Luke Ilott

PhD candidate

After working for two years at the online campaigning organisation 38 Degrees, I took my MPhil in Political Thought and Intellectual History at Cambridge in 2017, focusing on the place of the body, scientific method and nascent probability theory in Thomas Hobbes and his contemporary Richard Cumberland.

My PhD, provisionally entitled 'Michel Foucault and Uses of Genealogy, 1970-1984', is a contextual study of Michel Foucault's practice of philosophy through the historical method of genealogy. This will involve reading Foucault's texts and lectures as critical interventions into a turbulent two decades of French intellectual politics, showing how he used historical narrative to create space on the French left for movements previously considered marginal. By demonstrating that Foucault was less a philosopher of power than a kind of critical intellectual historian, I hope to shed light on uses of his genealogical method today.

My main area of concentration is the intellectual history of contemporary France, from 1945 to the present day, with associated interests in Anglophone and global thought of the same period.

More broadly, I am interested in the uses of intellectual history in twentieth-century political thought, the problematisation of the human body and of moral psychology, especially the category of cruelty, in political thought, and the history of old and new lefts in twentieth-century Europe.

At undergraduate level, I supervise History Part I paper 19/Politics and International Studies paper POL7 (History of political thought to c. 1700) and History part II paper 5/Politics and International Studies paper POL11 (Political philosophy and the history of political thought since c. 1890).

Conference papers

· Michel Foucault on the limits of ‘the political’, 1978-84. To be presented at ‘Limits and Boundaries in the History of Political Thought’, 11th annual London Graduate Conference in the History of Political Thought, September 2020 (moved online due to Covid-19).

· Foucault reading the ‘English analysts’ in Tunisia, 1966-68. Presented at ‘Transcultural Conversations’, Graduate Conference in Intellectual History at the European University Institute, Florence, 23-24 January 2020.

· Michel Foucault, France’s Machiavellian moment and the uses of history for political thought. Presented at ‘Machiavelli and Contemporary Politics’, 4th biennial Ideas in Politics conference at Charles University and Anglo-American University of Prague, 15-16 November 2019.

· Thomas Hobbes on the legibility of bodies. Presented at ‘The Body and Politics’, University of Cambridge Graduate Conference in Political Thought and Intellectual History, 18 March 2019.


· Foucault’s Discipline and Punish and the French reproduction debate, 1970-1975. Presented at University of Cambridge Political Thought and Intellectual History graduate workshop, 24 October 2019.

· The Birth of Biopolitics beyond neoliberalism: Foucault, civil society and the critique of the state in late 1970s France. Presented at University of Cambridge Modern European History graduate workshop, 17 October 2019.


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