Foucault's Polyphonic Genealogies and Rethinking Episteme Change via Musical Metaphors

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Cynthia R. Nielsen


In this essay I highlight the complexity of Foucault’s thought through an examination of the diverse philosophical traditions—from Kant, to Nietzsche, to Foucault’s phenomenological lineage via Cavaillès and Canguilhem—that influence his own distinctive project. In addition, I identify key Foucauldian concepts worthy of continued reflection and offer, as my own contribution to the dialogue, various musical analogies as hermeneutical and analytical “tools†that (1) illuminate and clarify Foucault’s ideas and (2) provide a coherent way to understand episteme change.  

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Author Biography

Cynthia R. Nielsen, University of Dallas

Cynthia R. Nielsen is a Catherine of Siena Fellow at Villanova University. Nielsen's work is interdisciplinary and her research interests include ethics, social and political philosophy, history of philosophy, philosophy of race, and the philosophy and sociology of music. Her forthcoming and recent publications include: Foucault, Douglass, Fanon, and Scotus in Dialogue: On Social Construction and Freedom (Palgrave Macmillan March 2013), “Resistance is Not Futile: Frederick Douglass on Panoptic Plantations and the Un-Making of Docile Bodies and Enslaved Souls,†Philosophy and Literature 35.2 (2011): 251–68, “Resistance Through Re-Narration: Fanon on De-constructing Racialized Subjectivities,†(African Identities: Journal of Economics, Culture, and Society 9:4 (Dec. 2011): 363–85; “Strategic Afro-Modernism, Dynamic Hybridity, and Bebop's Socio-Political Significance,†in Music and Law. Sociology of Crime, Law, and Deviance, vol. 18, edited by Mathieu Deflem (Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing, 2013).