The Foucault Archives at Berkeley
Foucault Studies, No. 10, pp. 144-154, November 2010
"The secondary literature devoted to Foucault refers, from time to time, to certain documents
archived at the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley. These records con-
tain mostly, but not exclusively, work carried out by Foucault on the American West Coast.
His first invitation to Berkeley in the spring of 1975 became the prelude to five more stays in
California; namely, Fall 1979, Fall 1980, Fall 1981, and Spring and Fall 1983. Foucault enjoyed
there some formative exchanges with colleagues and students where he found an intellectual
niche open to his unique ways of thinking. He also found himself interested in the wealth of
counter-cultures characteristic of the San Francisco region, while remaining critical of some
features associated with the ‚Californian cult of the self.‛ Transformed into an iconic con-
temporary intellectual, Foucault attracted larger and larger crowds, quickly reaching the thou-
sands. Shortly before his death, he envisaged leaving his position at the Collège de France to
return on a more permanent basis to his post on the American West Coast. His time spent at
Berkeley gave rise to some lasting friendships that sometimes resulted in academic collabora-
tions with prominent professors such as Leo Bersoni (Department of French Studies), Hans
Sluga (Department of Philosophy), and most notably, Paul Rabinow (Department of Anthro-
pology) and Hubert Dreyfus (Department of Philosophy).
The cultural environment in California, at once liberal and leftist, stylized and revolu-
tionary, offered Foucault what was lacking at the Collège de France and its institutionalization
of knowledges: that is to say, a space that simultaneously promotes freedom of speech, acade-
mic freedom, proximity to students, and minority practices. Without a doubt, these encoun-
ters and experiences had a direct effect on the development and trajectory of Foucault’s later
thought (re-reading of the liberal tradition, care of the self, ethics, and aesthetics of existence,
etc.). Academic circles in the American West Coast were thus privileged witnesses to the evo-
lution of Foucault’s thought, which was reciprocally nourished by this environment1.
The Foucault archives found at the Bancroft Library are available for consultation only.
They include seminars, public lectures, interviews, and conversations in the form of type-
scripts and audio recordings, in English and French. Before an inventory of these materials is
given, we feel that it would be necessary to make some preliminary remarks about these docu-
ments. Firstly, several documents archived at the Bancroft Library have been published since
their writing or recording, the appropriate bibliographical information will be included. Se-
condly, if we rely on the chronology given in Dits et écrits (Vol. 1, Paris, Gallimard, 1994, 46-
63), we find that many public speeches by Foucault on the American West Coast are still
missing from the archives, these may be filed later. Among these are a lecture in Sacramento
on October 19th 1979, participation at a symposium held in Los Angeles in the fall of 1981, and
two lectures given at Boulder and Santa Cruz in the fall of 1983.
The Foucault material filed at the Bancroft Library archives are primarily of two kinds:
1) typescripts with annotations by Foucault himself, and 2) audio recordings on cassettes or
compact disks. We hope that the information presented is useful in planning future research
stays at the University of California, Berkeley. Those who visit may also benefit from the view
atop the ‚Sather Tower,‛ which dominates the campus at 94 meters high (said to be the 3rd
highest bell and clock tower in the world!). Moreover, researchers may also benefit from a
visit to the Phoebe Apperson Hearst anthropology museum, which contains the oldest and
largest collection in the Western United States. One searches in vain however, for the ‚Café
Foucault,‛ as it was once known in his honour, which exists today as Espresso Experience
located at 2440 Bancroft Way, wedged between two beauty salons... "