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Foucault and the Rhetorics of Transformation


Abstract for Online Program Book (maximum 150 words)

How does Foucault help us to understand transformation – historical and individual – and religion? How does the transformation of subjectivity interact with the transformation of the political? The papers in this panel explore the way Foucault helps us to understand the relationship between the transformation of ‘self’ and the transformation of ‘world.’ More precisely, this panel explores the transformation of our frameworks for forming oneself “as a human or posthuman subject’ in a ‘posthuman world;’ the transformation of the rhetoric of the relation to self in patristic period between Rome and pastoral power; techniques of power and ethics within both political revolt and ongoing spiritual practice, religious, secular, or otherwise.


  • Foucault and Transformation: A Genealogy of "Political Spirituality"


    Foucault develops “political spirituality” out of the specific conjunction of place, time, knowledge (_savoir_) and practice that was the Iranian Revolution of 1978-1979. This paper offers a genealogy of political spirituality by disarticulating this conjunction and seeking the emergence of its specific facets through earlier terms within Foucault’s _œuvre_. Specifically, the paper traces a genealogy of “political spirituality” through a handful of concepts: life, the outside and unthought, experience, and the genealogical method.

  • The Rhetoric of Pastoral Power in the Patristic Period: The Case of Ascetic Renunciation and Consecrated Virginity


    Michel Foucault’s lectures on pastoral power demonstrate the historical origins of the modern state in the Christian pastorate’s distinct exercise of power over individuals. However, by focusing on the exercise of power over individuals, Foucault’s analysis was limited to the practice of pastoral power. In this paper, I argue that pastoral power’s success during the Patristic period was due to its employment of popular rhetorical strategies that transformed the bishops and presbyters of late Roman antiquity into figures of moral continuity, connecting the Christian pastorate with the traditional Roman morality of the household of pre-Christian Rome. The analysis of pastoral power’s rhetorical strategies illustrates the conditions that justified the necessity of pastoral power to steer institutionalized Christianity within the culture of late Roman antiquity.

  • Foucault's Critique in a Posthuman World


                Foucault’s use of critique is valuable for posthumanist scholars who reject established ideas of what it means to be human. Posthumanist scholars suggest that human identity is not as fixed as many would suppose. One’s treatment as human often depends on what one is “doing” rather than one’s “being” human. Similarly, Foucault’s discussions on biopolitics further elaborate on the ambiguity of human identity. Biopolitics reflect biological existence merely in terms of political existence. Due to the recent invention of man and its indefinite historical precedent, Foucault argued that the notion of man could easily cease to exist in the event of a possible critique.[i] I suggest that posthumanism has offered such a critique. Specifically, its cultural concern with technology has emphasized technological reconstructions that are changing what it means to be human.


    [i] Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archeology of the Human Sciences (New York: Pantheon, 1971), 387.

  • Returning to the Sacred Spring? Spas, Wellness, and Nonreligious Spirituality


    As affiliation with religion declines dramatically in many contexts globally, scholars are attending more critically to the category of nonreligion. Scholars have identified that many nonreligious people engage in multiple spiritual practices, and that these contribute to their sense of belonging, existential meaning, ethical sensibility and purpose. Historians have been slow to historicise nonreligious spirituality. This paper examines the history of the mineral spring and spa sectors of the wellness industry to trace a genealogy of nonreligious spiritual care to the 1850s. Wellness industries promote holistic care, integrating physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. The history of wellness industries thus provides an example of spiritual care provision outside of religious settings. Examining one wellness sector in Australia highlights in particular the spiritual dimensions of settler coloniality, and the role of memory and imagination in nonreligious spirituality. Foucault’s conceptualisation of pastoral power, heterotopia and heterochronia usefully illuminate some techniques of nonreligious spirituality.

Audiovisual Requirements


LCD Projector and Screen
Play Audio from Laptop Computer


Online Session

Full Papers Available

Program Unit Options

Session Length

90 Minutes

Schedule Preference Other

June Online Session
Schedule Info

Thursday, 3:30 PM - 4:45 PM (June Online Meeting)


#Foucault #transformation #political spirituality #genealogy
# Spirituality

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