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After Foucault: Power, Politics and Resistance

Lecturer: James Muldoon

Originally Taught: Winter School 2016

 This course is designed to equip students with the intellectual tools to identify and unmask contemporary forms of social and political power. The aim will be to critically analyse the intersection of different forms of oppression from the perspective of a variety of critical theories. It is broadly informed by Marx, Foucault, critical race studies and queer theory. The course will be taught at an advanced undergraduate level as an introduction to political analysis of contemporary issues.

One of the guiding ideas of the course is that power operates most effectively when it is able to mask its effects and present a given social order as natural and legitimate. We come to view the hierarchies and inequalities that exist in society as justified or, at the very least, as representing a normal and inevitable form of social life. In this context, politicisation describes the process of denaturalising relations of power by revealing their contingent and ultimately arbitrary nature and placing them as an object of political critique and contestation.

We will examine the construction and reproduction of different forms of structural oppression and how these are constituted along class, gender and race lines. In the first two days I will introduce an historical background to emancipatory politics and analyse the key concepts of power, critique, oppression and resistance. In the following three days we will explore issues concerning the three central axes of the course: class, gender and race.

Course Schedule:

 Ten mini-lectures over five days.

1. Introduction

2. The Emancipatory Promise of Modernity

3. Power and Oppression

4. Practices of Resistance

5. Neoliberal Capitalism

6. Why Class Matters

7. Destabilising Sex/Gender

8. Intersectionality

9. Whiteness

10. Settler Colonialism

Reading List:

The material listed in the required reading section will be provided in an online box for the course. Other readings in the additional reading section can be provided upon request.

Day 1

Lecture 1: Introduction

Required Reading:

  • Michel Foucault, “What is Enlightenment?”

Additional Reading:

  • Christina Hendricks, “Foucault’s Kantian Critique: Philosophy and the Present” Philosophy & Social Criticism (2008) 34, 357
  • Judith Butler, “What is Critique? An Essay on Foucault’s Virtue”
  • Axel Honneth, “Reconstructive Social Critique with a Genealogical Reservation,” Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal (2001) 22 (2)

Lecture 2: The Emancipatory Promise of Modernity

Required Reading:

  • Marshall Berman, All that is Solid Melts into Air, intro, 15-36

Additional Reading:

  • Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto
  • Stephen Eric Bronner, Reclaiming the Enlightenment, intro
  • Jürgen Habermas, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, 1-23

Day 2

Lecture 3: Power and Oppression

Required Reading:

  • Sandra Hinson and Alexa Bradley, “A Structural Analysis of Oppression” (based on Iris Marion Young, “Five Faces of Oppression,” in Justice and the Politics of Difference, which is worth reading)
  • Peter Digeser, “The Fourth Face of Power,” Journal of Politics (1992) 54 (4): 977–1007

Additional Reading:

  • Iris Marion Young, “Five Faces of Oppression,” in Justice and the Politics of Difference
  • Cynthia Kaufman, Ideas for Action, 9-37
  • Steven Lukes, “Power: A Radical View,” in Power: A Reader, 41-57
  • Allan G. Johnson, “Privilege, Oppression and Difference,” in Privilege, Power and Difference
  • Antonio Negri, The Savage Anomaly: The Power of Spinoza’s Metaphysics and Politics
  • Hannah Arendt, On Violence
  • Michel Foucault, History of Sexuality, Vol. 1
  • Michel Foucault, “The Subject and Power”
  • Alli Kirkham, “Micro Aggressions”

Lecture 4: Practices of Resistance

Required Reading:

  • Allan G. Johnson, “What Can We Do? Becoming a Part of the Solution,” in The Gender Knot: Unravelling our Patriarchal Legacy
  • Audre Lorde, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House”
  • Indigenous Action Media, “Accomplices not Allies: An Indigenous Perspective and Provocation”
  • Cindy Milstein, “From Charity to Solidarity: A Critique of Ally Politics” (extract from Taking Sides)

Additional Reading:

  • Brent L. Pickett, “Foucault and the Politics of Resistance,” Polity (1996) 28(4)
  • James C. Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance, chaps. 1, 2

Day 3

Lecture 5: Neoliberal Capitalism

Required Reading:

  • Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello, “The New Spirit of Capitalism,” presentation
  • Wendy Brown, “Neo-liberalism and the End of Liberal Democracy”

Additional Reading:

  • Andrew Glyn, Capitalism Unleashed: Finance, Globalisation and Welfare, chaps. 1, 2, 1-50
  • William Robinson, Understanding Global Capitalism
  • John Peters, “The Rise of Finance and the Decline of Organised Labour in the Advanced Capitalist Countries,” New Political Economy, (2011) 16 (1), 73-99
  • Thomas Piketty, 6 Graphs on Income Inequality

Lecture 6: Why Class Matters

Required Reading:

  • Erik Olin Wright, “Why Class Matters”
  • Erik Olin Wright, “Understanding Class”

Additional Reading:

  • Erik Olin Wright, Understanding Class
  • Erik Olin Wright, “How to be an Anticapitalist Today”
  • Karl Marx, “Price, Labour, Value” in Early Philosophical and Economic Manuscripts
  • Mike Savage, Social Class in the 21st Century
  • Jill Sheppard & Nicholas Biddle, Social Class in Australia: Beyond the 'working' and 'middle' classes

Day 4

Lecture 7: Destabilising Sex/Gender

Required Reading:

  • Cordelia Fine, Delusions of Gender, intro
  • “Dispelling Neuromyths” in Understanding the Brain: The Birth of a Learning Science, OECD report, 117-118
  • Judith Butler, Gender Trouble, intro (1-10, 22-34)
  • “The Genderbread Person,” infographic

Additional Reading:

  • Azeen Ghorayshi, “This Sex Which Is Not Two”
  • Anne Fausto-Sterling, Myths of Gender and Sexing the Body
  • Daphna Joel et al., “Sex beyond the genitalia: The human brain mosaic,” PNAS

Lecture 8: Intersectionality

Required Reading:

  • Kimberlé Crenshaw, “Why Intersectionality Can’t Wait,” Washington Post
  • Patricia Hill Collins “Black Feminist Thought in the Matrix of Domination” in Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment, 221–238
  • Hari Ziyad, “I’m Black and Queer at the Same Time, All the Time”

Additional Reading:

  • Kimberlé Crenshaw, “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color,”
  • Patricia Hill Collins, Black feminist thought: knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment
  • “Patricia Collins: Intersecting Oppressions”
  • Dorothy E. Smith, The Conceptual Practices of Power: A Feminist Sociology of Knowledge

Day 5

Lecture 9: Whiteness

Required Reading:

  • Francis E. Kendall, “Understanding White Privilege”
  • Kevin Rigby Jr. and Hari Ziyad, “White People have no Place in Black Liberation”
  • Amelia Shroyer, “White Fragility is Racial Violence,” Huffington Post
  • Peggy McIntosh, White Privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack

Additional Reading:

  • Nell Irvin Painter, The History of White People
  • Ghassan Hage, White Nation: Fantasies of White Supremacy in a Multicultural Society
  • Aileen Moreton-Robinson (ed.), Whitening Race: Essays in social and cultural criticism in Australia
  • Theodore W. Allen, Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery: The Invention of the White Race
  • Michelle Fine (ed.), Off White: Readings on Race, Power, and Society
  • Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic (eds.), Critical White Studies: Looking Behind the Mirror
  • Sam Adler Bell, “Why White People Freak Out When They’re Called Out About Race”

Lecture 10: Settler Colonialism

Required Reading:

  • Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang, “Decolonisation is not a Metaphor”
  • Claire Land, “I Support Aboriginal People, What Can I Do?” http://decolonizingsolidarity.org/what-can-i-do/
  • Robbie Thorpe, “Advice for pro-Indigenous white activists in Australia,”
  • Gary Foley, “Advice for pro-Indigenous white activists in Australia,”

Additional Reading:

  • Evelyn Nakano Glynn, “Settler Colonialism as Structure: A Framework for Comparative Studies of U.S. Race and Gender Formation”
  • Patrick Wolfe, “Settler Colonialism and the Elimination of the Native”
  • Gary Foley, “An Autobiographical History of the Black Power Movement and the 1972 Aboriginal Embassy” PhD thesis, School of Culture and Communication, The University of Melbourne, August 2012.
  • Andrew Schaap, Gary Foley and Edwina Howell, The Aboriginal Tent Embassy: Sovereignty, Black Power, Land Rights and the State
  • Moreton-Robinson, Aileen (ed.), Sovereign Subjects: Indigenous Sovereignty Matters
  • Black Nations Rising, publication of Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance
  • Claire Land, Decolonising Solidarity, chapters 5 and 6