Michel Foucault and the Historiography of the Sciences


The June 2022 edition of Transversal: International Journal for the Historiography of Science will present a special issue dedicated to the work of Michel Foucault. The aim is to bring together analyses and reflections on the history of the relationship between Michel Foucault’s work and the historiography of the sciences.

Several axes may guide contributors to this special issue. The first axis concerns the classical relationship between Michel Foucault’s work and the French historical epistemology or philosophical history of the sciences (Gaston Bachelard, Alexandre Koyré, Jean Cavaillès, and Georges Canguilhem). From a methodological point of view, numerous commentators have already highlighted the significance of this tradition in the French philosopher’s books written in the 1960s. Foucault’s first important works on psychiatry, medicine, and the human sciences prolong but, at the same time, produce a series of significant displacements concerning this tradition.

A second axis connects the author of Les Mots et les Choses and the historiography of the sciences tout court. This axis can unfold in several ways. On the one hand, there were proximities, distances, and polemics between Michel Foucault and historians of medicine. The polemic with Jacques Léonard is perhaps the best-known controversy. Erwin Ackerknecht, a disciple of Sigerist, wrote a history of the hospital in France heralded as a counterpoint to Foucault’s theses in Naissance de la Clinique. On the other hand, Foucault’s interest in George Rosen’s work on social medicine shows that this relationship was not made only under the sign of polemics. Moreover, Foucault’s work had important effects on the reconfiguration of the history of science from that time onwards. One can remember the importance of the notion of practice, which became central in the work of many historians from then on, or even the debt that other researchers, such as Ian Hacking, François Delaporte, and, Lorraine Daston claim to have with the Foucauldian work.

A third axis deals with the renewal of the objects of the history of science. Michel Foucault introduced numerous new concepts that have become central to philosophical and historiographical discussions in recent decades and have often transformed the very status of the sciences. Thus, for example, one can think about the concept of biopolitics or in the Foucauldian notion of technology. At the same time, the French thinker opened new domains that have been little explored from a historiographical viewpoint. One can think about such as those linked to economic historiography and neoliberalism.

Finally, we cannot fail to remember the importance of the opening of the Michel Foucault Archives by the National Library of France and the possibilities that these documents open for researchers in the history of the historiography of science.

The expectation is that we will receive contributions that discuss all these possibilities above and other similar topics concerning Foucault’s thought.

Submission details:

Submissions must be received by April 15, 2022, via the journal webpage so they can be considered for the June 2022 issue.

Submissions must be prepared for double-blind review. Notification of acceptance will be sent on May 15, 2022.

Please, see the Author’s Guidelines here.

For any further information concerning this Call for Papers please contact:

Marlon J. Salomon – Universidade Federal de Goiás, Brazil

E-mail: marlonsalomon@ufg.br

Mauro L. Condé – Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Brazil

E-mail: mauroconde@ufmg.br