Yijian (Davie) Zhou

Wolf Humanities Center Undergraduate Fellow

20232024 Forum on Revolution

Yijian (Davie) Zhou

Philosophy and Psychology

CAS, 2024

Davie Zhou is a senior in College of Arts and Sciences from Philadelphia. He is majoring in Philosophy. He is interested in philosophy of race, philosophy of art, and history of philosophy. He is especially interested in the work of Frantz Fanon and Karl Marx. His work at Wolf Humanities Center employs a Foucauldian approach tracing the emergence of a specific type of person: a revolutionary.

Revolutionary Subjectivity

“One day”, Michel Foucault postulates, “the history of what would be called revolutionary subjectivity should be written”. People’s relations towards revolutionary experiences change, and Foucault thinks at a certain point one influential idea emerged: revolutionary processes could transform people’s personality, giving birth to revolutionary characters. I will follow Foucault’s suggestion, but limit myself to investigate the origins of this idea; more specifically, I want to test Foucault’s hypothesis that the origin should be found during 1840-1850. I will first give an overview of the traces of this idea in the writings of the revolutionaries in the post-WWII twentieth century, especially Fanon and Mao, at the moment when theorization of revolutionary subjectivity became a prominent topic of discussion. Then I will explore how revolutionaries of 1848 and revolutionaries of the 1789 French Revolution relate to their revolutionary experiences, which would test Foucault’s hypothesis on revolutionary subjectivity. At the end I discuss the research’s contemporary relevance.