Critique without judgment in political theory: Politicization in Foucault’s historical genealogy of Herculine Barbin

Contemporary Political Theory 18 (4):477-497 (2019)
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The historical specificity of Michel Foucault’s practice of critical genealogy offers a valuable model for political theory today. By bringing into focus its historical attention to detail, we can locate in Foucault’s genealogical philosophy an alternative to prominent assumptions in contemporary political theory. The work of political theory is often positioned in light of an assumed goal of staking political theory to certain political positions, judgments, or normative determinations that already populate the terrain of politics. This goal may be illusory; certainly it is not requisite. The alternative model of political theory in Foucault’s work involves resolutely refusing to take positions in politics so as to enact specific critical politicizations on the terrain of the political. Such a practice of ‘critique without judgment’ is dependent upon the historical attention to specificity brought to bear in genealogical work. This history-centered genealogical model is instructively exemplified in Foucault’s under-discussed introduction to his book Herculine Barbin. Foucault’s curation and discussion of the Barbin dossier offers a concise account of how Foucauldian genealogy engages with historical specificity in order to politicize its objects of inquiry without reducing its own work to the task of issuing a political judgment.



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Colin Koopman
University of Oregon

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Between Problematization and Evaluation.Matteo Santarelli - 2021 - European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy 13 (2).

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