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Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies

Foucault and the Challenge of Cultural Difference: An Interpretation

PRO GED Kick-Off: Keynote Lecture


Prof. Marnia Lazreg (City University New York)

Date and Time

February 22, 2019, 5:15 - 6:45 pm


Although he was not an “orientalist,” Foucault thought of the Orient as a “limit experience” to Western rationality. What did he mean by this? In
living and traveling in countries of the “Orient,” Tunisia, Iran and Japan, Foucault faced a philosophical, methodological, and personal challenge. How did he meet this challenge? Did he re-orient his work to take into account cultural difference? Drawing on archival research supplemented by interviews with key scholars, this talk traces the genealogy of Foucault’s view of the Orient, and cultural difference generally, as he faced the challenge of the Iranian Revolution and the 1968 Tunisian students’ revolt. It further examines the short-lived effort he made to amend his conception of revolution and religion. It concludes with a reflection on the reasons for
which Foucault’s thought, although culturally circumscribed as well as largely gender-blind, made inroads in feminist theory, which has typically sought to be culturally inclusive.


Universität Zürich, Raum KO2 F 152, Karl-Schmid-Strasse 4, 8006 Zürich


Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies - Gender Studies

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