Who was Pierre Rivière? Introduction to the special issue
Foucault's (1975) edited book, I, Pierre Rivière, having slaughtered my mother, my sister and my brother… A case of parricide in the 19th century, includes the court documents and newspaper reports from the 1835 trial of Pierre Rivière, Pierre Rivière's memoir written while in prison, and the “analytic notes” written by Foucault and his colleagues. Whereas the court focused on the question of whether Pierre Rivière was of sane mind or not, Foucault and his colleagues sought to avoid the closure that such categorical thinking invites the reader into. This paper introduces the story of Pierre Rivière, and opens up some of the questions to be addressed in this special issue. The papers examine the memoir, the accompanying documents, and Foucault's and his colleagues' take on them, and reopen discussion of the Pierre Rivière case and its contemporary twenty-first century relevance, using a combination of both philosophical ethnography and arts-based enquiry. These contemporary papers are based upon a series of interdisciplinary workshops and seminars that took place at the University of Bristol during 2010. In this introductory paper we ask what was the emotional geography of this young man who engaged in such an unthinkable act? And how did that geography intersect with the emotional geography of his village in France in 1835, and what does it still have to tell us about our own contemporary society?