June 25, 2014 marks the 30th anniversary of the passing of Michel Foucault. During his lifetime, Foucault was, in his own words, described as an anarchist and a leftist; a covert Marxist or an explicit or covert anti-Marxist; a nihilist, a technocrat in the service of Gaullism, and a neoliberal. In addition, Foucault can also be described as an intellectual who cannot be aligned or positioned within the existing matrices of thought and action, especially when defined ideologically. How should one understand the societal and political implications of Foucault’s work? These dilemmas remain very much unresolved today.
“Engaging Foucault” will gather international and regional theorists who have engaged with Foucault’s work, either endorsing or disputing the main premises of his work. The intended aim of the conference is to open up space for a general discussion of the actuality of Foucault’s work. Bearing in mind the specific political economy of truth and power, about which Foucault wrote extensively, we intend to examine the changes in scientific and theoretical discourses, as well as the institutions that produce these changes. In what ways is this production economically and politically initiated, expanded and consumed? What is the form of control and dissemination of certain regimes of truth through reforms and old and new ideological struggles around them? Taking as our point of departure Foucault’s statement that the role of the intellectual is not merely to criticize ideological contents supposedly linked to science, or furnish him/herself with the most appropriate ideology, we want to incite a debate on the possibilities of “constituting new politics of truth”, advocated by Foucault. Thus, central to this conference would be the investigation into the possibilities for (re-)articulating public engagement today: how to change political, economic, social and institutional regimes of production of truths? The debate should, in that sense, critically examine the meanings of emancipatory practices, social movements, contemporary forms of innovative action and engaged theory through the Foucauldian optic of bio-politics and ’thanato-politics’, sexuality and (non)identity, resistance, ’counter-power’, ’techniques of the self’ and the genealogies of societally engaged practices (e.g. insurrectionary knowledge and action). In light of the uprisings that have in recent years spread across the globe and are characterized by a variety of causes and consequences, this conference should critically reflect on the meaning of ’engagement’ – what is public engagement, who can be called ’engaged’ and in what sense, what are the effects of engaged thought and action – in the spirit of Foucault’s cues.