Marnia Lazreg, “Foucault’s Orient: The Conundrum of Cultural Difference, From Tunisia to Japan” (Berghahn Books, 2020)

Foucault lived in Tunisia for two years and travelled to Japan and Iran more than once. Yet throughout his critical scholarship, he insisted that the cultures of the “Orient” constitute the “limit” of Western rationality. 

Using archival research supplemented by interviews with key scholars in Tunisia, Japan and France, Marnia Lazreg‘s Foucault’s Orient: The Conundrum of Cultural Difference, From Tunisia to Japan (Berghahn Books, 2020) examines the philosophical sources, evolution as well as contradictions of Foucault’s experience with non-Western cultures. Beyond tracing Foucault’s journey into the world of otherness, the book reveals the personal, political as well as methodological effects of a radical conception of cultural difference that extolled the local over the cosmopolitan.

I asked Marnia how young philosophers should read Foucault’s texts and also how she has integrated his concepts into her excellent sociological research that focuses on the world outside the “West.” Her insightful advice should be taken into account when approaching any works of Foucault today. 

Takeshi Morisato is philosopher and sometimes academic. He is the editor of the European Journal of Japanese Philosophy. He specializes in comparative and Japanese philosophy but he is also interested in making Japan and philosophy accessible to a wider audience.

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