I’m taking a history of sexuality course this semester, and it’s challenging me in unexpected ways. I come from anthropology, so I’m not used to thinking about everything in its historical context (though I should!). I tend to focus more on processes and interactions that are going on now or very recently.
Anyway, the class started off by reading the first couple of chapters of Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality. I’ve read the whole thing (and some of his other work) before, but many people in the class had not even heard of him, let alone read his work (and, yes, this is a graduate level class that shares the name of the course with the name of that really famous book). Each week, we’ve sort of referenced Foucault in some way, but it wasn’t until last week that people started really resisting.
They weren’t resisting Foucault’s work per se—how could they, they haven’t read it! They were resisting ideas about Foucault’s work. One student said he was a bad historian—fair enough! But he wasn’t really a historian, he was a philosopher and social theorist. When the professor pointed this out, another student said she had no use for philosophy because philosophy is mumbojumbo and meaningless and has no practical use. “I prefer facts,” she said, completely oblivious to the irony of her statement.
Needless to say, that was not a productive discussion, but I couldn’t help but wonder how Foucault would have responded to them had he been there. I also wondered how he would have responded to the myriad articles, books, and other discourse about him and his work. Given the fact that Foucault is the most cited scholar in the humanities (and in anthropology), I would totally resurrect Foucault, if I could, to see how he would respond and update/revise his theories.
If there were one person you could bring back to life, who would it be and why would you do it?
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