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Review: Saint Paul-Michel Foucault Author(s): V. Y. Mudimbe

Review: Saint Paul-Michel Foucault Author(s): V. Y. Mudimbe

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W.E.B. Du Bois Institute
Review: Saint Paul-Michel FoucaultAuthor(s): V. Y. MudimbeSource:
Transition,
No. 57 (1992), pp. 122-127Published by:
on behalf of the
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Accessed: 02/09/2011 02:15
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TRANSITION
@(
UnderReview
SAINT
PAUL-MICHEL
FOUCAULT
V.Y. Mudimbe
Saint:aperson ofgreatbenevolence.Death,saidEpictetus,akes he laborer s helabors,the sailoras henavigates:"andyou,whatdoyouwantto beyouroccupationhenyouaretaken?"AndSenecaimaginedhemomentofdeathastheonen whichonemightsomehowbecomehejudgeofoneselfandmea-sure the moralprogresshat one hadaccom-plished upto one'slastday.-M.Foucault,quotedn D. Eribon
Discussedinthisessay
MichelFoucault,DidierEribon,trans.Betsy Wing,Cam-bridge,Mass.:Har-vardUniversityPress
OnJune2,1984,MichelFoucault wasinthehospitalwith what hethoughtto beflu. He wasmoved to theSalpetriereonJune9,theverycontext ofhiscelebratedMadnessandCivilization.OnJune25,hedied.Offically, accordingtoLe Monde(June27,1984)hepassed awayat 1:15
P.M.
ofneurologicalcomplicationsfol-lowingacutesepticemia.Infact,itwasAIDS that ledto his death. At the endofhis book onFoucault,Didier Eribon asksa crucialquestionthathighlightsthecomplexityofthe Frenchphilosopher'smasks:
[Inearly June,1984]didheknow...that
he wasat death'sdoor?That he hadAIDS?No,saymostofhisfriends.Henever knewthe natureofthissuffocatingllness. Eveninthehospitalhe wasmakingenthusiasticlans
foratriptoAndalusia.. . .Did hereally
believeit? Or didhe want toreassurehisfriends?There s no evidence hat thelatter sthe case.Duringthewinterbeforehisdeath,hetelephonedDumezil[hismentor]and told
him: "IthinkIhave AIDS. ". . . This does
notsayhe wassure,but inthisconfidence,quietlymurmuredo hisoldfriendwho wastheneighty-six,oneofthepeoplewho hadbeenclosest ohimforthirtyyears,must wenot hear thevoiceoftruthacknowledgingitself?Didier Eribon's book more thanful-fillsthepromiseof itstitle,meticulouslyunmaskingFoucaulttheman andthephilosopher.Foucault's fullnameisPaul-MichelFoucault.Infact,it shouldhave beensimply,inthe familialtradition,PaulFoucault,thename bestowedonthe firstson inthefamily:the name of thegrand-father,the name of the father. Foucault'smother submittedtothetradition buthyphenatedthe Paul with Michel.WhyMichel?Areference to thearchangel?
122TRANSITIONISSUE 57
 
Michel Foucault
0
Martine Franck
Thefamilywas Catholic. Paul-Michelwould becomeanacolyteandchoirboy.The traditionwould alsorequirehimtoattend Catholic schools.Later Paul-Michelsuppressedthe firstpartofhishyphenatedChristiannameand became Michel Foucault.Why?Ac-cordingtohismother,he dislikedthefact that theinitials of his namewereidenticalto those of PierreMendes-France.Beautiful! Butitis thefather'sandgrandfather'sfirst name thathedropped,andnot his mother's nominalimposition.So he becameMichel,liber-ated from the nom dupere.Is itreallyaruptureand,ifso,what areitsimplica-tions? PaulFoucault,Michel'sfather,wasa medicaldoctor,asurgeonandpro-fessoratthe medicalschoolinPoitiers,himself theson of anothersurgeoninFontainebleau. Yearslater,inUppsala,aftervisitingalaboratory,MichelFoucault wonderedwhyhechose tobe-come aphilosopherand notascientist:hehad reactedagainstatradition.Althoughhisfamilywas somewhatanticlerical,Foucaultwas educatedbyecclesiastics inPoitiers. Helivedunderthe shadowofJesuits at theLyceeHenriIV andthe Freres desEcolesChr6tiennes(attheCollegeSaintStanislas)and evenhadBenedictineprofessorssuchasFa-therdeMontsabert andPierrot fromLigugeAbbey.Thencame his initiationattheEcole Normale onRued'Ulm.Eribonsays:"Hewasasolitary,unso-ciableboy,whoserelationshipswithothers wereverycomplexandoftenconflict-ridden. Hewas never ateasewithhimself and wassomewhat un-healthy."HestudiedpsychologyunderDanielLagacheandJulianAjuriaquerra;seventeenth-centuryphilosophywithHenriGouhier;Parmenides underJeanWahl;phenomenologywithJeanBeau-fret,Jean-ToussaintDesanti,and Mau-riceMerleau-Ponty;andhediscoveredMarxismthanks toLouisAlthusser.In1950 hejoinedtheCommunistparty.Inthe sameyear,heflunked theagr6gation.Achievinghighresults inthe examina-tiohthefollowing year,Foucault found
SAINTPAUL-MICHELFOUCAULT123
d
I

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