Critical Friendship After the Pandemic


  • Joelle M. Abi-Rached Harvard University



Critical theory, Interdisciplinarity, Epistemology, Critique, Covid-19, Critical friendship


Are critique and the “art of governing” antithetical? The aim of this article is to examine this tension that was laid bare by the Covid-19 pandemic by introducing “critical friendship” as a conceptual framework for a constructive interdisciplinary engagement with science in a post-pandemic era. It does so by drawing on several works and insights: (i) Michel Foucault’s notion of “critical attitude” as well as his assessment of philosophy as providing a “diagnosis of the present;” (ii) Bruno Latour and colleagues’ idea of a “critical zone” or what I call a horizontal epistemology of critique; (iii) Aristotle’s notion of friendship as being necessary for the “common good;” and finally (iv) Jacques Derrida’s interpretation of the messianic character of friendship in the constitution of progressive democracies. Whereas critical theory has been described as either “explanatory-diagnostic” or “emancipatory-utopian,” a critical friendship approach aims to be both diagnostic and emancipatory in an age of uncertainty and democratic backsliding.

Author Biography

Joelle M. Abi-Rached, Harvard University

Joelle M. Abi-Rached, MD MSc PhD, is the Mildred Londa Weisman Fellow at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute. She is the author of ʿAṣfūriyyeh: A History of Madness, Modernity, and War in the Middle East (The MIT Press, 2020) and co-author of Neuro: The New Brain Sciences and the Management of the Mind (Princeton University Press, 2013). Her research has appeared in many peer-reviewed academic journals that sit at the intersection of various disciplines and research interests, such as Nature Medicine, The New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the History of the Human Sciences, BioSocieties, etc. She has also written for think tanks, newspapers, and magazines. She has taught several courses at Columbia and Harvard universities. She is the recipient of numerous awards, grants, and fellowships, including from Columbia University’s Society of Fellows. She earned an MD from the American University of Beirut, an MSc in philosophy and public policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and a PhD in history of science from Harvard University.


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How to Cite

Abi-Rached, J. M. (2023). Critical Friendship After the Pandemic. Foucault Studies, (35), 170–191.



Special Issue: Biopolitical Tensions after Pandemic Times