work drawing on Foucault’s writings to discuss race. In part, this was because Foucault seemed to have said almost nothing about race, aside from some comments on Nazism and eugenics in the final pages of Part V of The History of Sexuality, volume 1. With the 1997 and 1999 publication of two series of lectures that Foucault delivered at the Collège de France between 1974 and 1976, Abnormal and “Society Must Be Defended” (both appearing in English translation in 2003), Foucault scholars have, however, become aware that he made more extensive and provocative observations about race than had previously been believed. Both of these lecture series gives a genealogical account of the ways in which modern, biological forms of racism emerged at a certain point in history, stressing the contingency of this emergence and its enmeshment in power struggles and modern forms of power. This paper provides an account of what Foucault argues about race and racism in the Collège de France lectures, and, more briefly, presents two of the most extended treatments of race coming from Foucauldian perspectives that have appeared in the wake of these texts.