Foucault: Madness and Surveillance in Warsaw

  • Piotr Sobolczyk
Keywords: Foucault, homosexuality, communism, Warsaw, secret service, gay persecution, sexual paranoia.


The paper revises the biographical data about Michel Foucault’s stay in Poland in 1958-1959. The main inspiration comes from the recent very well documented literary reportage book by Remigiusz Ryziński, Foucault in Warsaw. Ryziński’s aim is to present the data and tell the story, not to analyse the data within the context of Foucault’s work. This paper fulfills this demand by giving additional hypotheses as to why Polish authorities expelled Foucault from Poland and what the relation was between communism and homosexuality. The Polish experience, the paper compels, might have been inspiring for many of Foucault’s ideas in his Madness and Civilization, Discipline and Punish, and The History of Sexuality. On the other hand the author points to the fact that Foucault recognized the difference between the role of the intellectual in the West and in communist countries but did not elaborate on it. In this paper the main argument deals with the idea of sexual paranoia as decisive, which is missing in Foucault's works, although it is found in e.g. Guy Hocquenghem.

Author Biography

Piotr Sobolczyk
Piotr SobolczykAssistant ProfessorThe Institute of Literary Research of the Polish Academy of


Bersani, Leo, “Fr-oucault and the End of Sex”, in Is the Rectum a Grave? And Other Essays, 133-138. Chicago – London: The University of Chicago Press, 2010.

Deleuze, Gilles, “Foucault and Prison”, in Two Regimes of Madness. Texts and Interviews 1975-1995, transl. A. Hodges, M. Taormina. Cambridge: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 2007.

Eribon, Didier, Michel Foucault, transl. B. Wing. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992.

Foucault, Michel, The Archeology of Knowledge and the Discourse on Language, transl. A. M. Sheridan Smith. New York: Pantheon Books, 1972.

Foucault, Michel, Discipline and Punish. The Birth of the Prison, transl. A. Sheridan. New York: Vintage Books, 1995.

Foucault, Michel, The History of Sexuality, vol. I, transl. R. Hurley. New York: Pantheon Books, 1978.

Foucault, Michel, 1988, “Questions on Geography”, in Power / Knowledge. Selected Interviews & Other Writings 1972-1977, ed. Colin Gordon, transl. C. Gordon, L. Marshall, J. Mepham, K. Soper. New York: Vintage Books, 1988.

Foucault, Michel, Surveiller et punir. Paris: Gallimard, 1975.

Foucault, Michel, “Truth and Power”, in Power / Knowledge. Selected Interviews & Other Writings 1972-1977, ed. Colin Gordon, transl. C. Gordon, L. Marshall, J. Mepham, K. Soper. New York: Vintage Books, 1988.

Hocquenghem, Guy, Homosexual Desire, transl. D. Dangoor, preface J. Weeks. Durham – London: Duke University Press, 1993.

Kosofsky Sedgwick, Eve, “Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading, or, You’re So Paranoid, You Probably Think This Essay is about You”, in Touching Feeling. Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity. 123-151. Durham – London: Duke University Press, 2003.

Miłosz, Czesław. The Captive Mind, transl. J. Zielonko. New York: Vintage Books, 1955.

Ryziński, Remigiusz. Foucault w Warszawie. Warszawa: Dowody na Istnienie, 2017.

Said, Edward W., “Michel Foucault, 1926-1984”, in After Foucault. Humanistic Knowledge, Postmodern Challenges, ed. Jonathan Arac. New Brunswick – London: Rutgers University Press, 1988.

Sobolczyk, Piotr, “GayRL czy QueeRL?”, Teksty Drugie 6 (2012).

Sobolczyk, Piotr, “The Hyacinth Beneath the Foot”, Arterie 2 (2015).

Sobolczyk, Piotr, Polish Queer Modernism. Peter Lang: Frankfurt am Mein, 2015.

Sobolczyk, Piotr, “Różowe i brązowe”. Arterie 1 (2016).

Sobolczyk, Piotr, “Sexual Fingerprint: Queer Diaries and Autobiography”, in Writing the Self. Essays on Autobiography and Autofiction, 329-344, ed. Kerstin W. Shands, Giulia Grillo Mikrut, Dipti R. Pattanaik. Södertörn: Södertörn University, 2015.

Tomasik, Krzysztof, Gejerel. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Krytyki Politycznej, 2012.