Postcolonial Studies and the Discourse of Foucault: Survey of a Field of Problematization


  • Robert Nichols University of Alberta



This paper presents a critical survey of the use and interpretation of the work of Michel Foucault in the field of postcolonial studies. The paper uses debates about Foucault’s legacy and his contributions (or lack thereof) to postcolonialism as a means of parsing out the main lines of contestation within the field—that is, as a means of tracing the contours of the space of questioning or field of problematization, in part to foreground what has been at stake and, more to the point, what has not been at stake. Part I provides a general survey of what “Postcolonial Studies” is: what its major questions and debates have been. Part II examines the ways in which Foucault has been taken up, interpreted and used within the field, and Part III comments on what aspects of Foucault’s work have not been taken up, suggesting that this is most revealing about the state of postcolonial studies today.

Author Biography

Robert Nichols, University of Alberta

Robert Nichols is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Alberta (Canada) and a Faculty Fellow in the Center for the Critical Analysis of Social Difference at Columbia University (NY). He was previously a Killam Postdoctoral Fellow in Philosophy and, prior to that, a Trudeau Scholar in Political Theory at the University of Toronto, where he received his PhD in 2009. His areas of research specialization include 19th and 20th century continental philosophy (especially Heidegger and Foucault), as well as the study of imperialism and settler-colonialism in the history of political thought. Recent work of his can be found in Contemporary Political Theory, Philosophy Today and Law, Culture and the Humanities.




How to Cite

Nichols, R. (2010). Postcolonial Studies and the Discourse of Foucault: Survey of a Field of Problematization. Foucault Studies, (9), 111–144.



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