Tag Archives: Foucault

Whatever Happened to the Arab Spring: Albert Cossery’s Philosophy of Revolution in The Jokers (Published)

This paper investigates Cossery’s philosophy of revolution in his novel La Violence et la Dérision (1964), translated into English as The Jokers in 2010. I examine Cossery’s philosophy in the light of Michel Foucault’s concept of power and his views on revolutions in general and the Iranian 1979 Revolution against the Pahlavi regime in particular. I argue that Foucault’s analysis of the revolutionary situation in Iran still applies to the revolution that took place in Egypt on January 25, 2011. This argument extends to Cossery’s novel. The Jokers represents a revolution that is similarly “out of history” with a similar hope for success. While the January revolution is located at the extremely serious and reverent, the revolution in Cossery’s novel wallows in ridicule and irreverence. Due to the opposite directions taken by the serious revolution in reality and the ridiculous one in the novel (the former soaring up to heaven, the latter falling down to earth), both of them are, in Foucauldian terms, located out of history, challenging the dominant power structures. Cossery manages to bring a group of Diogenean characters to the frontlines of an extraordinary revolution. These characters usually play secondary roles in works of art about resistance and revolution. In this novel, they are the leaders, the planning and the executive body of Cossery’s philosophy. In the end, the Diogeneans succeed, but their ultimate success still depends on the abandonment of traditional ways of revolution, because governments are used to these ways, and those in power know how to turn them to their advantage.

Keywords: Foucault, Revolution, Violence, diogenean, dominant, indifference.


In a place-conscious culture where marked spaces define national identity and social order, the move from a teacher-centred educational system to the virtual classroom resulted in re-drawing the map of power relations. From the practices of the early Saudi classroom, the Halaga, with its panoptic circle structure, to the modern school classroom with its carefully-drawn rows and set of disciplinary techniques, the Saudi teacher had always exercised his authority from/as the centre. Yet, the educational phenomenon of the virtual-space-based distance learning has left the instructor feeling ‘out of place’. As the setting for the physical presence and the disciplinary gaze is shifted/cancelled in the online classroom, the balance of power has also shifted in favour of the student. This paper explores the hierarchical structure of the virtual space in the not-so-modern Saudi teaching practices and the position of the teacher which has (d)evolved into the power struggles of the 21st century modern ‘educational technological phenomenon’. Applying Foucault’s concept of the panoptic in educational settings, we posit that the traditional power and discipline the teacher used to claim has been transmuted in the reverse panoptic gaze of the students who are in control of the virtual classroom and its time and space. The invisibility of the students in the current distance learning setting, compared to their visibility as a disciplinary tool in the physical Saudi classroom, poses a serious challenge not only to the teacher’s authority, but also to his/her style and methods. On the other hand, some might argue that the students might gain more understanding of a subject via their ‘spatial freedom’ of the online material access. However, we hypothesize that the virtual space in distance learning needs to be teacher-friendly and visual contact between the teacher and the students should still be applied freely.

Keywords: Foucault, Saudi Arabia, distance learning, early Islamic pedagogy, panopticism, spatial freedom, virtual classroom, virtual space