Foucault's Archaeology

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With regards to documentary practice - seen notes on Andrew Cheshire's thesis

  • One of the tenets of Foucault's archaeolgoical method is that a discursive formation, being a field of statements which construct their own object and do so in various ways, cannot be identified on the basis of a common and independent object--what Foucault glosses as an 'horizon of inexhaustible ideality'. (as quoted in AC, DISW, 2) For example, the discourses that concern Foucault, which might broadly be termed the human sciences, include psychopathology, in relation to which he writes that 'the unitary of the object of madness does not enable one to individualise a group of statements and to establish between them a relation that is both constant and describable. (as quoted in AC, DISW, 3) There are two reasons for this. Firstly, "madness" does not proceed but is constituted by the statements that name it. Secondly, the way it is constituted varies in different areas of psychopathology and changes over time. Foucault's precept is therefore that the object, which it is the preoccupation of a discourse to represent, when that object is mental illness or the historical work, is itself an historical construct with no fixed identity. So, just as Foucualt claimed different areas of psychopathological discourse did, so each mode of documentary might well be viewed as having constituted its object and worked on it to the point of transforming it altogether. (AC, DISW 3)

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