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Title: Exploring Michel Foucault’s Legacy – Foucault: Genealogies for the Future

By Wenshi Chen     4/16/24 10:14pm

Rice will host the Foucault: Genealogies for the Future international conference from April 18 and 19, convening scholars to reconsider the influence of Michel Foucault in academia and culture since his death in 1984. This international conference is a part of the Foucault: 40 Years After, a world congress commemorating the legacy of French philosopher and historian Michel Foucault.

The conference will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both days at the Moody Center for The Arts and is spearheaded by Niki Kasumi Clements, an associate professor of religion and a prominent figure in Foucault scholarship. Clements said the conference is an opportunity to critically engage with Foucault’s work and concepts to meet the exigencies of our own present.

Clements said that the conference is one of the 70 events taking place globally in 2024. She also highlighted the existence of a steering committee composed of international scholars and various locations worldwide aimed at fostering a community dedicated to Foucault's scholarship.



“It is the first prominent international occasion uniting scholars who have been diligently researching Foucault's archives and publishing their findings, both in France and across the globe,” Clements said.

Clements expressed appreciation for the featured speakers, who have long worked in the archives, including Frédéric Gros, Philippe Chevallier, Biko Mandela Gray, Laurie Laufer and Federico Testa.

“These are the people who are able to give us a different Foucault — not just the philosopher of power, but also someone who is thinking very actively about ethics, thinking about the history of Christianity, thinking about antiquity and sexuality and thinking about, ‘how do you change your life in order to change the world?’” Clements said.

Zach Schwarze, a graduate student in the department of religion, highlighted the international scope of the event, as Foucault's scholarship is most prominent in the United States and France.

 “Considering the conference's location in the U.S., we're mindful of Foucault's unique reception here, where he's both demonized and glamorized unlike in other countries,” Schwarze said. “However, I'm also thrilled about the vibrant scholarship emerging from places like Mexico, Argentina and South Africa. Our aim is to foster a unified dialogue among the global network of Foucault scholars.”

Clements said she started the planning process early last year and traces its outline back to the year 2019, when the first conference was initially slated for April 2020. However, it was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and reimagined as a virtual conference in 2021 co-hosted by Rice professor emeritus of anthropology James Faubion.

“James and I reimagined it as a virtual series in 2021, with the hope of eventually bringing participants back to campus,” Clements said. “While not everyone could attend, many are original invitees from 2019, making it a project five years in the making.”

Amanda Nedham, a first-year Ph.D student in the department of religion, said she designed the posters and assisted with marketing the event.

“The design, using an image of Foucault staring straight at the viewer, fragmented, reflects not only his desire to expose the conditions that shape our lives in order so that we may choose different paths, but also this dance between this familiar idea of the philosopher, his reliable soundbites and an entire life where the lines between his personal life, his activism and his philosophy were blurred,” Nedham said.

Clements expressed her desire to position Rice University as an epicenter in the United States for fostering global discourse on Foucault.

“The conference aims to enrich the ongoing global discourse on Foucault's scholarship by sharing our research findings and advancing translation efforts. This initiative seeks to unite a fragmented and predominantly national community into a cohesive worldwide network,” Clements said.



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