Foucault: The Explosives Expert

In this process, both the conference and the present volume strategically built on one figure of Foucault in particular: the “subversive Foucault,” that is, the Foucault who through his intellectual practice and his approach to knowledge, language and power, the modern subject, history and modernity obstinately refused all disciplinary affiliations. More than any other intellectual of his time, this Foucault in particular signaled—as much as he was himself a product of—the limits reached by the modern episteme and its empirico-transcendental doublet.

In many different ways, this volume seeks to extend the effort of this particular Foucault who presented himself as an explosives expert (.artificier)—not without giving a glimpse of his own ambiguous relationship to politics and political praxis,

I’m an explosives expert (artificier). I make things that can be used, when it comes down to it, for sieges, wars, destruction. I’m not in favor of destruction, but I’m in favor of being able to push through (passer); to move forward (avancer); to bring walls down. An explosives expert is first of all a geologist. He looks at layers of terrain, folds, fault lines. What sort of ground will be easy to dig into? What sort may prove hard? He observes how fortresses have been built. He identifies the features of the relief that could be used for concealment or launching attacks. Having done that, he goes on to the experimental, trial-and-error stage. He carries out reconnaissance, he posts sentries, he orders reports. Then he works out his tactic. Sapping? A siege? Explosives, or direct assault? The method, in the end, is nothing other than this strategy.7

It is no surprise therefore that Foucault’s concepts of biopower, biopolitics and governmentality, as well as concepts that he invested with new meanings, like discourse, statement (enonce), archive, discipline, disposi- tif and problematization, together with his methods of historical inquiry, have been put into practice by so many scholars and intellectuals throughout the world and the academic disciplines. It is no surprise either that Foucault has become one of the most quoted intellectuals, including in domains of knowledge in which he proved to have no particular interest.

 
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