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Interview with Daniel Defert

posted on 2021-03-11, 09:45 authored by Robert GildeaRobert Gildea
Defert, Daniel
Algerian War/ /Maoism/ Gauche Prolétarienne/ Groupe d’Information sur les Prisonniers /AIDES

Born Avallon, Yonne/Burgundy, 19 Sept 1937. Parents hairdressers/perfumers, mother of Ukrainian Jewish origin, father from Jansenist/Catholic Puritan background

College of Avallon (1949-54), then Lycée du Parc at Lyon, to prepare for École Normale Supérieure. Attended ENS Saint-Cloud 1960. Introduced to Foucault by University of Lyon professor Robert Mauzi. Lived with Foucault rue Dr Finlay 1963. Agrégation in philosophy 1964.

Political Apprenticeship
Politicised by Algerian war. Helped organise student demonstration at La Mutualité, 27 Oct 1960. Did Cooperation (civil alternative to military service) in Tunisia 1964. Researcher at CNRS/Fondation Thiers (1966-8).

Spectator rather than activist, looking on to night of barricades with Pierre Nora and François Furet. Impressed by Comité de lutte péderastique in Sorbonne. Lecturer in sociology at new University of Versailles 1969, where Foucault taught philosophy.

Post 1968
Joined Gauche Prolétarienne after it was dissolved 27 May 1970 and leading activists were arrested. Set up Groupe d’Information sur les Prisonniers (GIP) to spread information about prison conditions. Inspired by Attica prison revolt in USA and riots in French prisons. Part of Comité de Défense de la Vie des Immigrés.
Founded AIDES, based on Terrence Higgins Trust, after death of Foucault 1984. Prioritised medical support and education for and about AIDS rather than gay activism.


Around 1968: Activism, Networks, Trajectories

Arts and Humanities Research Council

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Name of activist

Daniel Defert

Activist date of birth


Activist Gender

  • Male

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Name of interviewer

Robert Gildea

Name of transcriber

Koisse SAID