[This article is the first in a three-part Jadaliyya series that looks at Foucault`s work in relationship to the legacy of French colonialism in North Africa.]
“For with Napoleon’s occupation of Egypt processes were set in motion between East and West that still dominate our contemporary cultural and political perspectives.” So writes Edward Said in Orientalism regarding the Napoleonic invasion of Egypt in 1798, which he describes as “the very model of a truly scientific appropriation of one culture by another, apparently stronger one.” If we take this as a model of what studies of post/colonialism aspire to, then it is fair to say that colonialism and imperialism barely appear in Foucault’s writings. Despite coming face to face with the postcolonial condition while living in Tunisia (he was arrested and beaten because of his support for student protesters), given his apparent support for Israel and lack of solidarity for the Palestinian struggle, and having participated in demonstrations against the Vietnam war, Foucault had very little to say about colonialism. As such, no defense of his position is required. But, that does not mean he was uninterested or ignorant of colonization. This relative silence can in fact be understood in “strategic” terms, as part of an investigation of the very categories of liberalism that shape a concept such as colonialism.
Foucault’s histories should be read as a relentless questioning of the boundaries around analytical concepts such as post/colonialism, the nation, race and racism, immigration, social security etc. Against a teleological (Marxist) reading that sees imperialism as the "highest form of capitalism," Foucault argues that “the colonizing situation” was not “indispensable” in the constitution of the Western episteme, yet ethnology (and more broadly, the human sciences and their methodologies) “can assume its proper dimensions only within the historical sovereignty […] of European thought and the relation that can bring it face to face with all other cultures as well as with itself.” It is through its invocation and deployment of liberalism (with reason, freedom, and abstract equality as the guiding principles) as a political rationality and an "art of government" that colonialism becomes central for the formation of Western knowledge.
To understand the categories that underpin colonialism and racism, liberalism must be seen in light of its relationship to dangerousness. Liberalism breeds dangers – that is, it entails the unshackling of a whole set of desires and interests in the individual (e.g. the self-interested individual freely exercising choice on the market), which creates dangerousness: unreason, chaos, despotism, the dissolution of the social contract, rampant individualism, racial degeneration, libertinism, etc. These are simply the other side of the liberal coin. As Focuault argues in The Birth of Biopolitics, “there is no liberalism without a culture of danger.” Dangerousness is the primary concept through which liberalism can extend itself: the more you "live dangerously," the more you expose yourself to danger and take risks, the more your freedom is maximized.
Paradoxically such freedoms can only flourish within certain institutional and disciplinary contexts. Hence, a whole juridical, social, political, and medical edifice arises whereby mechanisms of security (social security, surveillance, control or disciplinary techniques) can produce a maximal development of freedom aligned with a minimum exposure to danger. If there is a distinct character to liberal security, it is shadowed by danger – the danger of criminality, madness, sexuality, racial degeneration, abnormalities, and monstrosities – that arises from within society.
However, liberal strategy itself gains its “proper dimensions” through a reflection on primitiveness or "the peoples without history." That is, imperial and colonial expansion boomerang back to shape relations in the metropole. This, as Foucault contends, is accomplished not through the “ethnology of fieldwork” (i.e. ethnography) but through “the ethnology of academic reflection on so-called primitive populations.” The “ethnology of academic reflection” signals the development of the rationality of liberal governance, i.e. the ways that questions are framed and categories of analysis deployed when a liberal solution is sought to address social, political, and economic problems. It is this rationality, through “the ethnology of academic reflection on so-called primitive populations,” that allows the concept of danger to acquire its cultural and political dimension.
Foucault links this liberalism and dangerousness to the development of an “internal racism,” “whose function is not so much the prejudice or defense of one group against another as the detection of all those within a group who may be the carriers of a danger to it.” Moreover, Foucault’s political activities among North African and black immigrants resisting racism in the Goutte d’Or area in Paris would dovetail with his concepts of liberalism and dangerousness. In 1971, together with the historian Pierre Vidal-Naquet, he had commented on the absence of any commemoration of the Algerians who died at the hands of the police in October, 1961 in Paris:
In our view, this means that there is always one human group…at the mercy of others. In the nineteenth century, that group was called the dangerous classes. It is still the same today. There is the population of the shanty-towns, that of the overcrowded suburbs, the immigrants and all the marginals, young and old. It is not surprising that it is usually them one finds before the courts or behind bars.
This concept of dangerousness could also be deployed in relation to social panics about homosexuality and pedophilia: “We are going to have a society of dangers with, on the one hand, those who are in danger and, on the other, those who bring danger with them.” Recently, experimental attempts by the French government to include gender equality in school curricula were targeted by opponents of gay marriage (a ragtag movement of religious conservatives and far right activists), who started a rumor that "gender theory" designed to brainwash children into becoming homosexuals was being taught in schools, and urged parents (via a text message and internet campaign) to boycott classes by keeping their children home. Foucault’s prediction of a “society of dangers” seems to have become reality, whereby children/youths are at-risk and threatened by multiple sources and carriers of dangers. Thus, an underlying frame that links the development of sexuality, racism, social security, penality, or madness is the relationship between liberalism and dangerousness.
Following Foucault’s strategic reading of colonialism within the genealogy of liberalism opens the way for an understanding of the specific technologies, logistics of rule, and modes of theoretical knowledge that constitute the analytical distinction between racial abjection and colonial domination. Neither colonialism nor racism is theoretically assumed or posed in teleological terms; they are instead placed in strategic relation to liberalism. This allows a clearer understanding of what has been called the “colonial fracture”  in France – the contestation over colonial history, the racial characterizations of those in the "banlieues," the banning of the veil, the return in force of assimilationist tendencies, etc. – in light of the post/colonial and racial relationship. That is, the question can be reframed away from insipid discussions of "the Other" or the problem of difference  when considered in the "proper dimension of liberal rationality" (i.e. as mirrored through dangerousness).
A banal episode reveals the operations (and paradoxically, the metamorphosis) of this racial/colonial regime of liberal governance. When French football players staged a strike at the World Cup in South Africa to protest the expulsion of one of their teammates by the coach (one could ask what is more Gallic in the French imaginary than playing the revolutionary?), they were quickly labeled as “caïds immatures” by a government minister (the translation as "little troublemakers" simply does not do justice to the racial contempt) or “a gang of little hooligans that knows only the morals of the mafia” (philosopher Alain Finkielkraut). A bunch of footballers were now engulfed in the racist characterizations that had crystallized around the "banlieues" and insecurity since the 1990s. Given that the supposed ring leaders consisted of one black (the captain, Patrice Evra) and another Muslim (Franck Ribéry) player (who is a convert), and given that the far right leader had decided that the team did not represent France because it contained too many black and Arab players, this sorry affair brought the colonial and racial modalities together.
However, there was also a metamorphosis of the relationship between liberalism and dangerousness. Despite the fact the players received extended bans from the French Football Federation, this should not be construed as the disciplining of dangers, abnormalities, and sources of fear in the broader social arena. What was at stake, and what is becoming even clearer when groups are characterized as gangs/rioters/terrorists, is that their very existence threatens to destroy the Republic, its values, its livelihoods, lifeblood, and life. Another type of internal racism is thus developing, and not only in France but with broader planetary significance, whereby the very existence of groups deemed racially threatening represents an existential threat. What dangerousness is to liberalism, threat is to neoliberalism. Foucault obviously did not write a lot about this, yet his questioning the categories that underlie and scaffold the major concepts of the social world remain fruitful.
 Edward Said, Orientalism (London and New York: Penguin Books,  2003), 42. Said’s emphasis on the Napoleonic invasion tends to carry a hint of Hegel’s description of the emperor as “the World Spirit on horseback.”
 Robert J.C. Young, ‘Foucault on Race and Colonialism’ in New Formations 25, 1995, 57-65
 Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences New York: Vintage Books, 1994), 377.
 Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France 1978-1979 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008) 67.
 i.e. the colonies as “‘laboratories of modernity.” See Ann Laura Stoler and Frederick Cooper. ‘Between Metropole and Colony: Rethinking a Research Agenda’ in Frederick Cooper and Ann Laura Stoler. (eds.) Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World (Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 2007).
 This marks a distinction from Said’s position where “scientific appropriation” tends to refer to “the ethnology of fieldwork” or the explicit "ethnographic gaze" and the collection of data on ‘primitives.’
 Michel Foucault, Abnormal: Lectures at the Collège de France 1974-1975 (New York: Picador, 2003), 317.
 Quoted in David Macey, The Lives of Michel Foucault (New York and London: Vintage Books, 1993), 311-312.
 ibid; 377.
 These renewed concerns about children-at-risk seem to point to a new dimension of security concerns based on public safety and a climate of fear, that have gradually taken root in France and other places since at least the 1990s. cf. Laurent Bonelli, La France a peur: Une histoire sociale de l’“insécurité” (Paris: La Découverte, 2009).
 Didier Fassin and Éric Fassin recently suggest that analyses of political problems in France must keep in mind the analytical distinctions between the social, the racial (which they divide between a racist question and a racial question), immigration, religious. See Didier Fassin and Éric Fassin (eds.) De la question sociale à la question raciale?: Représenter la société française (Paris: La Découverte, 2009). While those distinctions are useful to start with, they tend to reduce the racial question to a problem of discrimination (for they are attempting to get at institutional racism beyond far right extremism). This however ignores the dimension of racial abjection that I’ve mentioned above, in the sense that discrimination is not necessarily the modality through which racism operates. One must be able to account for outright calls of repression and exclusion against the “caïds,” "thugs," "gangsters," and "terrorists" who threaten to destroy the values of the republic if not the republic itself. One must be able to account the indifference (or abandonment) that prevails when the social question merges with the racial. Foucault’s dissection of liberalism allows more than a glimpse at how these different could work through specific technologies, forms of knowledge and modes of governance.
 Pascal Blanchard, Nicolas Bancel and Sandrine Lemaire (eds.) La Fracture Coloniale: La société française au prisme de l’héritage colonial (Paris: La Découverte, 2006).
 cf. Achille Mbembe, "La République et l’impensé de la race" in Blanchard et. al op cit., 154.
 cf. David Theo Goldberg. The Threat of Race: Reflections on Racial Neoliberalism (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2009).