I began my doctorate at Cardiff University with the thought that Michel Foucault was still interesting to read after all these years. I had begun to purchase the lectures when they were translated into English in 2003 or so. They reminded me of the struggle to annunciate thoughts, the difficulty of saying something that changed the way people thought about the world, to say truth, even when it went against the norms of the day.
The latest of the lectures, released just last week, is The Government of the Self and Others from 1982-1983. I am reading the first lecture and receiving the words with a freshness that makes me write of Foucault as if he were still alive, teaching this just now, and I am saddened that he died.
The shame of losing him is another thing. The brisk and incisive scholarship of his mature work is often clouded in the minds of some people with a rejection of the man himself who struggled early in his life with being homosexual. Later he did not struggle, but defended the right of homosexual people to live and experience life without the censure and disapprobation of a conservative culture that had never and has not yet cleaned up its own propensity for violence. It is a shame that knowledge unearthed and constructed in this man cannot find the light of day because people are blocked by their own sense of moral propriety.
It is senseless to speculate what would have happened had he lived, what he would have said. But the records of his life are being unearthed again and again. I am doing this in my dissertation, hoping there is a place in the conservative culture I am embedded in for the exposure of his knowledge irrespective of the person who unearths it.
This is a fun thing, partially, telling conservatives that C.S. Lewis drank quite a bit, saying how great men don’t follow petty moral visions, that for all their authoritative ring, don’t even know what the Bible said, or if they know, have discounted it because it conflicts with their own personal convictions.
Not so Foucault. Never afraid of challenging his own or others notions, he nonetheless managed to work toward a challenging and holistic moral vision around the problems of self construction within the matrices of necessity surrounding all of us.
Thanks Michel. There’s plenty of work to be done. Time for my dissertation.