The Pauline ellipsis in Foucault's genealogy of Christianity

Matthew Chrulew

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Paul occupies a curious position in Michel Foucault's genealogy of Christianity. Though focused at first on the archaeology of modernity, Foucault's history of the present eventually dug as far as Greco-Roman and early Christian antiquity. His central target was pastoral power (both ecclesial and secular) and its technologies of confession and spiritual direction. He sought to uncover, prior and counter to the institutional production of obedient and confessing subjects of self-knowledge, spiritual exercises of ethical self-care. But though Foucault discussed numerous elements of Christian thought and practice - from Tertullian to Aquinas, from monasticism to the Counter-Reformation - the apostle Paul is hardly mentioned. The absence of this foundational missionary is remarkable for many reasons. It certainly stands out against the current discursive eruption promoting Paul's revolutionary character. What might be the implications of this submerged and delayed encounter between Foucault and Paul? A proper appreciation of the depth and complexity of Foucault's genealogy of Christianity will be required for us to recognize the productive ambivalence of this elliptical silence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalThe journal for cultural and religious theory
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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