SOE News

Seminars begun for faculty and students, James Marshall leads inaugural series on Michel Foucault

Twenty graduate students and faculty gathered together on January 12, 2006, to attend the first of a three-part seminar hosted by the Culture, Curriculum and Change Program in the School of Education. The seminar focused on the life of famed French philosopher Michel Foucault, and was led by Dr. James Marshall, emeritus professor at the University of Auckland and one of the world’s foremost scholars on the late philosopher.

The two-hour mini-seminar focused on Foucault’s life and background, which Marshall noted was essential to understanding his work. Marshall described the philosopher’s early life and education, which coincided with World War II. Marshall suggested that the influence of the war is one reason why Foucault strongly advocated for freedom from social constraints. 

Foucault himself repeatedly said that his works arose from issues in his personal experience.  His interest in the difference between the normal and the abnormal, for example, was sparked after he worked in various mental institutions around France. 

A large part of the discussion centered on Foucault’s identity as a philosopher-and-historian.  Marshall stated that Foucault was not a philosopher of ideas, and stressed the importance that the late philosopher placed on history and historical data throughout his work.  This use of historical information was an important tool in his book Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, which was first published in France in 1975. 

This initial seminar laid the foundation for in-depth discussion of the book, which would begin on January 19 and conclude in the third-and final part of the seminar, on January 26.

The Culture, Curriculum and Change Program hopes that this inaugural seminar will become an annual event, promoting and fostering intellectual exchange among Carolina students and faculty.