RE: combats with AIDS, and Foucault's personal attitude

Hi McIntyre,

I have read this article. In fact, it is Mr. O'Farrell who directed me to
this mailing list =)

I guess I am more interested in what Foucault would do at a personal level,
hypothetically, if he
were alive at a time when AIDS is better understood and less severely

BTW, English is not my first language, so maybe some of you would be kind
enough to help me
out. Foucault keeps talking about problematization - but... what does it
mean? I checked many
dictionaries, and the word is not there!


>===== Original Message From "McIntyre" <mcintyre@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> =====
> Letter to The Times Literary Supplement (unpublished)
> © February 2002 Clare O'Farrell
> I would just like to add my own two cents worth to the controversy in
> recent issues of The Times Literary Supplement over the circumstances
> surrounding Foucault's death from AIDS and also over the contention
> Foucault did not believe in 'objective' truth. (See Raymond Tallis,
> article Dec 21, Richard Sennett, letters, Dec 28 2001, John
> letters, Jan 11 2002).
> The context and details of Foucault's death from AIDS as the recent
> discussion indicates remain extremely controversial and have been the
> subject of widespread discussion in several languages since his death
> 1984. The accusation that Foucault deliberately infected his partners
> AIDS is certainly nothing new. Most famously, James Miller, publicly
> the rumour in his 1993 biography. The sensationalist aspects of this
> have been widely criticised by experts on Foucault's work as well as
> those who knew him personally. In particular, Didier Eribon, takes
> exception to Millers' approach in a sequel to his own 1991 biography
> French, making the pertinent observation that the debates around
> Foucault's biography all seem to boil down to one issue: how to write
> biography of a philosopher who was also a homosexual.
> Even Miller has to admit that he believes the rumours about Foucault's
> alleged behaviour to be 'essentially false'. An additional problem
> Miller's interpretation and those like it is that it provides a
> anachronistic reading of events. One might draw attention, for
> to the fact that a reliable test for AIDS was not available in France
> until the Spring of 1984 and if Foucault may have indeed suspected
>that he
> had the disease, no positive diagnosis of his condition was ever made
> doctors. As David Macey, another biographer of Foucault remarks: 'Days
> before his death, his doctors were still saying: "If it's AIDS"'.
> Neither were doctors in a position in the early 1980s to offer much
> advice on the subject of HIV/AIDS or on safe sex. It is certainly true
> that many gay men, including Foucault, expressed initial disbelief in
> existence of a disease that specifically targeted gay men, seeing this
> yet another ploy by the medical establishment to exercise social
> But as Michael Bartos a researcher and activist in the area of AIDS
> public health policy points out, this attitude changed as firmer
> evidence came to the fore. And as Bartos further notes these kind of
> controversies fall into well worn patterns: 'the accusation that an
> infected person deliberately sought to infect others through anonymous
> is one of the most common tropes of the epidemic. The rumour that
> had gone to American bathhouses to deliberately spread HIV should be
> for what it is: a commonplace of the demonisation of people with HIV
> an iteration of the standard myths of the malevolent importation of
> Those who knew Foucault (Richard Sennett amongst them) also argue that
> rumoured behaviour is simply not consistent with his other behaviour
> views on social and political responsibility. Far from limiting
>himself to
> writing, he worked hard at the most practical organisational level on
> committees advocating the rights of prisoners, immigrants, inmates of
> health institutions and the politically oppressed in countries such as
> Tunisia, Spain and Poland, and on occasions put himself at some
> risk in doing so.
> Leaving the circumstances of Foucault's death aside, I would now like
> turn my attention to Raymond Tallis' contention that 'Foucault, as
> schoolchild knows, denied that there were such things as objective
> truths'. John Hargreaves adds to this saying that in Foucault's view
> 'truth is always an instrument of power'. As Foucault insisted on
> occasions, he was not trying to claim that truth and power were the
> thing. Instead, he was interested in the complex relation between the
> Arguing that one term is not mutually exclusive of the other is not to
> reduce them to the same thing. However, there is nothing better than
> horse's mouth to refute the ongoing and widespread perception of
> as a historical idealist and postmodern relativist of the most extreme
> kind. The first passage I can offer in evidence comes from his 1969
> The Archaeology of Knowledge (p.186): 'Ideology is not exclusive of
> scientificity. Few discourses have given so much place to ideology as
> clinical discourse or that of political economy: this is not a
> sufficiently good reason to treat the totality of their statements as
> being undermined by error, contradiction, and a lack of objectivity.'
> The second passage is from a book of lectures published last year
> the title Fearless Speech (pp.171-3). These lectures were given by
> Foucault in 1983 in English (lest there be any quibbles about the
> of translation here!). He says: 'some people have interpreted [my]
> analysis as a form of 'historical idealism', but I think such an
> is completely different. For when I say that I am studying the
> 'problematization' of madness, crime or sexuality, it is not a way of
> denying the reality of such phenomena. On the contrary, I have tried
> show that it was precisely some real[ity] existent in the world which
> the target of social regulation at a given moment ... A given
> problematization is not an effect or consequence of a historical
> or situation, but is an answer given by definite individuals ... You
> only understand why this kind of answer appears as a reply to some
> concrete and specific aspect of the world.'
> If nothing else, the recent controversy sparked by Raymond Tallis'
> would seem to indicate that Foucault's own answers to particular
> situations continue to impact rather forcefully on the answers and
> practices of others engaged in dealing with 'real things in the

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