Curiosity and Power

Curiosity and Power

The Politics of Inquiry

Perry Zurn

A trailblazing exploration of the political stakes of curiosity

288 Pages, 6 x 9 in

  • Paperback
  • 9781517907198
  • Published: March 30, 2021
  • eBook
  • 9781452960821
  • Published: March 30, 2021
  • Hardcover
  • 9781517907181
  • Published: March 30, 2021


Curiosity and Power

The Politics of Inquiry

Perry Zurn

ISBN: 9781517907198

Publication date: March 30th, 2021

288 Pages

8 x 5

"How curious that recent philosophy has been so incurious about curiosity. But Perry Zurn, to use his apt descriptor for Foucault, shows us how to be ‘incontrovertibly curious’ about curiosity itself. Zurn shows that this is no simple virtue but rather bears within itself a potential for dissecting dominations. There is a politics not only to our incuriosity but also to all our curiosities."—Colin Koopman, author of How We Became Our Data: A Genealogy of the Informational Person

"This book is an invitation to engage in curiosity with careful attentiveness to otherwise possibilities. It is also a reminder that curiosity can turn situations into spectacles, cutting into bodies to extract knowledge and value. Perry Zurn navigates this ambiguity with insight, clarity, and compassion, teaching us to encounter the world anew, with both courage and humility."—Lisa Guenther, author of Solitary Confinement: Social Death and Its Afterlives

"Curiosity and Power offers a call to acknowledge the importance of collective inquiry."—Art Discourse

"The book crucially contributes not only to enhancing curiosity’s status in philosophical inquiry but also o enhancing the role of philosophy in curiosity studies. "—The European Legacy


A trailblazing exploration of the political stakes of curiosity

Curiosity is political. Who is curious, when, and how reflects the social values and power structures of a given society. In Curiosity and Power, Perry Zurn explores the political philosophy of curiosity, staking the groundbreaking claim that it is a social force—the heartbeat of political resistance and a critical factor in social justice. He argues that the very scaffolding of curiosity is the product of political architectures, and exploring these values and architectures is crucial if we are to better understand, and more ethically navigate, the struggle over inquiry in an unequal world. 

Curiosity and Power explores curiosity through the lens of political philosophy—weaving in Nietzsche, Foucault, and Derrida in doing so—and the experience of political marginalization, demonstrating that curiosity is implicated equally in the maintenance of societies and in their transformation. Curiosity plays as central a role in establishing social institutions and fields of inquiry as it does in their deconstruction and in building new forms of political community. Understanding curiosity is critical to understanding politics, and understanding politics is critical to understanding curiosity. 

Drawing not only on philosophy and political theory but also on feminist theory, race theory, disability studies, and trans studies, Curiosity and Power tracks curiosity in the structures of political marginalization and resistance—from the Civil Rights Movement to building better social relationships. Curiosity and Power insists that the power of curiosity be recognized and engaged responsibly.

Perry Zurn is assistant professor of philosophy at American University. He is coeditor of Curiosity Studies: A New Ecology of Knowledge and Intolerable: Writings from Michel Foucault and the Prisons Information Group (1970–1980), both from Minnesota.



Why the Politics of Curiosity?

1. A Political History of Curiosity 

Part I. Episodes from Political Theory

2. Friedrich Nietzsche: Curiosity and the Scene of Struggle

3. Michel Foucault: Institutionalized Curiosity and Resistance

4. Jacques Derrida: Sovereign Curiosity and Deconstruction

Part II. Archives of Political Experience

5. Curiosity, Activism, and Political Resistance

6. Cripping Curiosity: A Critical Disability Framework

7. Trans Curiosity: Beyond the Curio 

Unsettling Curiosity