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4. Tom Epps- The Body of Foucault

At around quarter past one on the afternoon of the 25th of June 1984 Michel Foucault died of an AIDS related illness. In accordance with statutory requirements, the time, place and cause of his death were officially certificated. Whilst Foucault's legal status may have switched neatly and instantaneously from living to deceased, the material of Foucault's body was not so compliant. As the cardiograph displayed the steady flat line of death, a host of alternative connections detected variously abating and burgeoning activity. Whilst Michel Foucault, the legal entity with the capacity to enter into contractual agreements abruptly ceased, his flesh, his estate, his ideas and his disease, liberated from ownership, continued to operate within the distributed machineries of autonomous economies.

Arterial pressure collapses as soon as the heart stops beating, the still warm blood is suddenly able to explore new routes and manoeuvres. Inspired by gravity, blood drains quickly from the larger veins and settles in the lowermost parts of the body where it stains the flesh a purple-red colour. Primary flaccidity is shortly followed by rigor mortis. The skin that reclines over protruding bones is fixed within hours by the stiffening of muscles that starts around the eyes and neck before spreading throughout the entire body. Somewhere between two and four days later, depending on prevailing weather conditions, secondary flaccidity shatters the fabled still peace of death. As the body putrefies, turning first green then purple then black, intestinal bacteria merge more closely with their host in the massive production of rancid gases which expand along veins and arteries bloating and rupturing tissues and organs. Yards of tightly wound intestines distend along routes of least resistance, often escaping through the vagina or rectum. Whilst the human body displays immense enthusiasm in its own decay, for as long as a year or so, organs continue to decompose and liquefy at varying rates.

    swarm 1
  1. Nick Land-Meltdown
  2. Kodwo Eshun-Motion Capture
  3. R.Mackay/M.Fisher-Pomophobia
  4. Rohit Lekhi-Futureloop/ Black Bedlam
  5. Ccru-Swarmachines
    swarm 2
  1. Steve Metcalf-Killing Time/Strife Kolony/NeoFuturism
  2. Angus Carlyle-Amortal Kombat/No UFOs
  3. Rob Heath & Christina Paouros-Destination 3000 Degrees
  4. David Cole-Post-Cybernetic Judicial War
  5. Iain Hamilton Grant-Burning AutoPoiOedipus
    swarm 3
  1. S.Livingston/L.Parisi/
    A.Greenspan-Amphibious Maidens
  2. Kodwo Eshun-Abducted by Audio (Live)
  3. Steve Goodman-Darkcore
  4. Tom Epps-The Body of Foucault
  5. Switch-Flee Control
    digital hyperstition
  1. Ccru- Barker Speaks
  2. Melanie Newton-Y2Panik
  3. Steve Goodman- Hyper-C: Breaking the Net
  4. Ron Eglash - Recursive Numeric Sequences in Africa
  5. Ron Eglash - Africa in the Origins of the Binary Code
  6. Ccru - Tales from the Cthulhu Club:
    The Vault of Murmurs,
    Leaks from the Miskatonic Bunker-Hotel,
    The Templeton Episode
  7. Ccru - Pandemonium
  8. Ccru - Glossary

Death is not the discrete event suggested by its certification or cardiographic record. The cells, tissues and resident parasites which constitute a body do not compliantly turn off at the appointed time. Skin, bone and muscle cells can continue to live for several days after their host's heart has stopped beating. Bacteria that normally inhabit the colon continue to live not only in spite of their host's death, but because of it. Whereas once they contributed greatly to the digestion of food, they now contribute with equal devotion to the decomposition of their colonic homes.

Death is therefore multiple, and dispersed in time: it is not that absolute, privileged point at which time stops and moves back; like disease itself, it has a teeming presence that analysis may divide into time and space; gradually, here and there, each of the knots breaks until organic life ceases, at least in its major forms, since long after the death of the individual, minuscule, partial deaths continue to dissociate the islets of life that still subsist.1

Whilst there are no dead ends, there are restrictions, inflexions, and critical points of bifurcation. Although the visceral disturbances of both life and death share similar micro-organic machinery and as such project innumerable lines of continuity across the supposed life/death threshold, the interaction of microbes both with each other and with larger organisms and ecologies do suffer breakages and radical points of departure. Long after Foucault was declared dead, his body continued to teem with life. However, as the micro-organisms that inhabited that space before the 25th of July tried to adapt to their dramatically changed circumstances, new life and other opportunistic invaders began to stake their economic claims on Foucault's carcass. Beyond some critical point, the economic advantages of incorporation fell behind the potential profits of a dramatic demerger.

The human body is a site of extraordinary specialization. Whilst certain cells contribute to the provision of sophisticated transportation, communication or security systems, others, relieved of the necessity to search out nutrition or defend themselves, are able to perform specific localized functions within, for example, the skin, the heart or the brain. The human complex is determined and maintained by exactly replicated genetic information contained within the millions of cells which collectively constitute the body. Whilst the total genetic information in each cell is identical, only a tiny proportion of that information is ever used by any one cell. The specific functional effect of the genetic information within each cell is dependent on the position of that cell relative to neighbouring cells. Due to their economic specialization, multi-cellular organisms can cope easily with the odd malfunctioning cell. If for example an individual cell within the kidney develops more like an ear cell, due perhaps to some incorrectly reproduced genetic software, then the incongruous positioning of such an alien cell will normally be detected by the network of cells adjoining it.

Towards the end of his life, Foucault's body became an increasingly intricate ecology with the relationships between cellular guests, hosts and viral intermediaries delicately balanced. With an immune system diverted into the production of Human Immunodeficiency Virus, the functional advantages of maintaining the acutely specialized cellular structures associated with humanity became increasingly tenuous. Like huge industrial corporations that have become ridden with bureaucratic entropy and dissonant management styles, biological structures that have ceased to function effectively as unitary organisms can disintegrate into smaller, more efficient centres of production.

The human body, like any economy, is of course not a closed system. Whilst its genetic makeup might provide an impetus, constant interaction with other systems around it and within it perpetually challenge and mediate the body's boundaries. Just as each cell forms relative to its neighbouring cells, so each body is continually reconstructed in relation to its environment. The development of particular muscle groups, the accumulation of plates of hardened skin or the curvature of the spine are affected by terrain, climate, habitat and occupation. Streams of carbohydrates, water, bacteria, oxygen, proteins and information are constantly trapped, bound and diverted through the networks of veins, ducts and neurons.

In addition to environmental factors that are chemically absorbed directly into its genetic structure, the human body regularly encounters microbes which variously nestle within its complex folds. Without becoming part of its innate genetic structure, viruses, bacteria and other parasites successively enter into a number of interesting arrangements within the human body. On some occasions parasites are detected by the immune system and immediately destroyed whilst on other occasions a more elongated battle occurs during which symptomatic disease may result in the host. Interlopers are sometimes permanently accommodated within the body's elaborate structures -occasionally the presence of aliens is merely tolerated, at other times the introduction of additional genetic information can be advantageous and is positively welcomed. Viruses, in particular, achieve such a close relationship to their host that drawing a distinction between host and guest becomes impossible.

A virus is little more than a wandering capsule of genetic code. Unlike bacterial parasites that can replicate, given the right nutrients, outside a host, viruses can only replicate through entering into a symbiotic relationship with a host cell. Viruses are extremely efficient pieces of machinery that are structurally pared down to a minimum. The genetic information stored in strings of either deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) or ribonucleic acid (RNA) refers only to those vital functions that cannot be performed by a host cell. Like specialized pieces of software floating on the net, each virus contains the critical information necessary to perform a specific routine. In order to activate the virus's self replicating program, the necessary genetic instructions must to be imported into the appropriate hardware and accompanying operating system. Once the virus, or at least its packaged genetic code, has physically entered a suitable host cell, the genetic software can effectively be unzipped and subsequently installed into the cell's existing operating system. Different viruses interact with their hosts in various ways, ultimately however, they must all achieve a similar programming feat. Viruses must effectively reprogram the host cell's own replicating machinery and utilize its resources in order to reproduce.

In the case of HIV, the appropriate hardware can be provided by CD4 T-cells. CD4 T-cells are crucial to the human immune system in that they play a dual role in the recognition and eradication of both intracellular and extracellular invaders. Through reprogramming one of the human body's chief security agents, HIV performs an incredible pincer movement. Not only is the virus provided with cells willing to become HIV replication factories, but through corrupting key elements of the body's immune system, HIV simultaneously reduces the possibility of detection. HIV appears to be strategically astute, after initial infection, the virus often maintains a low profile for many years during which time, it gradually infiltrates its host immune system and optimizes replication potential through exploiting routes into other host bodies. The full implication of HIV's painstaking work only becomes fully apparent when, at some point in the future, a third party opportunistically utilizes and develops the work already completed.

The body of Michel Foucault, which earlier appeared to have such distinct insides and outsides, blurs in both directions. HIV, having entered into partnership with the CD4 T-cells which were formerly in alliance with his body's immune system, systematically changed his genetic make-up. The new function of these cells became the reproduction of HIV. Similarly Foucault surreptitiously entered and infected some of the crucial structures of his environment. Unlike other more obvious foe that broadcast their malicious intent as they embark on full frontal attack, Foucault negotiated his way into centres of production through forming pragmatic relationships in culturally sensitive zones.

Consider, for example, the discursive structures that produce the author. Prior to infection they produced a broadly linear model of authority where the ideas contained in a text, for instance, were the unproblematic product of a particular person. Foucault's interaction did not cease the production of authors, but fundamentally changed the discursive programming through which they were understood. By reconstructing the author as a discursive product itself, the Foucauldian infection did not destroy the text production machinery, but instead repositioned the author as a function of that machinery. Obviously, Foucault should not be thought of here as the author of this change, but merely as one factor amongst many which in combination proved sufficient to effect a change. Similarly it is far from clear quite what role HIV has in producing the syndrome of various diseases referred to collectively as AIDS. Peter Duesburg maintains that no relationship exists, others argue for a linear cause and effect model. Given the weight of evidence pointing at some level of connectivity, it seems likely that HIV is in some way complexly related to the array of symptomatic conditions that become diagnosed as AIDS.

During the second half of the 1940s, Foucault spent two or three years at Sainte-Anne, a major psychiatric hospital in central Paris. Foucault's accounts of the period of his life are, according to David Macey, 'fairly vague, if not actually misleading, and are the products of either hazy memory or a reluctance to supply the information that would allow his identity at any given moment to be established with too great a precision'2..."nobody worried about what I should be doing; I was free to do anything. I was actually in a position between the staff and the patients."3 Within the corridors, theatres, arteries and chambers of the hospital, Foucault's own mental instability was free to wander. Just as Foucault's body failed to fully appreciate the lethal potential of HIV, so the psychiatrists of Saint-Anne failed to recognize the potential danger Foucault posed to their authority. Integrated with its CD4 T-cell host, HIV occupies a truly ambivalent position, neither host nor guest, this symbiotic alien passes as a member of a distributed security system. Similarly Foucault, dressed in a white coat, was neither staff nor patient, but enjoying his ambiguous status, he was sufficiently able to pass as an authority figure.

The protein coating that shields the nucleic-acid core of a virus is constructed of successive chains of amino-acid that geometrically lock together like ornate building blocks. It is the intricate shape of the virus's outer shell that facilitates it's initial attachment to a potential host cell. Although viruses are often cell-specific, that is to say that they can only attach and integrate successfully with one particular type of cell, they have no means for actively searching out potential hosts. HIV, for example, can only attach to the CD4 protein which is present on just two types of blood cell. The HIV virus does not exhibit intent, it does not have a pre-existing plan of attack, instead it must rely on chance encounter. On being asked by colleagues at Uppsala University whether he was aware of a suitable candidate for the post of French assistant, Georges Dumézil, with no personal knowledge of a suitable person, happened to mention the post to his archaeologist friend Raoul Curiel. By coincidence Curiel had recently met Foucault and had enjoyed a conversation with him about the uncertain state of his career. Curiel's enthusiasm was sufficient to encourage Dumézil to write inviting Foucault to apply for the vacant post. In taking a job at Uppsala University, Foucault was not enacting an elaborate plan that would eventually led to the heart of the French academe, instead his moving to Sweden in August 1955 was apparently the result of pure chance.

Biographers, critics, opponents friends and other relatives of Foucault have variously endeavoured to encapsulate his major themes, thrusts and intentions. Whether as pathogen, panacea or placebo, Foucault has commonly been positioned as a political agent whose effects are a direct function of his words.

I think I have in fact been situated in most of the squares on the political checkerboard, one after another and sometimes simultaneously: as anarchist, leftist, ostentatious or disguised Marxist, nihilist, explicit or secret anti-Marxist, technocrat in the service of Gaullism, new liberal, etc. An American professor complained that a crypto-Marxist like me was invited to the U.S.A., and I was denounced by the press in Eastern European countries for being an accomplice of the dissidents. None of these descriptions is important by itself; taken together, on the other hand, they mean something. And I must admit that I rather like what they mean.4

The history of human disease has, perhaps unsurprisingly, usually been written from a human perspective. Viruses, represented as pathogenic threats to be battled or better eradicated, have often been named after the bodily symptoms they induce. The conflation of virus with disease is an overly simplistic reduction that crucially misunderstands the mechanisms of both virus and disease. Symptoms can only emerge through the combined efforts of both body and virus. Beyond a host, viruses are closer to being abstractions of information than abstractions of disease. It is not merely the words, thoughts or actions of Foucault that produces bodily effects, it is critically their interaction with the dynamic bodies of knowledge and power that have symptomatic results. Unlike the polemical who merely seeks to replace one orthodoxy with another, the irritant problematizes both.

As evidenced by newly emergent diseases, the modern development of vaccines designed to obstruct specific viruses failed to anticipate their evolutionary potential. In privileging genotypes over phenotypes, the rationale behind programmes of mass vaccination overestimated the precision of viral replication and hence underestimated the ability of viruses to deal with changed circumstances. Evidence amassed through trying to combat HIV has revealed threat massive levels of replication combined with regular mutation allowed new strains of virus to find routes around therapeutic obstacles. In the leather bars of San Franscisco, Foucault discovered similar mechanisms at play. Amongst the throng of sex, drugs and men, new routes to pleasure emerged through the fluid economies of power and identity. Within a context of moral, religious and legal restriction, the repetition and mutation encompassed by promiscuous sadomasochistic activities operate, beyond the necessary intentions of practitioners, to investigate the boundaries of prohibition.

The S/M game is very interesting...because it is a strategic relation, but it is always fluid. Of course, there are roles, but everybody knows very well that those roles can be reversed. Sometimes the scene begins with the master and slave, and at the end the slave has become the master. Or, even when the roles are stabilized, you know very well that it is always a game: either the rules are transgressed, or there is an agreement, either explicit or tacit, that makes them aware of certain boundaries. 5

The configurations of "self" encountered by Foucault in San Francisco should not be mistaken for the other Californian version. 'I don't think that this movement of sexual practices has anything to do with the disclosure or the understanding of S/M tendencies deep within our unconscious...I think that S/M is much more than that: it's the real creation of new possibilities of pleasure.'6 The intricately switching and circuitous relationships between master and slave, pleasure and pain, yearning and disgust, and sickness and health, do not operate to reveal an essential identity, but actively synthesize new identities. Ridden with contradictions, discontinuities and strange connectivities, the temporary self that emerges through S/M does not merely provide an alternative to a properly constituted self, but through feeding back into the productive machinery of identity, it problematizes the very notion of a pre-existing unitary being.

During the second half of the 1970s, the concentration of gay male populations in San Francisco and New York facilitated ready access to seemingly endless disorganized pleasures. In S/M bars and bath houses, anonymous bodies were apparently free to mingle and combine, exchanging information and bodily fluids. Within the opportunistic economies of the dark room and the human body, where complex pathways are casually explored, there are no overarching schemata, no predetermined projects and no ordained truth. Foucault's body, although never a closed system, was enticed, by viruses, fists and other unanticipated connectivities, along the dangerous path that hugs the edge of bodily organization. Born into a genetic straitjacket, the body gradually learns to get out of itself.

As for what motivated me, it is quite simple; I would hope that in the eyes of some people it might suffice in itself. It was curiosity - the only kind of curiosity, in any case, that is worth acting upon with a degree of obstinacy: not the curiosity that seeks to assimilate what it is proper for one to know, but that which enables one to get free of oneself...People will say, perhaps, that these games with oneself would better be left backstage; or, at best, that they might properly form part of those preliminary exercises that are forgotten once they have served their purpose. But, then, what is philosophy today - philosophical activity, I mean - if it is not the critical work that thought brings to bear on itself? In what does it consist, if not in the endeavor to know how and to what extent it might be possible to think differently, instead of legitimating what is already known?7

For Foucault, both writing and sadomasochism were examples of limit-experience, both were material exercises in the exploration of bodily boundaries. Whether they happen to be bodies of power/knowledge, bodies of organizations or organisms, bodies of cells or bodies of flesh, it is the limits and edges of bodies that distinguish the zones of learning. It is the act of pushing a little further, peering round dark corners and searching out the invisible that produces the new thoughts to which Foucault refers. Learning is not a conscious process, it does not happen as a direct result of effort, rather it is the apparent accident, the so-called mistake, the strange coincidence of circumstance that produce unexpected effects and syntheses.

New viral strains are not designed by some omnipotent force to render vaccinations obsolete, viruses do not try to evolve with a particular aim in mind, on the contrary, in accordance with their genetic code they endeavour to replicate as accurately as possible. Sometimes poor raw materials or restricted physical circumstances can result in a "mistake", instead of producing an exact replication of itself, the virus produces a mutation. Usually these malformed replicants perish quickly, unable to compete with their perfectly formed kin. Occasionally, however, in specific circumstances and at a particular time, a mutation may occur that is better suited to its environment and is therefore more likely to survive and replicate. In a vaccinated body, for example, a virus whose outer shell has undergone some form of mutation, is less likely to be recognized by that body's immune system and is therefore more likely to be able to enter into successful partnership with suitable host cells. Viral learning is neither a matter of design nor simply a matter of chance, instead viral learning is a complex function of constraint and opportunity.

Amongst the complexly interconnected neurons of Foucault's brain, billions of negotiated boundaries learnt in response to information flowing through and around his body. Although hailed as one of the great thinkers of the twentieth century, a slice extracted from Foucault's brain would look disappointingly much the same as a slice taken from any other brain. The most powerful microscopes would reveal no secrets, no insights and no thoughts. Had it been possible to tag and follow a momentary sensation into the philosopher's cortex, it would not have divulged an eventual resting place, rather it would have been seen to split and dissipate around various neural networks. A particular sensation or moment is not so much stored by the brain as absorbed by it. Oblivious to any discursively constructed meaning, parallel networks of nerve cells are continuously and minutely tuned as electrical excitations speed across them. In response to appropriate stimuli, memories are literally re-membered as various configurations of neurons are jolted into action.

In a short story entitled The Secrets of a Man, Hervé Guibert describes the fascination of a neurosurgeon as he dissects the brain of a famous philosopher, although the philosopher's name is never mentioned, it is clear that Foucault was the inspiration behind Guibert's work. As the surgeon digs deeper he slowly reveals visceral traces of the memories, ideas and passions of his subject. During the final weeks of his life, Foucault spent a considerable amount of time in conversation with Guibert. Unknown to Foucault, Guibert not only carefully recorded their conversations, but also transcribed the details of Foucault's delirium, his moods, attitudes and appearance. As the fictional neurosurgeon scrutinizes the philosopher's brain, he discovers three particularly deeply ingrained memories. The first of these "terrible dioramas" tells of a young boy who is forced to witness an amputation performed by his father. The second describes a courtyard still permeated with the presence of a woman imprisoned there for decades. The third tells of an able student whose locally celebrated position is threatened by a sudden influx of talented intruders, it recalls how the child philosopher's wish to be rid of the unwelcome competition is granted by the Nazi extermination of the Jewish refugees.

In an interview on French television in 1990 Guibert was accused of intruding on Foucault's private agonies and exploiting them for his own selfish motives. Guibert attempted to defend himself, but admitted that he thought Foucault would have been furious had he known of the secret journal. By 1984 Foucault's body was well accustomed to uninvited intruders, any fury directed at Guibert should have been reserved for a far less intelligent crime. The cerebral layers that are painstakingly revealed by Guibert's neurosurgeon owe nothing to the tangible neurological organization of Foucault's brain. Through his deployment of a metaphorical archaeology, Guibert not only drags Foucault's carcass back to the 1960s, but denies his brain it's dynamic complexity. In 1971, Foucault contributed an essay entitled Nietzsche, La Géneálogie, l'histoire to a collection of works published in tribute to his mentor Jean Hyppolite. In this essay Foucault recognizes the inherrent failings of an archeological analytics and proposes that Nietzschean genealogy presents a more interesting route of investigation.

The end of a genealogically directed history is not to rediscover the roots of our identity but, on the contrary, to strive to dissipate them; it does not attempt to locate the unique home from whence we come, that first homeland to which, the metaphysicians promise us, we will return; it attempts to reveal all the discontinuities that traverse us.8

Drawing from Guibert's accounts of his final conversations with Foucault, James Miller claims, 'The "obligation of truth," it seems, really was Foucault's unavoidable fate - just as he implied in his final lectures at the Collège de France. Try as he might, the philosopher could not remain silent about who he really was.'9 It is, of course, far from impossible that Foucault may have eventually surrendered to the urge to confess, he was, after all, intimately aware of the pervasive machinery through which this impulse is propagated. However, to equate the act of confession with the truth of the man owes more to the words of the Pope than to the words of Foucault. Although his work may have produced remarkable insights into the economies of discourse, it should not be assumed that his critique necessarily insulated his body from the effects of discourse or any other economies.

The episodes of his life that Foucault shared with Guibert can no more be equated with the "terrible dioramas" poetically discovered by the scalpel of an imaginary surgeon than can HIV be equated with the truth of his sexual desires. Encounters with amputation, incarceration and HIV undoubtedly influence the body, they induce reactions and inspire chemical adjustments. Their effects, however, are not laid down like slate on a riverbed, instead they are absorbed and dissipated around complex networks. Whilst Guibert may have been in no position to draw linear equations of cause and effect between distant moments in Foucault's life, the same must also be said of Foucault himself. The validity of archaeological activity is not enhanced by the authority of the archaeologist in charge of the dig. The process of excavation does not uncover fundamental truths, but discursively attaches historical significance to momentary abstractions. As Foucault's body lay on the pathologist's slab, expert observations revealed strange lesions chased across its cerebral cortex, although these scars encapsulated no "terrible dioramas", they were evidence of extraordinary neural activity. Whilst Guibert was engaged in composing his secret notes and constructing truths from Foucault's musings, microscopic neurosurgeons were busy investigating the neural pathways that twist around the crevices of a philosopher's brain.

Toxoplasma gondii is a protozoan parasite that resides relatively innocently in approximately half of the world's human population. 50% to 60% of the inhabitants of the United States are believed to be infected, in the United Kingdom the figure is between 20% and 40% and in France it is estimated that up to 90% of the population play host to the tiny organism. In spite of pandemic distribution, its symptomatic manifestation known as toxoplasmosis is extremely rare. According to most medical texts , the only statistically notable consequence had seemed to be amongst foetuses whose mothers became newly infected during pregnancy. During the early 1980s, however toxoplasmosis, alongside Kaposi's sarcoma and Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, was one of the extraordinarily rare diseases which suddenly started to emerge amongst the concentrated gay populations of New York and California. Drawing from evidence of toxoplasmosis amongst organ transplant patients whose immune systems are actively compromised to avoid rejection, it appears that the "normal" asymptomatic accommodation of Toxoplasma gondii is transformed by immunosuppression. Given its corrupting effect on T4 cells, HIV does present a logical accomplice for Toxoplasma gondii's more adventurous ambitions.

The full life cycle of Toxoplasma gondii can only be sexually completed in either wild or domestic cats. Following the fusion of macro and micro gametes the resultant oocysts eventually pass to intermediate hosts via the cat's faeces. Any warm blooded animal including man can act as an intermediate host. Following the ingestion of fertilized cysts, digestive enzymes cause the cysts to rupture allowing rapidly replicating tachyzoites to be distributed throughout the body by the blood and lymphatic systems. Eventually numbers of tachyzoites begin to cling together and form tissue cysts commonly in the eye, skeletal muscle, cardiac muscle, and frequently the brain of the secondary host. These cysts usually then remain dormant within the tissues of the intermediate host and are only reactivated once reintroduced to the primary host through its eating infected flesh. Evidence suggests that the dormant phase of the life cycle is ensured by the immune system of the secondary host, it appears that the Toxoplasma gondii protozoa find themselves unavoidably detained.

Whilst Guibert studiously analyzed the surface effects that rippled across Foucault's body, he was unaware of the tangled economies that collectively contributed to each twitch and every word. Alongside the cerebral structures of most of his compatriots, Michel Foucault's brain, had operated as an effective prison for Toxoplasma gondii. Prior to its relationship with HIV, his immune system kept a careful watch over the sleeping cysts. By June 1984, however, his depleted immune system had all but lost the multiple battles it was having with a number of opportunistic invaders. The encysted Toxoplasma gondii protozoa seized an unexpected opportunity for further replication. With insiders' information, the intracellular parasites explored for further possibilities within Foucault's brain. Oblivious to potential meanings discursively mapped onto a distant surface, each parasitic organism minutely analysed the material of Foucault's mind.

Death is the great analyst that shows the connexions by unfolding them, and bursts open the wonders of genesis in the rigour of decomposition. 10

In 1757, Damiens the regicide was sentenced to death. He was to have the flesh torn from his chest, arms, thighs and calves, his body was to be drawn and quartered, and his limbs and trunk were to be reduced to ashes and thrown to the winds. In spite of six horses and specifically manufactured steel pincers, the body of Damiens displayed considerable endurance. The tissues of his thighs and torso clung to their bones with irritating resilience, his arms and legs defeated the efforts of a team of horses and relinquished their bodily attachment only after much of the connecting sinews and muscles had been hacked away. The body of Damiens, through its elongated decomposition, asserted a persistent unity. Faced with many battles at multiple sites, the body, far from disintegrating into composite parts, demonstrates its obstinate, if short lived, integrity.

In 1984, the body of Foucault was engaged in numerous struggles on various divergent fronts. Whilst his last two books jostled with other publications for room in bookshops, for critical evaluation and for their appropriate position within a body of work, inherited and latterly acquired genetic information competed for the control of blood cells, and neurons fought with parasites for the space to think. Whilst oxygen and mucus battled for time with his lungs and pain killers grappled with neuro-transmitters, moralists defined the cause of his body's disease and his friends deduced the secrets of his soul. Like the body of Damiens, the body of Foucault is not eradicated by the multitudinous machineries that constantly challenge the boundaries of its existence. Quite the reverse, the body of Foucault is constantly reconstructed through the complex interplay of these technologies of the body.

...this technology is diffuse, rarely formulated in continuous, systematic discourse; it is often made up of bits and pieces; it implements a disparate set of tools and methods. In spite of the coherence of its results, it is generally no more than a multiform instrumentation...the power exercised on the body is conceived not as a property, but as a strategy, that its effects of domination are attributed not to 'appropriation', but to dispositions, manoeuvres, tactics, techniques, functionings; that one should decipher in it a network of relations, constantly in tension, in activity, rather than a privilege that one might possess; that one should take as its model a perpetual battle rather than a contract regulating a transaction or the conquest of a territory.11

The diffused mechanisms immanent to Foucault's body were neither its property nor devoted solely to its service. Each HIV virus, whilst circulating through Foucault's veins, were also intimately engaged elsewhere. As each virus contributed their micro-effects to the 'dying body', they were simultaneously woven into the fabric of a pandemic disease. Working in symbiotic combination with blood cells, medical orthodoxy, academic propriety and bacterial infection, the virus manoeuvred into new positions and accommodations dragging in its wake the fluid parameters of Foucault and other bodies. For 57 years, a network of relations were held in sufficient tension to produce an overall effect of a coherent body, a persistent identity and an authoritative mind. The body of Foucault as a discursive locus may have dissipated, but the millions of traces left after this local decomposition continue to circulate and replicate through related and disconnected bodies. The organic death of this author enacts the discursive death of the author. By leaving his "work" obviously unfinished and by removing the corporeal remnants of the "author", the viral machinery once associated with Foucault is now able to replicate at speed, producing thousands of mutations and adapting to changed circumstances.


  1. The Birth of the Clinic - An Archaeology of Medical Perception, New York: Vintage Books, 1994.p.142.

  2. David Macey, The Lives of Michel Foucault, London: Vintage, 1994, p.56.

  3. The Minimalist Self, in Lawrence D. Kritzman, ed., Politics, Phiosophy, Culture. Interviews and Other Writings 1977-1984, New York and London: Routledge, 1988, p.6. - quoted in Macey, 1994, p.56.

  4. Polemics, Politics, and Problemizations : An Interview: Random House Inc., 1984, in Paul Rabinow, ed., The Foucault Reader - An Introduction to Foucault's Thought, London: Penguin Books, 1991, pp.383-4.

  5. Bob Gallagher, An Interview: Sex, Power and the Politics of Identity, in the Advocate, 9th October 1989 - quoted in James Miller, The Passion of Michel Foucault, London: Flamingo, 1994, p.263.

  6. Ibid.

  7. The Use of Pleasure - The History of Sexuality: Volume Two, London: Penguin Books, 1992, pp.8-9

  8. Nietzsche, La Géneálogy, l'histoire, in Hommage à Jean Hyppolite, Paris: PUF, 1971, p.169 - quoted in Macey, 1994, p.232.

  9. Miller, 1994, p.372.

  10. The Birth of the Clinic - An Archaeology of Medical Perception, p.144

  11. Discipline & Punish - The Birth of the Prison, New York: Vintage Books, 1979.