Race and the Education of Desire

Foucault's History of Sexuality and the Colonial Order of Things

Race and the Education of Desire

Book Pages: 256 Illustrations: Published: October 1995

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Critical Ethnic Studies, Cultural Studies

Michel Foucault’s History of Sexuality has been one of the most influential books of the last two decades. It has had an enormous impact on cultural studies and work across many disciplines on gender, sexuality, and the body. Bringing a new set of questions to this key work, Ann Laura Stoler examines volume one of History of Sexuality in an unexplored light. She asks why there has been such a muted engagement with this work among students of colonialism for whom issues of sexuality and power are so essential. Why is the colonial context absent from Foucault’s history of a European sexual discourse that for him defined the bourgeois self? In Race and the Education of Desire, Stoler challenges Foucault’s tunnel vision of the West and his marginalization of empire. She also argues that this first volume of History of Sexuality contains a suggestive if not studied treatment of race.
Drawing on Foucault’s little-known 1976 College de France lectures, Stoler addresses his treatment of the relationship between biopower, bourgeois sexuality, and what he identified as “racisms of the state.” In this critical and historically grounded analysis based on cultural theory and her own extensive research in Dutch and French colonial archives, Stoler suggests how Foucault’s insights have in the past constrained—and in the future may help shape—the ways we trace the genealogies of race.
Race and the Education of Desire will revise current notions of the connections between European and colonial historiography and between the European bourgeois order and the colonial treatment of sexuality. Arguing that a history of European nineteenth-century sexuality must also be a history of race, it will change the way we think about Foucault.


“This brilliant book is neither celebration nor subversion of Foucault, but rather a critical exposition and a bold extension of some of his insights.” — Margaret Jolly, Gender & History

“Ann Stoler has given us an ingenious and compelling reading of the apparent absence of race and colonialism in Foucault’s account of modern power. She shows how colonial history remains embedded in the very conceptual categories that order modern bourgeois society in the West. Written with verve, erudition, and a sense of engagement.” — Partha Chatterjee, Centre for Studies in Social Science, Calcutta

"Race and the Education of Desire is a tour de force. Stoler has engaged in a productive dialogue with Foucault’s seminal text, and interwoven that dialogue with an illuminating analysis of the concepts and policies of imperial racism. This book should have a major impact on scholarly discussions of modern imperialism and racism." — Talal Asad, Johns Hopkins University

"Ann Stoler combines impressive historical and ethnographic scholarship with moral fervor to turn Foucault’s definition of critique as the ‘art of reflective insolence’ back on his own work. A controversial tour de force!" — Paul Rabinow, University of California, Berkeley

"Stoler does something here that’s incredibly rare: the delineation of a topic that now, in retrospect, appears so obvious and so right that one wonders why it had never been broached systematically before. Students of Foucault, race, empire and its aftermath, gender and sexuality will be quoting from it for years." — Andrew Parker, Amherst College

"This is an important book, probably the only reading of Foucault that seriously tracks and takes up his probing, restless and recursive leads. Instead of reducing him to an icon of one or more ideas to be either uncritically embraced or irresponsibly discarded, as others have done, Stoler engages Foucault’s dynamic, nervous, and passionate moves towards focusing the interdependence of ideas and forces." — Doris Sommer, Harvard University


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