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Race and the Education of Desire: Foucault's History of Sexuality and the Colonial Order of Things

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Michel Foucault’s History of Sexuality has been one of the most influential books of the last two decades. It has had an enormous impact on cultural studies and work across many disciplines on gender, sexuality, and the body. Bringing a new set of questions to this key work, Ann Laura Stoler examines volume one of History of Sexuality in an unexplored light. She asks why t Michel Foucault’s History of Sexuality has been one of the most influential books of the last two decades. It has had an enormous impact on cultural studies and work across many disciplines on gender, sexuality, and the body. Bringing a new set of questions to this key work, Ann Laura Stoler examines volume one of History of Sexuality in an unexplored light. She asks why there has been such a muted engagement with this work among students of colonialism for whom issues of sexuality and power are so essential. Why is the colonial context absent from Foucault’s history of a European sexual discourse that for him defined the bourgeois self? In Race and the Education of Desire, Stoler challenges Foucault’s tunnel vision of the West and his marginalization of empire. She also argues that this first volume of History of Sexuality contains a suggestive if not studied treatment of race. Drawing on Foucault’s little-known 1976 College de France lectures, Stoler addresses his treatment of the relationship between biopower, bourgeois sexuality, and what he identified as “racisms of the state.” In this critical and historically grounded analysis based on cultural theory and her own extensive research in Dutch and French colonial archives, Stoler suggests how Foucault’s insights have in the past constrained—and in the future may help shape—the ways we trace the genealogies of race. Race and the Education of Desire will revise current notions of the connections between European and colonial historiography and between the European bourgeois order and the colonial treatment of sexuality. Arguing that a history of European nineteenth-century sexuality must also be a history of race, it will change the way we think about Foucault.


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Michel Foucault’s History of Sexuality has been one of the most influential books of the last two decades. It has had an enormous impact on cultural studies and work across many disciplines on gender, sexuality, and the body. Bringing a new set of questions to this key work, Ann Laura Stoler examines volume one of History of Sexuality in an unexplored light. She asks why t Michel Foucault’s History of Sexuality has been one of the most influential books of the last two decades. It has had an enormous impact on cultural studies and work across many disciplines on gender, sexuality, and the body. Bringing a new set of questions to this key work, Ann Laura Stoler examines volume one of History of Sexuality in an unexplored light. She asks why there has been such a muted engagement with this work among students of colonialism for whom issues of sexuality and power are so essential. Why is the colonial context absent from Foucault’s history of a European sexual discourse that for him defined the bourgeois self? In Race and the Education of Desire, Stoler challenges Foucault’s tunnel vision of the West and his marginalization of empire. She also argues that this first volume of History of Sexuality contains a suggestive if not studied treatment of race. Drawing on Foucault’s little-known 1976 College de France lectures, Stoler addresses his treatment of the relationship between biopower, bourgeois sexuality, and what he identified as “racisms of the state.” In this critical and historically grounded analysis based on cultural theory and her own extensive research in Dutch and French colonial archives, Stoler suggests how Foucault’s insights have in the past constrained—and in the future may help shape—the ways we trace the genealogies of race. Race and the Education of Desire will revise current notions of the connections between European and colonial historiography and between the European bourgeois order and the colonial treatment of sexuality. Arguing that a history of European nineteenth-century sexuality must also be a history of race, it will change the way we think about Foucault.

30 review for Race and the Education of Desire: Foucault's History of Sexuality and the Colonial Order of Things

  1. 4 out of 5

    Romina

    Reading this book is a challenge due to its theoretical denseness. If you haven't read or not familiar with Foucault, this is not the book for you. Stoler is a professor of anthropology and historical studies at the New School. This book is followed by Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power (2002), where she deepens her analysis of the racializaed education European children internalized while living in colonial territories Stoler's main questions when researching this book include: why colonial bod Reading this book is a challenge due to its theoretical denseness. If you haven't read or not familiar with Foucault, this is not the book for you. Stoler is a professor of anthropology and historical studies at the New School. This book is followed by Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power (2002), where she deepens her analysis of the racializaed education European children internalized while living in colonial territories Stoler's main questions when researching this book include: why colonial bodies were not included in Faucault’s analysis? And where does he place race in his analysis of power? The book focuses and engages with Foucault on three points: 1) The question of the birth of racism and why Foucault places it in the 19th century (11)? 2) Foucault’s outline of a racial grammar that influenced sexual regimes of bourgeois culture (12). 3) She takes Faucault’s tensions out of an intra-European experience into “tensions of empire”—where she explore similarities and differences between the core and its colonies. She is particularly interested in how these “tensions of empire” articulated a vocabulary of sexuality, as well as a discourse and geneaology of race (13). A central question for Stoler is: if Foucault places the birth of state racism in the 19th century, how can colonialism and empire building be left out of the analysis (59, 80)? Stoler first underscores how in the History of Sexuality, v. 1, Foucault articulates a careful containment in his discussion about race. This containment is simultaneously by its geographical parameters (intra-European) and his careful inclusion of race. However, Stoler's analysis is not limited to the History of Sexuality, but she also explores later theoretical developments by Foucault that he articulates in a series of lectures. In piecing together these various moments in which Foucault discusses race, Stoler interprets his argument as follows: National discourse was used as a tool to pacify the social war in which the centralization of historical knowledge (80) became a normalizing discourse (35) for the biologizing of power (68). In his lectures, where race is placed more centrally, the question of the social war is emphasized further. Foucault's social war does not seem to be very different from Marx's class war, but Stoler does not say much more about this. Stoler notes that Foucault viewed that “a discourse of class derives from an earlier discourse of race (30).” She contrasts his analysis with Benedict Anderson who interpreted a discourse of race as one that derived from an earlier discourse on class. She discusses the differences between Anderson and Foucault in their placement of race within the nationalist project. She notes that for Anderson the continuity between classism and racism branded the nationalist project (30), while Foucault viewed this discourse as discontinuous and not necessarily a natural progression. At the end of the History of Sexuality, “racism emerges in the dramatic finale as one of several possible domains in which technologies of sexuality are worked out and displayed (59).” However, his lectures instead place racism with the framing of nationalist discourse, into what he interprets as "state racism." Instead of racism becoming a possible effect, it becomes a tactic in what she notes as...”the internal fission of society…” that creates internal enemies (59). In the History of Sexuality, Foucault analyzes four examples where the bodypolitic plays out: 1) hysterical women; 2) the suppression of children sexuality; 3) the socialization of procreative life; 4) psychiatric analytics. While these are examples of the "internal enemies" developed by the "biological confrontations between 'my life and the death of others,'" when interpreting it in a colonial framework the question of race and power becomes even more multi-faceted. In her analysis, Stoler breaks down the internal enemy by extending it into the colonial context and gives it a specific racialized interpretation. She uses the example of domestic servants and nannies in the Dutch colonial Indies. By exploring how white, middle-class, female colonizers interacted with their black servants, we are able to see how colonial subjects were treated and surveilled as internal enemies. In this section, she also describes her disagreement (or widens the scope) of Foucault’s interpretation on degeneration and anxiety. For example, nannies were viewed by colonizers as possible degenerate influences on their children. Another example are metropole anxieties about their colonies and racial-mixing which challenged their power structure that was already intertwined with a racial hierarchy. Stoler also highlights how Foucualt lacked a gendered analysis around these subjects. For example, she describes how nationalist discourse is framed by exclusions and difference (131)—so, how do women and race inform such a narrative? She also notes the creation of a language of difference and new forms of power that inform the social hierarchies in colonial territories. But since Foucault's work is framed within male European universals, his analyses are stilted.

  2. 4 out of 5

    arafat

    Theory meets history at its best? Stoler's engagement with Foucault—both critical and constructive—is exemplary and worth emulating. Theory meets history at its best? Stoler's engagement with Foucault—both critical and constructive—is exemplary and worth emulating.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sohum

    Read mostly like a historiography in the first section, but moved to more careful analysis by part 4. At times, (again, the earlier section in particular) the tone felt so adulatory that I was unsure what critique was perhaps foreclosed by that kind of admiration, but I think this book is valuable in particular ways, and within a particular genre of interest.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Joy

    I'm not saying I disagree with this book; I'm saying I hated reading it. I'm not saying I disagree with this book; I'm saying I hated reading it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Janice Feng

    Diss.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Dan Adamsky

    Important critiques of both Foucault's blind spots and those of colonial historians. Important critiques of both Foucault's blind spots and those of colonial historians.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Maxine

    Erudite but clear and very compelling. Much of the book grapples with Foucault and other racial/sexual theorists; if you've read much of these works, some of these sections can drag. yet the book is also an excellent introduction to these fields. More to the point, Stoler's original analysis is fascinating and skillfully reframes the questions of race, sexuality, and colonialism in ways still compelling ten years on. Erudite but clear and very compelling. Much of the book grapples with Foucault and other racial/sexual theorists; if you've read much of these works, some of these sections can drag. yet the book is also an excellent introduction to these fields. More to the point, Stoler's original analysis is fascinating and skillfully reframes the questions of race, sexuality, and colonialism in ways still compelling ten years on.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Alex Hubbard

    This book should have been an article. Everything relevant in it comes in the last chapter. Stoler's rethinking of Foucault is interesting but not particularly compelling, particularly because it is too drawn out. Most of her evidence comes from the Dutch East Indies, but she flippantly claims the conclusions she draws can be applied to Europe in general and the British Empire more specifically without really supporting or demonstrating that claim. This book should have been rethought. I would r This book should have been an article. Everything relevant in it comes in the last chapter. Stoler's rethinking of Foucault is interesting but not particularly compelling, particularly because it is too drawn out. Most of her evidence comes from the Dutch East Indies, but she flippantly claims the conclusions she draws can be applied to Europe in general and the British Empire more specifically without really supporting or demonstrating that claim. This book should have been rethought. I would recommend it for someone studying the Dutch Empire, but not for someone interested in Foucault, or even for someone who expects to find anything groundbreaking in critical race theory.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Layla Johnston

    Stoler uses Foucault's lectures on biopower, racism, and the history of sexuality as a theoretical framework for analysis of Dutch colonialism and power. While thorough for the geographical context and historical time Stoler's research specializes in, her interpretation may be less applicable for other colonial ventures, such as the colonization of N/S America. Interesting and thoughtful, though, and recommended for political theory buffs and Foucault fanatics. Stoler uses Foucault's lectures on biopower, racism, and the history of sexuality as a theoretical framework for analysis of Dutch colonialism and power. While thorough for the geographical context and historical time Stoler's research specializes in, her interpretation may be less applicable for other colonial ventures, such as the colonization of N/S America. Interesting and thoughtful, though, and recommended for political theory buffs and Foucault fanatics.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Molly Garner

    For those of us who find Foucault's English translation an additional burden to understanding post-colonial theory and post-modernism, Stoler makes Foucault's History of Sexuality accessible and fascinating. Stop trying to look smart by reading a dog eared copy of Discipline and Punish and skip straight to Stoler. For those of us who find Foucault's English translation an additional burden to understanding post-colonial theory and post-modernism, Stoler makes Foucault's History of Sexuality accessible and fascinating. Stop trying to look smart by reading a dog eared copy of Discipline and Punish and skip straight to Stoler.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Gina

    Stoler makes Foucault's theory on sexuality more accessible while forging the links between sexual technologies and racism that are only suggested in his work. She explicates and expands on History of Sexuality and Society Must Be Defended. Stoler's writing is clear and concise. I also recommend her later works that deal more directly with cultural anthropology in European colonies. Stoler makes Foucault's theory on sexuality more accessible while forging the links between sexual technologies and racism that are only suggested in his work. She explicates and expands on History of Sexuality and Society Must Be Defended. Stoler's writing is clear and concise. I also recommend her later works that deal more directly with cultural anthropology in European colonies.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mike Mena

    Add Empire to HS1 and you got this book! Stoler does great work here.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Doina

    the title is pretty self-explanatory. i will only add that stoler made some of foucalt's theories more accessible and easier to understand. the title is pretty self-explanatory. i will only add that stoler made some of foucalt's theories more accessible and easier to understand.

  14. 5 out of 5

    nick

  15. 5 out of 5

    ryan

  16. 4 out of 5

    Elisa Ruiz

  17. 4 out of 5

    Budiirawanto

  18. 5 out of 5

    Anh Le

  19. 4 out of 5

    Laura Mellem

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ricardo Duarte

  21. 4 out of 5

    Julia

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tyler

  23. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

  24. 5 out of 5

    Katharine

  25. 4 out of 5

    Julaine

    Sell?

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sara

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jack

  28. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rannald Sim

  30. 4 out of 5

    Abby

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