Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Foucault, where have you been all my life?

Image from W Mag June 2007 from here 

Confession time: I have spent the last three years avoiding Foucault. There are certain theorists who intimidate by their reputation alone. They are the ones whose names are familiar and their ideas vaguely identifiable by a few keywords, and who are notorious for being difficult to grasp or to engage with in the depth of accuracy which their work demands. Intimidating

But a thesis cannot live by The Business of Fashion alone, and so this week, with trepidation, I approached him. Carefully. Holding out cake. And you know what? I was blown away. One, he writes elegantly and fluidly (huge props. I was expecting Bourdieuan levels of density). Two, he works examples in to illustrate his concepts (so helpful. Thanks Foucault!) Three, his ideas work, they have energy and depth and dynamism. So I'm going to share one of his beautiful passages here because it's too lovely to leave sitting in my PDF of 'Of Other Spaces' - I mean, get a load of this:

Bachelard’s monumental work and the descriptions of the phenomenologists have taught us that we do not live in a homogeneous and empty space, but on the contrary in a space thoroughly imbued with quantities and perhaps thoroughly fantasmic as well. The space of our primary perception, the space of our dreams and that of our passions hold within themselves qualities that seem intrinsic: there is a light, ethereal, transparent space, or again a dark, rough, encumbered space; a space from above, of summits, or on the contrary a space from below, or mud; or again a space that can be flowing like sparkling water, or a space that is fixed, congealed, like stone or crystal.

See what I mean?! I defy anyone to say that academic writing cannot be poetic. Besides, anyone who admires Bachelard and phenomenological descriptions is OK with me. 

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