Summary

  • Covers much of the same ground as The Archaeology of Knowledge; “genealogy” as a figure for what later becomes “archaeology”; developing a model of history as the interleaved strata of plays of violence and power (151); “Nothing in man—not even his body—is sufficiently stable to serve as the basis for self-recognition or for understanding other men. The traditional devices for constructing a comprehensive view of history and for retracing the past as a patient and continuous development must be systematically dismantled” (153).

Keywords

Notes

  • “Genealogy is gray, meticulous, and patiently documentary. It operates on a field of entangled and confused parchments, on documents that have been scratched over and recopied many times” (139).
  • “Genealogy” works against “linear development”; it “retrieves an indispensable restraint” and seeks its insights “in the most unpromising places, in what we tend to feel is without history” (139); as such it “quires patience and a knowledge of details and it depends on a vast accumulation of source material” (140).
  • “Genealogy does not oppose itself to history as the lofty and profound gaze of the philosopher might compare to the molelike perspective of the scholar; on the contrary, it rejects the metahistorical deployment of ideal significations and indefinite teleologies. It opposes itself to the search for ‘origins’” (140).
  • From Nietzsche, Ursprung: “the origin of duty or guilty conscience,” used prominently in The Gay Science and the Genealogy; ironic uses challenge “the pursuit of the origin” (Ursprung); “. . . if the genealogist refuses to extend his faith in metaphysics, if he listens to history, he finds that there is ‘something altogether different’ behind things: not a timeless and essential secret, but the secret that they have no essence or that their essence was fabricated in a piecemeal fashion from alien forms.” (142). “What is found at the historical beginning of things is not the inviolable identity of their origin; it is the dissension of other things. It is disparity.”
  • “The genealogist needs history to dispel the chimeras of the origin . . .” (144); against metaphysics, against the soul of the origin, and to the dirt and dissensus of history.
  • Study of descent—we can frame this perhaps as stratigraphy although the racial dimensions are unaccounted for in Foucault—”permits the discovery, under the unique aspect of a trait or a concept, of the myriad events through which—thanks to which, against which—they were formed” (146); “The body is the inscribed surface of events . . . the locus of a dissociated Self . . . and a volume in perpetual disintegration” (148).
  • Next Niezschean concept: “emergence,” the consolidation of an irruption of forces that form a coherent body?
  • “In a sense, only a single drama is ever staged in this ‘non-place,’ the endlessly repeated play of dominations. The domination of certain men over others leads to the differentiation of values . . .” (150).
  • “We believe that feelings are immutable, but every sentiment, particularly the noblest and most disinterested, has a history” (153).
  • Knowledge is not made for understanding; it is made for cutting” (154). Compare to agential “cuts” in Barad.
  • “History has a more important task than to be a handmaiden to philosophy, to recount the necessary birth of truth and values; it should become a differential knowledge of energies and failings, heights and degenerations, poisons and antidotes. Its task is to become a curative science” (156).
  • Develops the “historical sense” as a counter to the power-work of the historian (again, I doubt contemporary historians really work in this way anymore!): the historical sense challenges history from below, in parody, dissociation, and sacrifice (160).

Archive and Impact

  • This essay isn’t really “late Foucault” the way Matt described it; it appeared in 1971 alongside the introductory chapter of The Archaeology of Knowledge and so the two Foucaults should be thought alongside each other.