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Gregg Lambert: What is a Dispositif?

  • ATTP Seminar Room Wiedner Hauptstraße 7 Wien, Wien Austria (map)

"What is a Dispositif?"

Dispositif Theory and the Philosophy of Technics

Blockseminar with Guest Professor Gregg Lambert
Sept. 18th- 28th 2018
2-5 pm (mo-fr)

Claude Nicolas Ledoux, Saline de Chaux (1804)

Claude Nicolas Ledoux, Saline de Chaux (1804)

Gregg Lambert is Dean’s Professor of Humanities, Principal Investigator, CNY Humanities Corridor Founding Director, Humanities Center, Syracuse University, U.S.A. For CV and publications, see, as well as his page on

First meeting: 18th of September 2018
14:00 – 17:00
at ATTP seminar space 

To register, please write an Email to: by September 14th, in addition to signing up on TISS

Download the pdf leaflet here.

“What is a Dispositif?”
Dispositif Theory and the Philosophy of Technics

This seminar will study the genealogy of the concept of dispositif (mechanism, conceptual device) in the biopolitical philosophy of Michel Foucault. Following the influence of biologist and historian Georges Canguilhem, beginning in works and lectures of 1975, Foucault employs this term specifically to avoid three other dominant terms in the history of political philosophy: organism, machine, and structure. The uniqueness of Foucault’s approach to the nature of power is that he combines both biological and technical forms in explaining its evolutionary path, which becomes more multiple and dispersed throughout modern societies, and which differentiates its concept from the idea of mechanism that belongs to modern science after Descartes. Thus, the major result of Cartesianism was “to rationalize” the idea of mechanism as a knowledge that is particular to the human species, and not as a biological capacity that is found to be present in most living organisms. In turn, this was responsible for anthropomorphizing the relation between machine and organism, introducing a fundamental dehiscence between these forms, one that continues to be played out today in determining the relations between humans, animals, and cybernetic (or digitalized) creatures.

In addition to the major works and lectures of Foucault that appear between 1975-1979, from the first volume of The History of Sexuality to the lecture course on The Birth of Biopolitics, in this seminar we will also examine the critical reception of Foucault’s description of power and its biopolitical dispositifs in other thinkers such as Giorgio Agamben, Gilles Deleuze, and Roberto Esposito.

Each three-hour seminar will consist of lecture presentation, in the first hour, followed by close examination and discussion of the assigned readings. The Seminar will be taught in English. Seminar papers written in German will also be accepted.


Agamben, Giorgio  (2009)  What  is an  Apparatus?  Palo Alto: Stanford  University  Press. 

Althusser, Louis(2001)  Lenin  and  Philosophy and  Other  Essays. New York:  Monthly  Review Press. 

Campbell, Timothy(2006) “Bios, Immunity, Life: The Thought of Roberto Esposito, diacritics36.2: 2–22.

Canguilhem, Georges  (2008),  Knowledge  of  Life,  ed. Paola  Marrati  and Todd  Meyers.  New York: Fordham. 

Deleuze, Gilles  (1992)  “What is  a  dispositif?” in Armstrong, Timothy,  ed.  Michel Foucault  Philosopher. New York:  Routledge. 

__________ (2006) Two Regimes  of  Madness: Texts  and  Interviews 1975-1995.  New York:  Semiotexte.  

__________  (1995) “Postscript  on  Control Society,”  Negotiations.  New York:  Columbia University  Press, 177-182. 

Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari  (1987)  A Thousand Plateaus,trans. Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 

Esposito, Roberto(2015) Two: The Machine of Political Theology and the Place of Thought. Fordham UP. 

Foucault, Michel(1976)  L’Histoire de la sexualité. Vol I: La Volonté  de  savoir Paris:  Gallimard. 

___________  (1977) Discipline  and Punish:  The  Birth of  the  Prison.  New York: Vintage Books. 

___________  (1980a) The  History of  Sexuality,  Vol. 1:  An Introduction.New York: Vintage Books. __________  (1980b)  Power/Knowledge:  Selected Interviews  and  Other Writings,  1972-1977,  ed.  C. Gordon.  New York:  Pantheon Books. 

___________  (1994a) Dits et écrits,  vol. 4.  Paris:  Éditions Gallimard. 

___________  (1994b) Ethics:  Subjectivity and  Truth.,  Vol  1.  Ed. Paul Rabinow.  New York: The New Press. 

___________  (2003) “Society  must be  defended”:  Lectures at  the  College of  France  1975-1976,  ed.  Mauro Bertani and Alessandro Fontana. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

 ___________ (2004a)  Abnormal:  Lectures  at the  College  of France  1975-1976,  ed. Mauro Bertani  and Alessandro Fontana. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. 

___________  (2004b) Sécurité, territoire, population: Cours au Collège de France,  1977-1978.  Paris: Gallimard/Seuil. 

__________  (2007) Security, Territory, Population:  Lectures  at the  College  of France,  1977-1978,  ed. Michael Senellart.  Basingstoke:  Palgrave Macmillan. 

__________  (2008) The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the College of France, 1978-1979,ed.  Michael Senellart, Francois Ewald and Alessandro Fontana (Basingstoke: Palgrave  Macmillan).   

Lambert, Gregg(2018) “Biopower and Biopolitics” Bloomsbury Handbook of Literary Criticism and Theory. 

Pasquinelli, Matteo(2015)  “What  an Apparatus  is  Not: On  the  Archeology of  the  Norm in  Foucault, Canguilhem,  and Goldstein,”Parrehesia, no. 22,  79-89. 

Cary Wolfe(2018) “Posthumanism Thinks the Political:  A Genealogy for Foucault’s Birth of Biopolitics.”  Journal of Posthuman Studies, Vol. 1, No. 2, 2017, 117-135.