City - Volume 11, Issue 3, December 2007, pages 313-356
Author: Brady Thomas Heiner
This paper unearths the relation between French philosopher Michel Foucault and the US Black Panther Party (BPP). I argue that Foucault’s shift from archaeological inquiry to genealogical critique is fundamentally motivated by his encounter with American‐style racism and class struggle, and by his engagement with the political philosophies and documented struggles of the BPP. The paper proceeds in four steps. First, I assess Foucault’s biographies and interviews from the transitional period of 1970–72 that indicate the fact and nature of this formative encounter. Second, I turn to some of the writings of BPP leaders and to the theme of politics and war as they articulated it. Third, I address this same theme of politics as war as it gets taken up and rearticulated by Foucault between 1971 and 1976, with an eye to the degree to which the philosophies and struggles of the Black Panthers silently, yet profoundly, inform Foucault’s genealogical work. I conclude by raising some ethical and political questions pertaining to the criteria of truthful speech in scholarly discourse.