Power and Resistance: A Laboratory of Foucault in Brazil
This article highlights a specific moment in the context of Michel Foucault’s journeys to Brazil from 1965 until shortly before his death and in the activities that he then developed. In the period from 1973 to 1976, Foucault presents two works in Brazil whose themes will be developed in published books and in courses delivered during the same period. First, a lecture series delivered at the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro under the title Truth and Juridical Forms (1973) connects with the courses delivered at the Collège de France, The Punitive Society (1973) and Psychiatric Power (1974), followed by the publication of Discipline and Punish (1975). Second, a lecture series on Social Medicine delivered at the State University of Rio de Janeiro (1976) connects with “Society Must Be Defended” (1976) and the book The History of Sexuality (1976). An articulation of these works – undertaken in Brazil and in France – allows us to see them in their entirety as a nucleus of Foucault’s hypotheses on power and resistance.
From Public Silence to Public Protest:
Michel Foucault is widely regarded in Brazil and elsewhere as a militant intellectual who spoke out against injustices and participated in various struggles for social transformation, often by facilitating the voices of those whose voices were suppressed. The story of his five visits to Brazil between 1965 and 1976 complicates this largely apt view of his political militancy. All of Foucault’s visits to Brazil took place in the context of a military dictatorship that had been in place since March 1964 yet it was not until October 1975, well into the occasion of his fourth visit to Brazil, that he adopted a public stance against the dictatorship there. This paper probes why he remained publicly silent about the dictatorship for such a long period of time as well as why he finally broke his public silence. The answers to these questions suggest that Foucault did not so much suspend his militancy as carry it with him to Brazil in subtle and prudent ways attentive to the importance of articulating an oppositional stance through the collective resistance of others. This understanding of the rationale behind Foucault’s political actions has, in its turn, implications that extend well beyond the peculiarities of his manifold experiences in Brazil. It suggests silence as much as outspokenness as a basis for solidarity with others.
Keywords: Foucault, Brazil, dictatorship, University of São Paulo, militancy
Foucault and Resistances in Brazil
Michel Foucault's writings pass through many routes. The reading of his works affected the political debate about prisons and other forms of incarceration, but in an evasive way, related to human rights and improvements in incarcerations and modes of punishment, especially after the publication in Portuguese of Surveiller et punir in 1977. It was as if it was impossible to go through events without mentioning Foucault. However, quoting him does not mean pursuing the paths that he suggested. At the same time, anarchists began to approach his analyses, provoking known points in favor of them and against them. The publication of his courses had repercussions in social discussions framed by conventional sociological theories. With regard to politics, his thought still faces a significant refusal in the scientific community related to political science and international relations. Foucault remains a difficult thinker to assimilate, although the regular conferences held at Brazilian universities function to update and explore his concepts. This article intends to situate the new forms of imprisonment in force in Brazil for young people and adults on the basis of Foucault 's analyses of punishment and the introduction of libertarian penal abolitionism. Taking as a reference point his claim that there are no power relations without resistance (in particular, revolt); that contemporary situations are different from those of the Prisons Information Group (GIP); that new open incarcerations proliferate; that new forms of punishment occur through restorative justice, this article presents a new form of the management of punishment through a monitoring proper to neoliberal rationality.
Keywords: punishment, monitoring, libertarian penal abolitionism
Foucault in Iran, Foucault in Brazil: Political Spirituality and Counter-Conducts
During a visit to Japan, Michel Foucault affirmed that the philosophy of the future would come from outside of Europe or in the encounters between Europe and non-Europe. With this affirmation, he intended to delimit the European horizon of thought at the end of the 1970s as well as recognize that new philosophies were emerging in other regions of the world. In 1978, while undertaking a series of journeys to Iran as a “reporter of ideas” for the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Foucault witnessed the birth of a new form of revolt crystallized in a general will. He called it a political spirituality, which may be understood as a movement of counter-conduct that proposes simultaneous subjective and political transformations rooted in a religious vocabulary. Through Shiite Islam, the Iranians put themselves in a condition of permanently questioning the established government, which was deemed despotic and unjust. Even though the movement of this revolt led to a new oppressive government, the enthusiasm generated for it produced a transformation among those who witnessed it that has not been forgotten, demonstrating that it is never “useless to revolt.”
Foucault was in Brazil many times between 1965 and 1976. There he delivered speeches, discussed concepts, presented his new books, but also positioned himself firmly against the military-civilian dictatorship that governed the country until 1985. Although a cycle of demonstrations similar to what took place in Iran did not occur in Brazil, various actors participated in struggles on various fronts, as the broad historiography of the period already showed. One of these fronts had a driving force in Catholicism, specifically in Liberation Theology and in the formation of Ecclesiastical Base Communities. Various religions also participated directly in the struggle against torture, as in the emblematic case of the Brazil: Never Again project. These initiatives, principally of a Marxist character, show that in Brazil religion was not simply the “opiate of the people” but also the “spirit in a world without spirit,” to use Marx’s terms that Foucault himself uses to articulate his concept of political spirituality.
In this article, I intend to revisit the experience of resistances to the Brazilian dictatorship from the articulation of subjective formation, counter-conducts and religiosity, bringing the Foucauldian analysis of Iranian Shiism as a religion of revolt together with the possibility of thinking Catholic-Marxist initiatives of resistance.
Foucault, Subjectivity, and Self-Writing in Brazilian Feminism
In this paper, I examine some of the transformations produced by feminism in the cultural and social imaginary of Brazil since the seventies, based on some concepts and problematizations of Michel Foucault. In light of his reflections on modes of subjectivization, parrhesia, and self-writing as practices of freedom opposed to confession, I focus on the autobiographical narratives of three Brazilian feminist activists who have questioned the normative discourses of gender and subverted their own identities in a context of deep social modernization in the country. Their actions and interpretations, as well as those coming from other activists, strongly reverberated in the constitution of the public sphere with the abertura política (political opening). They opened new paths for social change and for the reinvention of subjectivity of many women, as other “arts of living” were known and experienced. I also show how feminist research on women’s history provided women with narratives of the past fundamental to empower them ethically and to constitute them as citizens.
Keywords: Foucault, feminism, subjectivity, self-writing, arts of living
Foucault and the Courage to Radically Transform Existence
This paper proposes to study the GIP (Information Group on Prisons) and the thematic of the aesthetics of existence to address the specificity of Michel Foucault’s militancy. Through the notions of the “specific intellectual” and the courage of truth, Foucault problematizes the figure of the “universal intellectual” as the guide of the masses, the relation between theory and practice, the distinction between proletariat and the lunpemproletariat, and the notion of self-criticism. Foucault’s interest in the ancient world and gay culture also provide a reflection that escapes the modes of production of modern subjectivities because it is not regulated by the production of the disciplined individual and the political figure of the subject of rights. Therefore, this paper argues there emerges from within Foucault’s thought and experience the ethics of an intellectual both committed to the refusal of the individualization and subjection promoted by the modern State and faced with the urgent task of creating an ethics that invests in the creation of new ways to live in the present. To this end, it will be necessary to follow some of the journeys that Foucault undertook to spread his studies outside of Europe, such as those that he presented in Rio de Janeiro in 1973 in a lecture series entitled Truth and Juridical Forms.
Keywords: Foucault, freedom, ethics, intellectual practice
The Tiny Brazilian Press as Resistance:
Foucault, the Enemy of the King
The tiny (nanica) press always covered Michel Foucault during his stays in Brazil in the 1970s. “Nanica” is an adjective that condenses, in one term, two characteristics in a series of Brazilian publications from the time: the tabloid format and the struggle against the control of news exercised by the military regime through censorship. The current article assesses the moments, styles, and effects of the interlocution between the tiny press and the French philosopher, especially through the Bahian anarchist newspaper O inimigo do Rei (The Enemy of the King), which gave prominence to themes such as homosexuality, drugs, and prison. If such themes are still controversial in Brazilian reality, this article points out that the radically libertarian tone of O inimigo do Rei, which drew strong support from Foucault’s thought, also provoked countless polemics at the time, including those between anarchists themselves.
Keywords: Foucault, tiny (nanico) press, anarchist press, Brazil.
Michel Foucault and the Courage of Truth
Against the background of episodes of Michel Foucault's concrete political intervention in Brazil in the mid-1970s during the period of the military dictatorship, as well as the current difficulties in the creation of a chair of Philosophy in honor of Michel Foucault at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo, this article reflects on the relationship between theory and practice, as well as on the political implications of parresia as courage of truth.
Keywords: Foucault, Brazil, theory, practice, politics
“The SNI was asking for the list of attendees”: Michel Foucault in Belém in 1976
Michel Foucault was in Belém in the state of Pará twice: the first time in 1973 right after his famous lecture series “Truth and Juridical Forms,” delivered at the Catholic University of Rio in May of that year, and the second time at the beginning of November 1976. The first time he was on vacation, getting to know the north of Brazil. On that occasion, he got to know Benedito Nunes, then Chair of the Philosophy Department at the Federal University of Pará, who, by no coincidence, had written a long article on Les mots et les choses, which was published in the newspaper O Estado de São Paulo in 1968. On the occasion of that meeting, Foucault promised to Nunes that he would come to Belém to deliver lectures on his next visit to Brazil. He kept his promise in November 1976, presenting over the course of three days – November 6, 7, and 8 – the main theses of the first volume of The History of Sexuality, which had just been published in France. A few days later, Nunes was summoned by the Head of the Center of Philosophy and Human Sciences to be informed that the National Information Service (SNI), the agency responsible for the surveillance and control of subversive activities during the Brazilian dictatorship, had asked for a list of audience members to the lectures. Nunes, who had left Brazil for France in October 1967, in a kind of exile, refused to hand over the list. This episode showed that the visit of Foucault was being followed by the agencies responsible for “national security.” I intend to reconstitute this second passage of Foucault through Belém, connecting it with our years of lead (anos de chumbo).