Re: archaeology

I think the archeological period of F. (and assuming there is a break b/w
this and other periods) is both his most
provocative or original and most problematic work. Towards the beginning
of that book, F does acknowledge a distinction b/w discursive and
non-discursive dimensions of social reality, but then clearly focusses only
on the latter. So I think the circularity of the method, as well as the
impossibility of testing it, could only be resolved through some
"materialist" analysis of archeology's conditins of possibility. We'd need
to delineate these conditions to determine how or why its possible to
perform an archeology. What transformations of social reality, of
disocurses, knowledge/power, and their institutional milieuxs, allow one to
map an archeology of, say, medical perception and practice? This is vague,
I know, but I think we'd have to inquire into the growing autonomy of
knowledge production and institutions-- their autonomy from, say, "the
executive committee of the bourgeoisie" (the Manifesto's lovely descirption
of the State). If this knowledge production is, contra Althusser, not just
relatively autonomous from the production and reproduction of Capital, but,
practically speaking, all the way "free," then perhaps it is possible to
map the surfaces of and articulations between discursive practices in and
of themselves? I think that's what archeology is about.

Put another way, I don't think F would be all that bothered by the
epistemological problems of archeology. For epistemology -- or the type of
inquiry into the conditions of possibility of a form of knowledge or
anlaysis, as I've invoked above -- would be seen as just another
stratification of knowledge/power. Thus it has no authority to legitimate
or delegitimate archeology, in itself. As ever in Foucault, the question
isn't one of the truth (of archeology), but of its effects.

Not to say this is all without its own negative effects. I find F's
attempts to read the positivity or singularities of discourses (cutting
them off from their conditions of possibility, or from a level of totality)
both intellectually courageous and yet, baleful. I have in mind your basic
marxist or feminist critique of F, as masking his own subject position, and
his own place in representation (see Spivak's "Can the Subaltern Speak?" on
this). That this is to criticize F. on terms he would not "admit" into his
own practice (epistemology, standpoint, totality) must be acknowledged, but
this does not, in my view, immunize him.

Daniel Vukovich

>I thought that myself, but then I started thinking about >Plato's usage of
>hypothesis testing. The method of hypothesis testing can't be used to test
>itself because it is circular. That is why Plato had to ground it in other
>proofs. The concept of discursive formations excludes other grounds to prove
>itself. An archaeology of archaeology would then be the only way to get at
>its justifications, but at the same time it would refute itself because it
>destroys its own premise in reaching the conclusion. It seems that there is
>is then need of grounding, but that grounding is artificial and incomplete
>and an archaeology would have to be performed on it. An then the circle keeps
Daniel Vukovich
English; Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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