Foucault and the Sovereign Blunder: Distributions of Incapacity


Speaker: Penelope Deutscher, Northwestern

When: Apr 22, 2022 - 03:30pm - 05:30pm

Where: DSH-123



This paper engages multiple concepts of power to be found in the work of Michel Foucault, asking
not how they replace each other, but how they coordinate together. To that end, it explores three ways
in which Foucault establishes relationships between capacity and incapacity. It is in
their interconnected articulations that we will find a category of rights claims formulated in
aspirational and promissory terms — particularly in relation to those historically denied legal
personhood. Foucault suggested that the turn to rights claims sometimes expresses a
misunderstanding: a confusion between disciplinary and sovereign forms of power —[1] just in this
sense, they sometimes err in what we could call a “sovereign blunder.”[2] The paper introduces this
term, in tandem with a related phenomenon here termed “qualifying disqualification,” suggesting
that these comprise an alternative account of the relationship between disciplinary, sovereign power,
and the conduct of rights.

Exceptionally for this one talk, masks are requested but not required. Thank you all.