In 'Descent' Proposal: Pathologies of Embodiment in Nietzsche, Kafka, and Foucault

Foucault Studies 3:27-48 (2005)


This paper advances the argument that Foucault's notion of 'bodily inscription' can be found in more rudimentary form in the Nietzschean notion of 'bodily descent'- the path qua pathology of 'going under' first outlined by Nietzsche in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The argument is set within context of the ongoing debate in Foucault studies about whether a non-discursive dimension of the body can be posited or whether the body is always already and inevitably discursive. Following Judith Butler's assessment that there is in Foucault's work the presence of a body outside of signification, the present paper argues that Foucaultian bodily inscription is akin to Nietzschean bodily descent: both are predicated on and depend upon the occluded presence of an inherently 'indecent' or 'undisciplined' body, one that disrupts the discursive economy of subjectivization (assujettissement). Through the detailed reading of an exemplary tale by Franz Kafka ('In the Penal Colony'), we attempt to describe the structural axes or disciplinary matrix that descends and is imposed upon 'undisciplined' or 'indecent' bodies, revealing in so doing the 'indecent' body subject to this descent, the body 'crossed over' and 'crossed out' - 'double crossed' - by these axes, by this matrix. We suggest that it is at the crossroads or the crossing of these axes, precisely at the point where the indecent and untidy body is 'inscribed' and 'disciplined', that Foucault, like Nietzsche, locates a point that points beyond the structure, beyond axial and axiomatic binaries, to a body of inherent possibilities, affective virtualities, and spirited resistance

Download options


    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 72,855

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library


Added to PP

11 (#859,778)

6 months
1 (#386,031)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

References found in this work

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work

At the Contours of Corporeality: Critique as Will to Power.Fulden İbrahimhakkıoğlu - 2018 - Beytulhikme An International Journal of Philosophy 8 (1):157-170.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Active/Reactive Body in Deleuze and Foucault.Sergey Toymentsev - 2010 - Journal of Philosophy: A Cross-Disciplinary Inquiry 5 (11):44-56.
Michel Foucault's Bodies.Mathieu Potte-Bonneville - 2012 - Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 43 (1):1-32.
Somatechnologies.Susanne Lettow - 2011 - Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology 15 (2):110-117.
War in the Social and Disciplinary Bodies.Todd May - 2004 - Radical Philosophy Review 7 (1):41-58.
How the Body in Action Shapes the Self.Vittorio Gallese & Corrado Sinigaglia - 2011 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 18 (7-8):117-143.
The Objects of Bodily Awareness.John Schwenkler - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 162 (2):465-472.