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The Body Problematic

Political Imagination in Kant and Foucault

Laura Hengehold

Publication Year: 2007

Late in life, Foucault identified with “the critical tradition of Kant,” encouraging us to read both thinkers in new ways. Kant’s “Copernican” strategy of grounding knowledge in the limits of human reason proved to stabilize political, social-scientific, and medical expertise as well as philosophical discourse. These inevitable limits were made concrete in historical structures such as the asylum, the prison, and the sexual or racial human body. Such institutions built upon and shaped the aesthetic judgment of those considered “normal.” Following Kant through all of Foucault’s major works, this book shows how bodies functioned as “problematic objects” in which the limits of post-Enlightenment European power and discourse were imaginatively figured and unified. It suggests ways that readers in a neoliberal political order can detach from the imaginative schemes vested in their bodies and experiment normatively with their own security needs.

Published by: Penn State University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii


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pp. v

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pp. vii-viii

Without question, my greatest debt is to Andrew Cutrofello, for infinite patience and optimism at moments when I became lost in the materiality of language. I am unspeakably lucky to have had his friendship and mentorship during the years over which this book was composed. Thanks also...

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Introduction: Imagination and Problematization

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pp. 1-25

Eleanor Bumpurs, a ‘‘270-pound, arthritic sixty-seven-year-old woman,’’ was shot and killed by New York City police in 1984 for resisting eviction from city housing with a knife (Williams 1991, 136). Her case was one of several that crystallized African-American anger against the New York City police department and a coroner’s office that was reputed to overlook police violence against poor suspects. It occurred during...

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PART 1 The Political Topologyof Kantian Reason

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pp. 27-115

In 1961, Foucault submitted a translation and commentary on the genesis and structure of Kant’s Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View as a ‘‘the`se complementaire’’ for his doctorat d’e´tat at the University of Paris (Foucault 1961). The reading of Kant I offer here is tailored to addressing the kinds of issues Foucault raises in his Introduction a` l’anthropologie de Kant and which perplexed him...

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PART 2 Man and His Doubles: Two Ways to Problematize

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pp. 117-210

In the last few decades, scholars and activists have turned to the human body, as seat of experience and as target of power, for ideas about political resistance to a multiplicity of oppressions—sexual, racial, and economic— as well as possible strategies for reconfiguration. The body’s interests seem to be ‘‘real’’ in a world of deception and emotional as well as economic exploitation...

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PART 3 Locked in the Market

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pp. 211-298

I have argued that many modern institutions and discourses that tried to cover the social field from partial points of view managed to establish a division between true and false, identify objects and domains, and connect to other discourses by confining and studying people with socially problematic traits. Kant did not necessarily influence...

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Afterword: Not Similar to Something, Just Similar

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pp. 299-301

One of the most conflicted legacies of the New Left has been the perception that radical politics requires advocates to maintain a perpetual state of outrage and sadness. In the foregoing section, I have given some reasons why I think melancholy came to dominate social movements that originally had a diverse affective composition. It does...


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pp. 303


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pp. 317-318

E-ISBN-13: 9780271053080
E-ISBN-10: 0271053089
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271032122
Print-ISBN-10: 027103212X

Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2007