Plague, panopticon, police

Stuart Elden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

74 Citations (Scopus)


This article resituates the Panopticon in Foucault’s work, showing how it emerged from research on social medicine in the early to mid 1970s, and relating it to discussions of the plague and the police. The key sources are lectures and seminars from this period, only partly translated in English. What is of interest here is how Foucault’s concerns with surveillance interrelate with concerns about society as a whole – not in the total institution of the prison, but in the realm of public health. This is pursued through detailed readings of Foucault’s analyses of urban medicine and the hospital. The article closes by making some general remarks about situating Foucault’s books in the context of his lecture courses, and about how the analysis of medicine may be a more profitable model for surveillance than the Panopticon.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-253
Number of pages14
JournalSurveillance & Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2003
Externally publishedYes

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