Hamartia: Foucault and Iran 1978-1979 (1: Introduction and Texts)

In 1978 Michel Foucault went to Iran as a distinguished intellectual but novice political journalist, controversially reporting on the unfolding revolution, undeniably compromising and wounding his reputation in the European intellectual community. Given the revolution's bloody aftermath and it...

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Published in: Hervormde teologiese studies Vol. 65; no. 1; pp. 1 - 15
Main Author: Beukes, Johann
Format: Journal Article
Language: English
Portuguese
Afrikaans
Published: South Africa Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk Afrika 2009
Reformed Theological College of the Netherdutch Reformed Church of Africa at the Faculty of Theology of the University of Pretoria and Society for Practical Theology in South Africa
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Summary: In 1978 Michel Foucault went to Iran as a distinguished intellectual but novice political journalist, controversially reporting on the unfolding revolution, undeniably compromising and wounding his reputation in the European intellectual community. Given the revolution's bloody aftermath and its violent theocratic development, is Foucault's Iranian expedition simply to be understood as hamartia, a critical error in judgement, with disastrous consequences for his legacy? What exactly did Foucault hope to achieve in Iran in 1978 to 1979, explicitly supporting the cause of the revolting masses and effectively isolating himself from the European intellectual community and the Western liberal tradition? This series of two articles attempts to shed light on these questions by, in the first article, 1) introducing and contextualising the philosophical issues and 2) discussing the relevant texts; then, in the second article, 3) elaborating on three explicit contributions (Janet Afary and Kevin Anderson; Ian Almond; and Danny Postel) that recently have been made on this neglected issue in Foucault scholarship and 4) eventually indicating the possible philosophical significance of Foucault's peculiar mixture of naïveté and perceptivity - indeed his peculiar hamartia - regarding the events in Iran. Presenting Foucault as a 'self-conscious Greek in Persia', the argument in both articles is that Foucault's 'present-historical' writings on the Iran revolution were closely related to his general theoretical writings on the discourses of power and his cynical perspectives on the inherent risks of modernity. Foucault's journalistic writings on Iran in 1978 to 1979 are therefore to be appreciated as essentially philosophical contributions to his extensive modern-critical ^Doeuvre. Foucault's perspectives on power, revolt, Otherness, 'political spirituality' and his 'ethics of Self-discomfort' may prove to be as significant for an understanding of our world today as the author considers them to have been during the events of September 1978 to April 1979, with Tehran's self-esteem still radiating in the desert skies 30 years later.[PUBLICATION ABSTRACTS]
ISSN: 0259-9422
2072-8050
2072-8050
DOI: 10.4102/hts.v65i1.125