Genealogy

Part 1: Foundations of Genealogy

This section of the course, which follows up on our week about historiographic criticism, attempts to set the practice of genealogy apart from other modes of historical criticism -- most importantly, the criticism of ideology that is frequently rooted in the Marxist/Leninist tradition. The reason for refusing this baggage is that genealogy is a theory of the particular, and there are only particular instantiations of power. To leverage this claim, genealogy (like archaelogy) places a heavy stake in the power of contingency and accident to determine the features that are naturalized as ideal or normal features of individual (gender, race, disciplinary, sovereign, medicalized) identity. The most conventional starting point for genealogy is Friedrich Nietzsche, who argues that genealogy is ‘about’ the transvaluation of values, namely Christian values which have in his words “turned against life” by encouraging behaviors that refuse or prohibit conduct in the name of some sovereign morality. Foucault’s work, which comments on Nietzsche, is more focused upon rewriting the notion of historical retelling away from fixed origins (Ursprung) and toward the pairing of descent (Herkunft) and emergence (Enstehung) as genealogy’s key terms. Finally, Koopman centers the Kantian features of Foucault’s criticism and his emphasis on the frequently misunderstood concept of problematization, which allow his program of research to avoid trans-historical description in favor of deeply specific accounts of subject-formation.

Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals

As the title might suggest, Nietzsche applies an evolutionary metaphor (even citing Darwin) to the historical/philosophical investigation of ethics and morality. Nietzsche’s thesis could be put in the following way: if philosophy is the search for essential meanings that are stable, then Nietzsche examines how language creates realities, than simply describing them. The fact that language is not referrenial for Nietzsche signals his concern with the limits of perception. We as subjects cannot communicate to the world except through a naturalized system of reference. His concern here is with Christian morality as one such system.

  • “Under what conditions did man devise these value judgments good and evil? And what value do they themselves possess?” (17)
  • “What was at stake was the value of morality … What was especially at stake was the value of the “unegoistic,” the instincts of pity, self-abnegation, self-sacrifice, which Schopenhauer had gilded, deified, and projected into a beyond for so long that at last they became for him “value-in-itself,” on the basis of which he said No to life and to himself. But was against precisely these instincts that there spoke from me an ever more fundamental mistrust, and ever more fundamental mistrust, an ever more corrosive skepticism! It was precisely here that I saw the great danger to mankind, its sublimest enticement and seduction -- but to what? To nothingness? -- it was precisely here that I saw the beginning of the end, the dead stop, a retrospective weariness, the will turning against life, the tender and sorrowful signs of the ultimate illness.” (19)
  • “Let us articulate this new demand: we need a critique of moral values, the value of these values themselves must first be called in question -- and for that there is needed a knowledge of conditions and circumstances in which they grew, under which they evolved and changed (morality as consequence, as symptom, as mask, as tartufferie, as illness, as misunderstanding; but also morality as cause, as remedy, as stimulant, as restraint, as poison), a knowledge of a kind that has never yet existed or even been desired.” (20)  
  • Nietzsche offers several stages of moral-historical development. The premoral is epitomized by the Ancient Greeks, particularly the pre-Platonic sophists and Dyonesian/Apollonian mythology. These are pragmatic in a particular sense – that technique of fisherman is good because it catches fish. There is no inherent value to actions, but the consequences of actions – things are good because they did good things, bad because they do bad things, things are because they do. The moral world suggests that there are good and bad subjects, intentions, and people. The good is one who makes fisherman of men. Particularly in protestant Christianity, the Christly subject or will is more important than the deed. The extra-moral or non-moral suggests a universalized perspective of the moral – morals are not eternal, or permanent descriptions of the subject, but that there is a material of morals – something about which we can create a genealogy. This is where we get to the point of self-overcoming, a general affirmation of life is to be under a constant condition of transvaluation of one’s own self – of what one defines as good and evil. The person who is able to transvalue values is a ‘new philosopher’ who can move freely across notions of truth or identity. Nietzsche cautions us not to get too seduced by truth or identity, or believe in them too strongly, and they are able to change and transvalue of their own accord. Pity is something to be abhorred – it is an aspect of the ascetic, who wants to avoid suffering.
  • Nietzche then describes good and bad, starting with the noble and the slavish; power, wealth, and strength, those who produce language. That which the Master morality is not (that which is negated by it) occupies the position of the bad. Christianity is a “slave revolt” in the sense that it superficially advances the cause of a servile class. The sermon on the mount is a prime example of this reversal: the first become last, the meek shall inherit, etc. This is an aesthetic phenomenon in which the ‘good’ master moralities are reversed – a ‘great reversal’. Ressentiment is the core of the slave morality for Nietzsche, which exists only to make enemies out of someone else, the negation rather than an affirmation. This morality has a revenge at its center; it finds one self to be better because of an others’ incompetence. This is utterly pervasive – the taking revenge for what the world has done to us. Priests are masters of vengefulness – they are committed to a God which will produce a grand revenge on the last day – God is the name for the ressentiment of everyday life. This is not a revenge on others, but a revenge on the self – its goal is not to crush others, although that does happen – but it settles in a person’s soul (as bad conscience) where you take as much revenge on yourself as much as you do on the world. “The (Judeo-Christian) Fall” is the internalization of revenge against the fall. Nailing God to the Cross and worshiping it is the worship of an internalized resentment – it is a wish to die as though one were God. The highest good is thus induced in the religious negation of the body. It is, for Nietzsche, a virtue of the weak and of the herd. In its religious form, it is one aesthetic among many that emerged alongside other forms of truth.
  • The noble soul longs for freedom (a tricky word, even for Nietzsche), it engages knowledge with a certain gaiety - to take things as contingent and changeable, that knowledge is transient, a predisposition to affirm life rather than to see it as something poisoned and rotten from the beginning. The soul has a reverence for itself, for its own existence, its own becoming. It is willing to shave things off – there is no revenge, a gaiety for its enemies. We do not fault the beast of prey for its love for the lamb.
  • The slave morality is characterized by self-denial, longing for an escape (Heaven, capitalism), its priests are ascetics – or ideal characterizations of self-denial, and how hateful existence is. It eventually turns on itself, it will eat itself, nailing itself to the cross. It is “the great sickness” characterized by a will to control the inner world, and tries to apply stable concepts to it. The ‘soul’ is an expression of ressentiment. We do not fault the prey for its resentment of its predators. It sees all difference as evil, and is not able to appreciate the complexity of difference. It only knows evil enemies and evil friends. It demands that all be weak, and that submission is freedom.

Foucault, “Nietzsche Genealogy History”

Foucault’s reflections offer a more exacting explanation of the assumptions that underwrite his method of genealogical historical retelling. In “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” Foucault similarly notes that both he and his Germanic predecessor refute the idea that historians can or should impute an absolute cause or final origin (Ursprung) to present-day discourse. Unlike Nietzsche and Foucault, Ursprung-obsessed historians attempt “to capture the exact essence of things, their purest possibilities, and their carefully protected identities.” (142) In Ursprung’s place, Nietzsche introduces a new conceptual dyad: Herkunft and Enstehung.

  • Herkunft signifies “descent” and is traditionally associated with “bonds of blood, tradition, or social class.” (145) Nietzsche’s employment of this term describes descent as a series of successive contingencies and ruptures, “it seeks the subtle, singular, and sub-individual marks that might possibly intersect in [an individual] to form a network that is difficult to unravel.” Such subtle, sub-individual marks are also the source material of genealogy: “ … its duty is not to demonstrate that the past actively exists in the present, that it continues secretly to animate the present,” but rather “to identify the accidents, the minute deviations – or conversely, the complete reversals – the errors, false appraisals, and the faulty calculations that gave birth to those things that continue to exist and have value for us...” (146) Herkunft, in other words, denotes markings of descent as healed-over discursive scars; references to a once-imminent conflict.
  • Enstehung, by contrast, denotes emergence. It “designates a place of confrontation, but not as a closed field offering the spectacle of a struggle among equals. Rather, … it is a ‘non-place,’ a pure distance, which indicates that the adversaries do not belong to a common space.” (150) As a term of art, Enstehung contributes to genealogy a central task: diagnosing the present as the current episode in “the endlessly repeated play of dominations.” What therefore emerges with Enstehung is the “single drama” of power that “installs each of its violences in a system of rules and thus proceeds from domination to domination.” (151)

Together, Herkunft and Enstehung offer strategies for presenting history as a dense tangle of conflict, and repudiates the simple retelling of history as a contiguous line that stretches from past to present. As Nathan Stormer argues in “Recursivity: A Working Paper on Rhetoric and Mnesis,”

…Genealogy is a way of historicizing events, particularly those surrounding the rise of “morals, ideals, and metaphysical concepts.” Rather than seeking a purified origin for these sorts of objects, genealogy looks to moments when they emerge, descending from “numberless beginnings” that are tangled and obscured in the “details and accidents that accompany every beginning. (29)

By foregrounding details and accidents, genealogy strives to expose fixed and historically-rooted identities as plural and indeterminate by sacrificing “the subject of knowledge,” in other words, by demonstrating how knowledge is always willed by some logically prior instinct. This sacrifice, moreover, endows genealogy with a key critical purpose: to “[discover] the violence of a position that sides against those who are happy in their ignorance, against the effective illusions by which humanity protects itself, a position that encourages the dangers of research and delights in disturbing discoveries.” (162) The purpose of genealogy is, in other words, not only to delight in the pleasure of discovery, but also to undo the ideological complacency of a status quo upheld by a linear historical narrative that culminates in the immediate present.

Koopman, Genealogy as Critique

If there were a single term that captures Foucault’s unique approach to theory and criticism, problematization might be the likeliest candidate. Colin Koopman notes that Foucault often describes problematization as the account of conflicting institutional practices that make sexual, medical, and political subjects intelligible as such: “genealogy at its best involves a practice of critique in the form of the historical problematization of the present.” (2) He also warns against the misappropriation of genealogy:

There is, unfortunately, much work today that calls itself genealogical despite deploying methodological procedures that are better described in terms of what I like to call “biopower-hunting.” The procedure of this work seems to be that of ferreting out the nefarious hidden working so biopower(or disciplinary power, or slavish morality) in some context where its appearance was perhaps unexpected. Although such work bears obvious conceptual relations to Foucault’s work, methodologically it is no closer to his genealogies than is old-fashioned ideological unmasking. (6-7)What then is genealogy? Koopman defines it in reference to Immanuel Kant (which is how we started our seminar) and again in terms of problematization. On the one hand, Foucault is described as a Kantian because his “thought embodies a complex relation to Kant’s thought,” which defines “critique as a determination of the limits of our thought on the basis of an inquiry into the conditions of possibility of that thought itself.” (15) Foucault was less interested in understanding the conditions of possibility for thought, and instead “in the historical conditions of possibility that constrain singular forms of thought in the present.” In doing so, he shifts “Kantian criticism from the transcendental plan e to the historical (that is, the archaeological and genealogical) field.” On the other hand, genealogy is aligned with problematization, which is described as “a transformation of the practice of critique itself.” (17) Problematization is perhaps one of Foucault’s most incorrectly understood terms. In Foucault’s words: “Maybe the most certain of all philosophical problems is the problem of the present time, and of what we are in this very moment.” Problematization seeks to understand “the complex and contingent conditions of the emergence and stability of the practices in which [modern] ideals found themselves expressed.” (18) Koopman also sets Foucault apart from Nietzsche, who “used genealogy to cast judgments on certain concepts (truthfulness and morality, for example).” Foucault instead “used genealogy to critically investigate the conditions of possibility of the practical exercise of such concepts.” The following passage, which summarizes how Koopman understands genealogy, is worth quoting in full:

Can we preserve a place for the constraints of conditions of possibility in the field of historicity and temporality? A signal contribution of genealogical philosophy has been that of developing an array of affirmative answers to this question. At the heart of these answers is a vision of critique as an inquiry into those historical conditions of possibility that constrain us not with the iron fist of necessity but with the gentle yet persuasive arm of contingency. Genealogy explicates the contingency and complexity of our ongoing historical constitution. Genealogy also preserves a space for the potential universalizability of these conditions of possibility. An emphasis on contingency and complexity is compatible with an understanding of our practices as universalizable if we make a crucial but often neglected distinction between universalism as a static condition and univeralization as a conditioned but conditioning process. Genealogy focuses on our constitutive constraints as temporal-historical processes of universalization that are contingent and complex all the way down. In this way genealogy ably inflects the practice of critique as an inquiry into conditions of possibility with a historicist rather than a transcendentalist sensibility. (19)

Importantly, power -- which is often framed as a ‘transcendental’ concept of Foucault’s genealogical method -- is a part of genealogy, but not something that is theorized in the abstract by Foucault. “The analysis simply involves investigating where and how, between whom, between what points, according to what processes, and with what effects, power is applied.” (Koopman citing Foucault, 9)  Instead, Koopman urges us to read Foucault’s “inquiries as providing the conceptual and practical materials we would need to conduct immanent critique for the purposes of transforming our cultural formations such that they might become less oppressive and more democratic.” (11)

Watts, Eric King. “Postracial fantasies, blackness, and zombies.” Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, vol. 14, no. 4, 2017, pp. 317-333.

In his article, “Postracial fantasies, blackness, and zombies” (2017), Eric King Watts studies a company called Zombie Industries, which produces zombies that are intended to be used for target practice. His essay opens with a description of their zombie, Rocky, who strikingly resembles Barack Obama. Watts argues that “the Zombie, when articulated with discourses and feelings of the postracial, signifies the unleashing of black bio-threat bodies upon a population; and that enjoyment of the postracial and the genre obscures and resuscitates this very signification” (318). He offers “a general intellectual history” (319) of racism to argue that “racism [is] a powerful alchemic procedure of the biopolitical state” and to ask, “what is it about biopower that yields racism?” (320). He argues “that racial formation became a project motivated and operationalized by racism (and classism) and conceived of as a mode of bio-control over segments of a population; and that the contemplation of biopower and the enjoyment of postracial fantasies should not be disarticulated from the nineteenth century command of black and brown bodies in the Americas” (321). Essentially, Watts argues that, from the nineteenth century onward, biopolitical techniques racialized and blackened certain bodies and “conditioned discourses and practices of racism globally” (322). Watts urges us to “keep this ‘blackening distinct from racist biopolitical tactics in generally, precisely because these measures do not racialize evenly or identically” (322) and notes that each of these biopoltiical practices “superimposed [the sovereign power to kill] upon the disciplinary and regulatory regimes organized and unleashed through the technologies of modern racism” (322). Ultimately, this warranted excessive and gratuitous violence against black and brown bodies. The postracial emerges when “a regime’s racist capacity to impose bare life (and wanton death)” (323) is threatened. This is when the postracial “unleashes reactionary logics and practices of blackening” (323). When Zombie Industries defends their decision to have a Rocky zombie that looks like Obama, they make the argument that “to discriminate against African-Americans by not having them represented . . . would be just plain racist . . . implor[ing] the reinvention and reintegration of racial difference to bring forth the thing that needs to be controlled, policed, contained, hunted, and killed” (326-327). Like this argument about Rocky, the postracial relies upon repetitions and similarities that reinforce racial formations, all the while denying racial difference. Gunn’s article maps Foucault’s genealogy of racism onto Zombie Industries and postracial fantasies to argue that populations continue to be controlled by the biopolitical blackening of some bodies and the reactionary fear of such blackening by others.

Stormer, Nathan. “A Likely Past: Abortion, Social Data, and a Collective Memory of Secrets in 1950s America.” Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, vol. 7, no. 4, 2010, pp. 337-359.

Nathan Stormer studies the Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s confidential conference on abortion held in 1955 as “a case study of the genealogical effects that are byproducts of biopolitics” (340). For Stormer, the conference “was not itself a biopolitical program, but a strategic attempt to interrupt the production of authoritative discourses about abortion as to shape law, medicine, and policy” (338). Toward this end, the conference “produce[d] a collective memory of secrets to meet the needs of governmentality” (339) which “produce[d] two inter-animated sets of genealogical effects (or outcomes of memory work): a probable history of a secret cultural sickness and the anonymous profile of its pathways through society” (339). These two effects were formed by the statistics gathered and discussed at the conference which “publicize[d] collective memories of secrets” (342) and catalyzed collective remembering (343) and strategic amnesia (344). Stormer explains that this happens because “forgetting is not the opposite of remembering; it is the condition on which viable memories take shape” (345).  The statistically inspired collective memory and amnesia framed abortion pathologically (345) and summoned the afflicted, ill woman (350) as a means, not of “detection and criminal prosecution” (351), but of “institution building that affected the conduct of strangers” (351). The collective memory built, in part, by the Planned Parenthood Federation of American conference made it “possible to chart the governance of individuals and populations [by] summoning a collective memory of relevant bodily events” (354). Stormer’s essay is important because it uses genealogy as a method to detect the byproducts of biopolitics and the tactics that produced and justified them.

Similarities between Readings/Application of Genealogical Method: Because the goal for today is to talk about the application of genealogical methodology, I have chosen to focus on the ways in which each of these essays apply genealogy, rather than covering their more general similarities in this section. I will highlight the application of transvaluation of values, descent, and emergence in each of the essays.

For Nietzche, the transvaluation of values is a condition of overcoming what one defines as good and evil. In the essays that we read for today, the transvaluation of values seems to target the values and processes that we might initially describe as good in order to uncover their unacknowledged evil underbelly. Fricker examines prejudicial epistemic practices to reveal “the normality of injustice, and . . . achieve a better grasp of what is required in practice to operate in a way that works against it.” In doing so, Fricker reveals the evil lurking within two values that are generally considered good: knowledge and justice. Stormer also engages in the transvaluation of the value of knowledge by explaining that, as secrets are exposed, we do not edge closer to complete knowledge, but instead “unlock new bodies of secrets to investigate” (342). For both Fricker and Stormer, the transvaluation of the value of knowledge revealed how such a value, if considered universally good, catalyzes and justifies the governance of bodies. Watts and Cooper also engage in a transvaluation of values when they critique postracial and postintersectional scholarship. Watts highlights that the intellectual history of racism makes “the end of the significance of race . . . not only a legitimate objective, but arguably the only effective tactic of antiracist social justice campaigns” (319). He showcases how this postracial solution is deployed toward racist ends when white-supremacists justify violence against black and brown bodies by claiming that race is no longer significant, a move that “implore[s] the reinvention and reintegration of racial difference” (326). Similarly, Cooper argues that postintersectional scholarly pursuits are considered good indicators of academic and societal progress, but that rather than symbolizing a legitimate move beyond racism, “these institutional and political moves index and increasing discomfort with talking about racism” (20). The transvaluation of values like knowledge, justice, and progress inspires a renegotiation and, potentially, a redefinition of the moral values of good and evil.

Nietzche uses three terms to talk about origin—Ursprung, Herkunft, and Entstehung. In his reading of Nietzche, Foucault argues “Entstehung and Herkunft are more exact than Ursprung in recording the true objective of genealogy; and, while they are ordinarily translated as ‘origin,’ we must attempt to reestablish their proper use” (145). I will use this section of my presentation to briefly detail Entstehung and Herkunft and illustrate how they are used in today’s reading.

For Foucault, “Herkunft is the equivalent of stock or descent; it is the ancient affiliation to a group, sustained by the bonds of blood, tradition, or social class. The analysis of Herkunft often involves a consideration of race or social type” (145). Because descent is bodily and “manifests the stigmata of past experience and also gives rise to desires, failings, and errors” (147-148), Cooper and Watts’ work seem to be good places to highlight descent. Watts explains the power of post racial fantasies through “colonial ventures, slave economies, concerns over widespread disease transmission, and global commercial traffic involving bodies and other consumables” (321), highlighting the way that the conflicts, violence, and scars of the past are inscribed upon the body that is continuously blackened by postracial fantasies. Similarly, Cooper highlights the goal of intersectional theory to “allow for recognition of the black female subject within juridical structures of power, where she had heretofore remained invisible and illegible” (6). Cooper articulates the institutional illegibility of a certain group, linking institutional violence and the need for intersectional theory to the descent of black women. Enstehung, on the other hand, “designates emergence, the moment of arising. It stands as the principle and the singular law of an apparition . . . always produced through a particular stage of forces” (148). Fricker and Stormer seem to be dealing with the “the entry of forces” (149). Fricker maps the forces that produce testimonial and epistemic injustice, detailing the epistemic practices, stereotypes, and prejudices that are used to determine whether one is trustworthy or not. Similarly, Stormer details the criminalization of abortion (337), the confidential conference (338-339), and the statistical knowledge and social data made available by the conference (342) as forces that created the conditions for secrecy to justify further biopolitical projects. He explains the importance of studying emergence, arguing, “although genealogical effects are necessary for arts of government to function, the effects are not uniform. They must be analyzed historically for their variations, continuities, conflicts, and ruptures” (340). Clearly, emergence and descent cannot be neatly categorized, as descent determines some, if not most, of the forces that contribute to emergence, but I hope that considering these separately clarified these distinct components of the genealogical method.

(Foucault) on Genealogy by Vanessa Nyarko

Anker, “Melodrama and the Politics of Freedom” in Orgies of Feeling

Summary:

Introduction from Elizabeth Anker’s Orgies of Feelings: Melodrama and Politics of Freedom. Anker is Associate Professor of American Studies and Political Science at the George Washington University, and Director of the Film Studies Program. Her book is about going past the film, literature and cultural overview of melodrama and looking about its connections with political discourse. Her main case studies or examples deal with the War on Terror. She paints 9/11 as a melodrama and emphasizes they “convey stories about the suffering of virtuous people overcome by nefarious forces, and they examine political and social conflict through outsized representations of unjust persecution.” She differentiates that melodramas involving political discourse are more action-oriented than what’s typically thought of (feminized), creates intense visceral responses, promotes a specific type of citizenship that is felt and interlined with state power. It was “the most powerful genre from on the War on Terror” and allowed the U.S to exist in a unique form of duality where the U.S. “is both the feminized, virginal victim and the aggressive, masculinized hero in the story of freedom, as the victim hero of geopolitics.” She reexamines how we look at freedom, virtue, national injury and redemption, how and which people are compelled by melodramatic political discourse, sovereignty and the Other in a melodramatic political realm.

Key terms and concepts and theories:  

Melodrama- This depiction of the attacks adheres to the conventions of a genre form that portrays dramatic events through moral polarities of good and evil, overwhelmed victims, heightened affects of pain and suffering, grand gestures, astonishing feats of heroism, and the redemption of virtue. E.g. 9/11 is a melodrama


Melodramatic political discourse - casts politics, policies, and practices of citizenship within a moral economy that identifies the nation state as a virtuous and innocent victim of villainous action. Action oriented focus.

American exceptionalism - has been historically referred to as the belief that the United States differs qualitatively from other developed nations because of its national credo, historical evolution, or distinctive political and religious institutions. (New World Encyclopedia)

Moral legibility- the identification of the nation’s virtue.

Freedom within a melodramatic political discourse is rooted in particularly liberal and Americanized interpretations of freedom as self- reliance, as unconstrained agency, and as unbound subjectivity. Includes individual and state sovereignty.

Societies of control (Deleuze) - those localized places within the social totality, where mobility is fostered inside certain strictures of motion, where openings appear rather than disappear, where subjects (or for that matter objects) are liberated as long as they adhere to a variety of prescribed comportments. E.g. highways. (Alexander R. Galloway, Laruelle: Against the Digital)

Melodramatic genre expectations differ in national politics, melodramatic story lines that end without securing the universal freedom of their protagonists are generally left outside the expectations of the narrative.

National entitlement- belief that you are or you own the world.

The melodramatic political discourse narrative trajectory is injury then redemption.  

War on terror was about freedom not national security

“Waning sovereignty,” what Wendy Brown calls the weakening of “the fantasy of human control over human destiny.”30 (military + economic power + liberal individualism)

Orgies of feelings describe a counterintuitive attempt to ameliorate confusing feelings of powerlessness by imposing intense affects of victimization— including terror, pain, sorrow, helplessness, and shock— upon the self.31  According to Nietzsche, orgies of feeling aim to rehabilitate freedom, or at least ameliorate the affects of felt powerlessness, through new experiences of intensified affect.

Unfreedom refers to contemporary experiences in which citizens are continually demobilized and demoralized, disenfranchised, confused, powerless and unable to reach self-determination.

Genre of the impasse (Berlant) – disrupts hopeful trajectories and emphasizes how people endure their precariously lived conditions by improvising and adjusting to them, just trying to adapt and survive.

Jeremiad - a perennially popular genre in American culture patterned on biblical lamentations of the prophets, which offers a strident moral critique of a degraded society and prophecies that society will collapse if it continues down its wayward path. 42

Left – punishment for imperialism, Right- punishment for secularism. Different origin story from melodrama

Clash- of- civilizations (Huntington) argument postulates that the world order is organized by fundamental cultural antagonisms between developed, Christian civilizations and underdeveloped, often Muslim societies. 46

Demonization of evil Others (Rogin) in which political ideas and identities that seem to diff er from mainstream U.S. liberal norms and sanctioned political identities are made monstrous and denied political legibility. 47

Felt legitimacy for state action, an intensely affective state in which legitimacy is felt as righteous, true, and obligatory.

Left melodrama is a form of contemporary political critique that combines thematic elements and narrative structures of the melodramatic genre with a political perspective grounded in a left theoretical tradition, fusing them to dramatically interrogate oppressive social structures and unequal relations of power.

Melodrama of failure- substitutes failed freedom for the triumph of virtue

Quotes:

“Neoliberal melodramas use the language of individual freedom not to retrench state power but to expand securitized and militarized forms of it.”

“Melodrama hearkens a future in which U.S. citizens and the state exercise their rightful entitlement to unconstrained power.”

Mahmood cautions scholars against uncritically accepting that there is an ontological desire for freedom that drives individuals, especially when freedom is imagined as a settled achievement of an abstract liberal subject. She asks instead, “what sort of subject is assumed to be normative within a particular political imaginary?”

The 9/11 attacks were shocking not only for the violence they committed but for the story of freedom they derailed. They disclosed—in a spectacular and horrifying way—failures of both state and individual sovereignty, and melodramatic conventions promised that both types of sovereignty could be regained.

In effortlessly penetrating national borders, the attackers upended two beliefs: that America was invulnerable to serious attack by foreigners and that geopolitical boundaries could demarcate state sovereignty.


Melodrama’s narrative teleology of freedom responds by revitalizing norms of sovereignty for both individuals and states, and this is part of its widespread appeal.

Melodrama’s affective and narrative forms aim to resecure the nation’s virtue and reestablish its sovereign power.

Melodrama implies that complex global vulnerability and interdependence can be overcome by expressions of state power reasserting U.S. global might, which will then reflect back to American individuals their own sovereignty.

“U.S. citizens have willingly traded freedom for security”

“Melodrama responds to waning sovereignty by offering that dramatic performances of state power can restore heroic, sovereign agency to both the individual and the state.”

In the retrospective temporality of an orgy of feeling, these earlier experiences were relocated to the 9 /11 events, which then become their site of origin. Melodrama orgiastically displaced

a broadly shared but deeply isolating and confusing sense of powerlessness onto a clearly shared and obvious sense of being attacked and robbed of one’s freedoms.

The contemporary discourse of anti- immigration is often patterned in a similar way; it positions immigrants, rather than terrorists alone, as evil villains out to disempower Americans. As the war on terror has been unable to make good on the promise of sovereign freedom (which I discuss in detail later), one of its effects is to relocate the villainy that overwhelms America from terrorists onto immigrants, especially poor and brown ones.

Their (melodrama) goal is mastery over unaccountable and overwhelming powers, rather than adjustment to them.

“We Americans are not better than any other people, but the Western democratic system we live by is the best system on earth.”- Thomas Friedman NYT op-ed

“The chapter argues that Americans who legitimate violent and impinging state actions may do so in a counter intuitive attempt to experience their own heroic, individual power.”

Connections:

Linda Williams, Playing the Race Card: Melodramas of Black and White (Introduction, Chapter 1 and 4) from MIMS 8001

“Rather I consider it sufficient to recognize melodrama’s almost incalculable influence on American attitudes toward race and to trace the genealogies of an influence that, whether because it is too obvious or because it is too embarrassing, has been relatively ignored. The study of melodrama has the potential to explain why it is that in a democracy ruled by rights, we do not gain the moral upper hand by saying simply that rights have been infringed. We say, instead more powerfully: ‘I have been victimized; I have suffered, therefore give me rights.’”

Vice and unitary executive theory - This theory holds that Congress cannot limit the president’s control of the executive branch because the Constitution sets up a hierarchical system whereby the president has the most power (Annenberg Classroom).

Paul Elliot Johnson, The Art of Masculine Victimhood: Donald Trump’s Demagoguery from COMM 5110

“Trump defines America’s greatness as its capacity to repel foreign penetration and deport threats to the nation’s purity. Omnipresent danger warrants leadership by dominant mastery. Jessica Prody observes that “a nation’s masculinity is reinforced when its military can protect national territory and citizens. When this ability to protect is threatened (through events such as military loss or terrorist attacks), a national crisis of masculinity can emerge” (442). Trump manufactures this crisis as one general to democracy but also specific to the threat of the other.”

George Gerbner and the mean world syndrome – more violence in media = more paranoid of violent world. However, Gerbner found that high viewership of violence and crime actually makes us more scared of violence being done to us rather than us committing it. Susceptible to authoritarian rule.

Critiques and celebrations:

Bush’s speech on the War in Afghanistan at the Pentagon on October 11, 2001 – ordinary people spiel, children’s innocence as a metonym, downplays identity and markers as we are one, victimhood and good citizenship.

“In Dick Cheney’s war on terror melodrama, for instance, ‘This is a struggle against evil, against an enemy that rejoices in the murder of innocent, unsuspecting human beings. . . . A group like Al Qaeda cannot be deterred or placated or reasoned with at a conference table. For this reason the war against terror will not end with a treaty, there will be no summit meeting or negotiations with terrorists. The conflict will only end with their complete and permanent destruction and in victory for the United States and the cause for freedom.’”28

Lack of emphasis on diversity of victims/citizenship – different experiences can relay different views on melodramatic political discourse. E.g., The Boondocks episode, Date with the Health Inspector (0.51-6.21)

Questions:

  • Is there a difference in unconstrained freedom and sovereign freedom?

“It asks: even in one of the more unliberatory eras in contemporary politics— when political subjects do not just acquiesce to but often actively support policies that sanction large- scale violence and murder, and that shrink venues for dissent, possibilities for political participation, and pursuits of justice— is there a glimmer of a desire to challenge unfreedom, an intent to undo the oppressions that individuals often seem so willing to uphold?” [How does the latter portion connect to the former?] (19-20)

Villadsen and Dean, State Phobia, Civil Society, and a Certain Vitalism

Key terms and concepts and theories:

Governmentality - is an analysis of the state and not something that lies beyond it. It shows the conditions of experience of the “state” as that which confronts an external domain – civil society – to which it must grant a measure of free action in order for government to function.

Illocutionary- speech as forms of performance that seek and have definite consequences.

Quotes:

“However, differences are not just there to be respected prior to their discursive mobilization; even for Foucault, they are produced within different strategies and relations of power.”

“To be sure, Foucault strictly kept away from questions of the justification of state power in favor of an analytical critique whose focus is on the forms of veridiction (or truth-production) that governmental rationalities would take up.”

Discussion Questions:

  • What is state-phobia?
  • What other terms and concepts should you read about or know before reading this article?
  • What are Villadsen and Dean saying about scholars that cite use Foucault’s work and rationale?
  • What is the difference between an anti-statist and a libertarian?
  • How important is context when it comes to citing certain scholars?
  • How does one fight against “selective reading?”

Michel Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History”

Foucault’s Advice: (My interpretation)

  • English tendency to describe history (of morality) in terms of a linear development for the sake of utility.
  • Genealogy must go outside of repetition and monotonous knowns and acceptances
  • Be wary of patterns and look for the unanswered
  • Question all origin stories
  • History of reason came up “reasonably from chance; personal was political
  • It’s hard to argue against truth because it was ingrained centuries ago
  • Researching the history of a people or species is not genealogy,
  • Genealogy is an analysis of the descent (origin) in between the body and history. It should tell us about the body’s interaction with history – the story and the finality.
  • Emergence (discovery) is not end of historical development but the eruption (start).
  • Domination leaves a mark on your body and memories.
  • History is written by the winners.
  • Knowledge does not depend on “rediscovery,” especially of others and self.
  • People go to historians to confirm our truths.
  • Historians go out of their way to be objective.
  • Investigate things you feel have no history.
  • Don’t take truths on face value. Chance +domination/knowledge influence truth.

Quotes:

“It opposes itself to the search for origins”

“… ‘liberty is an invention of the ruling classes’ and is not fundamental to man’s nature or at the root of his attachment to being and truth.”

“The lofty origin is no more than a “metaphysical extension which arises from the belief that things are most precious and essential at the moment of birth.”

“… the origin makes possible a field of knowledge whose function it is to recover it, but always in a false recognition due the excesses of its own speech,”

“Truth is undoubtedly the sort of error that cannot be refuted because it was hardened into an unalterable for in the long baking process of history.”

“A genealogy of values, morality, ascetism and knowledge will never confuse itself with a quest for their “origins, will never neglect as inaccessible the vicissitudes of history.”

“Genealogy does not resemble the evolution of a species and does not map the destiny of a people.”


“The domination of certain men over others leads to the differentiation of values, class domination generates the idea of liberty, and the forceful approbation of things necessary to survival and the imposition of duration not intrinsic to them account for the origin of logic.”

“The successes of history belong to those who are capable of seizing these rules to replace those who had used them, to disguise themselves so as to pervert them, invert their meaning, and redirect them against those who had initially imposed them; controlling this complex mechanism, they will function so as to overcome the rulers through their own rules.”

“The role of genealogy is to record its history: the history of morals, ideals, metaphysical concepts, the history of concept of liberty or of the ascetic life, as they stand for the emergence of different interpretations, they must be made to appear as events on the stage of the historical process.”

“Effective” history, however, deals with events in terms of their most unique characteristics, their most acute manifestations.

Discussion Questions:

  • What does Foucault mean by “numberless beginnings?” (145)
  • What is Foucault’s issue with the present? Specifically, the history of the present.


Part 2: Applications of Genealogy

Presentation by Brittany Knutson

The Applications of Genealogy readings illustrated how one might use the genealogical method to talk about the interaction between bodies, discourses, and institutions and highlighted the potential for such a method to disrupt standard conclusions about theory, practice, and values. Miranda Fricker discusses the testimonial and hermeneutic injustice faced by many marginalized individuals when the encounter the justice system, Brittany Cooper problematized modern day critiques of intersectionality and recentered black women’s bodies, Eric King Watts detailed Foucault’s genealogy of racism to theorize the fantasy of the postracial, and Nathan Stormer examined secrecy’s role in the deployment of biopower. I will summarize these readings, explain how genealogy appears as a method in each of them, and articulate their relationship to rhetoric.

Fricker, Miranda. Epistemic Injustice: Power & the Ethics of Knowing. Oxford University Press, 2007.

Fricker problematizes a politics of epistemic practice and argues that the history of epistemology, to this point, has been impoverished. In her book, Fricker “characterize[s] two forms of epistemic injustice: testimonial injustice, in which someone is wronged in their capacity as a giver of knowledge; and hermeneutical injustice, in which someone is wronged in their capacity as a subject of social understanding.” The purpose of her genealogical study is to inspire a transvaluation of values—these values being knowledge/epistemology and justice—by “bring[ing] to light certain ethical aspects of two of our most basic everyday epistemic practices: conveying knowledge to others by telling them, and making sense of our own experience.” The three chapters that we read for today are most focused on testimonial injustice’s impact on these values.

In chapter one, Fricker relates testimonial injustice to three kinds of power: gender power, social power, and identity power. She explains that social power “effect[s] social conrol, whether it is a matter of particular agents controlling what other agents do [agential power] or of people’s actions being controlled purely structurally [structural power].” Identity power is at work “whenever there is an operation of power that depends in some significant degree upon such shared imaginative conceptions of social identity,” such as “what it is or means to be a woman or man, or what it is or means to be gay or straight, young or old, and so on.” Gender, or gender power, for Fricker, “is one arena of identity power” that impacts one’s social power. Identity power is significant because it “is an integral part of the mechanism of testimonial exchange, because of the need for hearers to use social stereotypes as heuristics in their spontaneous assessments of their interlocutors credibility” which causes “an epistemic dysfunction in the exchange . . . [and] undermine[s the speaker] in her capacity as a knower.” These results mean that a speaker is either granted credibility excess, which is generally advantageous, or credibility deficit, which is generally detrimental.

In chapter five, Fricker discusses Bernard Williams and Edward Craig’s State of Nature scenarios, explaining that these theorists constructed scenarios “as the basis from which to draw philosophical conclusions about a given concept or institution.” She defines the State of Nature “as a minimal human society-a society of minimal social organization-in which people live in groups and therefore share some basic needs.” In both Craig and William’s construction, the first two epistemic needs are the same: “(1) the need to possess enough truths (and not too many falsehoods) to facilitate survival . . . [and] (2) the need to participate in an epistemic practice whereby information is shared and pooled.” Their third steps differ. Williams asserts, “(3) the need to encourage dispositions in individuals that will stabilize relations of trust,” while Craig declares “(3) the need for potential informants to bear ‘indicator properties’: that is, properties which, by definition, reliably indicate that they are conveying the truth.” Fricker argues that, if one accepts Williams’ third epistemic need, the two dispositions that emerge to stabilize relations of trust are accuracy and sincerity. Fricker suggests that, alongside accuracy and sincerity, emerges another virtue of truth that requires bringing Craig’s third epistemic need into focus. Because indicator properties use stereotypes to assess whether or not someone is telling the truth, there is a need for a “corrective anti-prejudicial virtue”—Testimonial Justice. Because Testimonial Justice protects both truth and justice, the second part of the chapter is devoted to determining whether Testimonial Justice should be “considered primarily as an ethical defense against injustice or an intellectual defense against error.” She argues that it is possible to classify Testimonial Justice as a hybrid because “its hybridity depends only on the demonstrated harmony of epistemic and ethical ends in the specific case of neutralizing prejudice.” Because there is prejudice, even in the State of Nature, Testimonial Justice is a necessary value that centers the hearer and highlights the necessity of neutralizing prejudice to reach truth and justice.

Fricker’s sixth chapter deals with the silencing that can result from testimonial injustice because of the “tendency for some groups simply not to be asked for information in the first place.” She calls this pre-emptive testimonial injustice, when “the credibility of such a person on a given subject matter is already sufficiently in prejudicial deficit that their potential testimony is never solicited.” Pre-empitive testimonial injustice silences potential contributors in two ways: 1) the subject is “literally passed over in silence” and 2) “the subject is wrongfully excluded from the community of trusted informants . . . he is thus demoted from subject to object.” Fricker explains the difference between seeing someone as an informant (a subject) and seeing the as a source of information (an object). Fricker articulates her hope that a genealogy of testimonial injustice may help us to “become more socially articulate about this somewhat hidden dimensions of discrimination, and thereby be in a better position to identify it, protest it when it happens to us and, at least sometimes, avoid doing it to others.”

Cooper, Brittney. “Intersectionality.” The Oxford Handbook of Feminist Theory. Edited by Lisa Disch and Mary Hawkesworth, Oxford Handbooks Online, 2016.

In her publication in the Oxford Handbook of Feminist Theory, Brittney Cooper provides a genealogy of the theory of intersectionality and the critiques the problematic desire to fold intersectionality into a theory of identity by “situat[ing] intersectionality within a long history of black feminist theorizing about interlocking systems of power and oppression” (1). Cooper argues that, as intersectionality has gained traction in academic work, “there seems to be less agreement about what exactly intersectionality is and a growing sense that despite its expansive academic reach, the framework does not sufficiently attend to a range of critical questions” (1). To attend to these problems, Cooper offers “an intellectual genealogy of works by black women thinkers that laid the intellectual groundwork from which Crenshaw launched intersectionality” (3). This genealogy reveals that, despite the tendency to classify the intellectual project of intesectionality alongside theories of identity, Crenshaw theorized intersectionality for a very specific purpose: to account for identities at the level of the structural (6). Cooper explains that, when intersectionality was taken up across disciplines, this purpose was disregarded and intersectionality was used and condemned as a theory of identity or subjectivity that operated on the personal level. In response, she asserts that “intersectionality’s most powerful argument is . . . that institutional power arrangements, rooted as they are in relations of domination and subordination, confound and constrict the life possibilities of those who already live at the intersection of certain identity categories” (9). In the essay, Cooper problematizes critiques of intersectionality and asks, “What is the status of the black female subject in a world where the theoretical paradigm that has made her the most visible is indicted for making the identities of other marginalized groups invisible?” (14). She declares, “we should remain skeptical of newer approaches to identity that take as their centerpiece a fundamental belief that the particularity of black women’s experiences exempt black women from being the foundation on which broadly applicable theoretical frames can be built” (15) and warns against the impulse to join the “new generation of scholars [who have] become postintersectional” (16). She warns against employing intersectionality as a research method, arguing that such a move threatens to disappear black women (19-20), deemphasize racism (19-20), and “erase the intellectual labor of [intersectionality’s] black women creators” (20). As an alternative, Cooper advocates employing intersectionality as a theory and a praxis, “as a conceptual and analytical tool for thinking about operations of power” (21), and as “one of the most useful and expansive paradigms we have” (21). Mapping the genealogy of intersectionality and the critiques that it has weathered enabled Cooper to express the multiple origins of intersectional theory, detail how intersectionality was (mis)read and (mis)applied as the theory emerged across disciplines, and criticize attempts to disappear the black woman in contemporary critiques of intersectionalities possibilities and achievements.

Watts, Eric King. “Postracial fantasies, blackness, and zombies.” Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, vol. 14, no. 4, 2017, pp. 317-333.

In his article, “Postracial fantasies, blackness, and zombies” (2017), Eric King Watts studies a company called Zombie Industries, which produces zombies that are intended to be used for target practice. His essay opens with a description of their zombie, Rocky, who strikingly resembles Barack Obama. Watts argues that “the Zombie, when articulated with discourses and feelings of the postracial, signifies the unleashing of black bio-threat bodies upon a population; and that enjoyment of the postracial and the genre obscures and resuscitates this very signification” (318). He offers “a general intellectual history” (319) of racism to argue that “racism [is] a powerful alchemic procedure of the biopolitical state” and to ask, “what is it about biopower that yields racism?” (320). He argues “that racial formation became a project motivated and operationalized by racism (and classism) and conceived of as a mode of bio-control over segments of a population; and that the contemplation of biopower and the enjoyment of postracial fantasies should not be disarticulated from the nineteenth century command of black and brown bodies in the Americas” (321). Essentially, Watts argues that, from the nineteenth century onward, biopolitical techniques racialized and blackened certain bodies and “conditioned discourses and practices of racism globally” (322). Watts urges us to “keep this ‘blackening distinct from racist biopolitical tactics in generally, precisely because these measures do not racialize evenly or identically” (322) and notes that each of these biopoltiical practices “superimposed [the sovereign power to kill] upon the disciplinary and regulatory regimes organized and unleashed through the technologies of modern racism” (322). Ultimately, this warranted excessive and gratuitous violence against black and brown bodies. The postracial emerges when “a regime’s racist capacity to impose bare life (and wanton death)” (323) is threatened. This is when the postracial “unleashes reactionary logics and practices of blackening” (323). When Zombie Industries defends their decision to have a Rocky zombie that looks like Obama, they make the argument that “to discriminate against African-Americans by not having them represented . . . would be just plain racist . . . implor[ing] the reinvention and reintegration of racial difference to bring forth the thing that needs to be controlled, policed, contained, hunted, and killed” (326-327). Like this argument about Rocky, the postracial relies upon repetitions and similarities that reinforce racial formations, all the while denying racial difference. Gunn’s article maps Foucault’s genealogy of racism onto Zombie Industries and postracial fantasies to argue that populations continue to be controlled by the biopolitical blackening of some bodies and the reactionary fear of such blackening by others.

Stormer, Nathan. “A Likely Past: Abortion, Social Data, and a Collective Memory of Secrets in 1950s America.” Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, vol. 7, no. 4, 2010, pp. 337-359.

Nathan Stormer studies the Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s confidential conference on abortion held in 1955 as “a case study of the genealogical effects that are byproducts of biopolitics” (340). For Stormer, the conference “was not itself a biopolitical program, but a strategic attempt to interrupt the production of authoritative discourses about abortion as to shape law, medicine, and policy” (338). Toward this end, the conference “produce[d] a collective memory of secrets to meet the needs of governmentality” (339) which “produce[d] two inter-animated sets of genealogical effects (or outcomes of memory work): a probable history of a secret cultural sickness and the anonymous profile of its pathways through society” (339). These two effects were formed by the statistics gathered and discussed at the conference which “publicize[d] collective memories of secrets” (342) and catalyzed collective remembering (343) and strategic amnesia (344). Stormer explains that this happens because “forgetting is not the opposite of remembering; it is the condition on which viable memories take shape” (345).  The statistically inspired collective memory and amnesia framed abortion pathologically (345) and summoned the afflicted, ill woman (350) as a means, not of “detection and criminal prosecution” (351), but of “institution building that affected the conduct of strangers” (351). The collective memory built, in part, by the Planned Parenthood Federation of American conference made it “possible to chart the governance of individuals and populations [by] summoning a collective memory of relevant bodily events” (354). Stormer’s essay is important because it uses genealogy as a method to detect the byproducts of biopolitics and the tactics that produced and justified them.


Similarities between Readings/Application of Genealogical Method:

Because the goal for today is to talk about the application of genealogical methodology, I have chosen to focus on the ways in which each of these essays apply genealogy, rather than covering their more general similarities in this section. I will highlight the application of transvaluation of values, descent, and emergence in each of the essays.

For Nietzche, the transvaluation of values is a condition of overcoming what one defines as good and evil. In the essays that we read for today, the transvaluation of values seems to target the values and processes that we might initially describe as good in order to uncover their unacknowledged evil underbelly. Fricker examines prejudicial epistemic practices to reveal “the normality of injustice, and . . . achieve a better grasp of what is required in practice to operate in a way that works against it.” In doing so, Fricker reveals the evil lurking within two values that are generally considered good: knowledge and justice. Stormer also engages in the transvaluation of the value of knowledge by explaining that, as secrets are exposed, we do not edge closer to complete knowledge, but instead “unlock new bodies of secrets to investigate” (342). For both Fricker and Stormer, the transvaluation of the value of knowledge revealed how such a value, if considered universally good, catalyzes and justifies the governance of bodies. Watts and Cooper also engage in a transvaluation of values when they critique postracial and postintersectional scholarship. Watts highlights that the intellectual history of racism makes “the end of the significance of race . . . not only a legitimate objective, but arguably the only effective tactic of antiracist social justice campaigns” (319). He showcases how this postracial solution is deployed toward racist ends when white-supremacists justify violence against black and brown bodies by claiming that race is no longer significant, a move that “implore[s] the reinvention and reintegration of racial difference” (326). Similarly, Cooper argues that postintersectional scholarly pursuits are considered good indicators of academic and societal progress, but that rather than symbolizing a legitimate move beyond racism, “these institutional and political moves index and increasing discomfort with talking about racism” (20). The transvaluation of values like knowledge, justice, and progress inspires a renegotiation and, potentially, a redefinition of the moral values of good and evil.

Nietzche uses three terms to talk about origin—Ursprung, Herkunft, and Entstehung. In his reading of Nietzche, Foucault argues “Entstehung and Herkunft are more exact than Ursprung in recording the true objective of genealogy; and, while they are ordinarily translated as ‘origin,’ we must attempt to reestablish their proper use” (145). I will use this section of my presentation to briefly detail Entstehung and Herkunft and illustrate how they are used in today’s reading.

For Foucault, “Herkunft is the equivalent of stock or descent; it is the ancient affiliation to a group, sustained by the bonds of blood, tradition, or social class. The analysis of Herkunft often involves a consideration of race or social type” (145). Because descent is bodily and “manifests the stigmata of past experience and also gives rise to desires, failings, and errors” (147-148), Cooper and Watts’ work seem to be good places to highlight descent. Watts explains the power of post racial fantasies through “colonial ventures, slave economies, concerns over widespread disease transmission, and global commercial traffic involving bodies and other consumables” (321), highlighting the way that the conflicts, violence, and scars of the past are inscribed upon the body that is continuously blackened by postracial fantasies. Similarly, Cooper highlights the goal of intersectional theory to “allow for recognition of the black female subject within juridical structures of power, where she had heretofore remained invisible and illegible” (6). Cooper articulates the institutional illegibility of a certain group, linking institutional violence and the need for intersectional theory to the descent of black women. Enstehung, on the other hand, “designates emergence, the moment of arising. It stands as the principle and the singular law of an apparition . . . always produced through a particular stage of forces” (148). Fricker and Stormer seem to be dealing with the “the entry of forces” (149). Fricker maps the forces that produce testimonial and epistemic injustice, detailing the epistemic practices, stereotypes, and prejudices that are used to determine whether one is trustworthy or not. Similarly, Stormer details the criminalization of abortion (337), the confidential conference (338-339), and the statistical knowledge and social data made available by the conference (342) as forces that created the conditions for secrecy to justify further biopolitical projects. He explains the importance of studying emergence, arguing, “although genealogical effects are necessary for arts of government to function, the effects are not uniform. They must be analyzed historically for their variations, continuities, conflicts, and ruptures” (340). Clearly, emergence and descent cannot be neatly categorized, as descent determines some, if not most, of the forces that contribute to emergence, but I hope that considering these separately clarified these distinct components of the genealogical method.

Rhetorical Resonance:

Genealogy, as a method, offers us a way to map what rhetoric does and each of these case studies illustrates how genealogy can be used to evaluate this rhetorical labor. Watts highlights “the heart of the rhetorical labor of the postracial: race is claimed as irrelevant, but blackness must be differentiated anyway; it must be reinvented and it must become an object of destructive force so that the entitlement of white male sovereignty can be reauthorized” (327). For Watts, the genealogical method is a tool for explaining the manifestation of the postracial and the rhetorical work that it does. Stormer similarly evaluates the rhetorical work done by the Planned Parenthood conference’s commitment to revealing secrets, arguing that “Adequate knowledge of life’s mechanisms and conduct is a promissory note that justifies biopolitical projects in advance. . . . However, the promissory note never comes due because its terms are continually rewritten as new knowledge appears” (354). For Stormer, tracing the development of a collective memory of secrets revealed the rhetorical work that this development did to justify more biopolitical projects. Cooper also traces the genealogy of intersectionality to evaluate the rhetorical work of critiques of intersectionality and warn that postintersectional theories threaten to disappear women of color in the academy (3) and in the history of intersectional scholarship (20). Finally, Miranda Fricker maps the genealogy of epistemic practices to argue that these practices do significant rhetorical work to determine who is a credible subject and giver of knowledge. As a result, stereotypes and prejudice are tools used to determine whether or not a subject is trustworthy, but these tools risk “wrong[ing] someone in their capacity as a subject of knowledge, and thus in a capacity essential to human value.” By tracing the genealogy of epistemic practices that hinders some subjects from speaking and being heard, Fricker traced the rhetorical work that was creating the conditions for epistemic injustice and made a strong case for valuing testimonial justice as a means of “neutralizing prejudice” and making our epistemic practices more just and more likely to render complete knowledge. Although these essays do not focus much on the more traditional rhetorical techniques that would make their resonance with rhetoric easy to identify, they highlight the possibility for genealogical methodology to reveal the rhetorical work that enables the deployment and persistence of biopolitical projects.

Discussion Questions:

  • In what kind of project would you use a genealogical method? What might the object of such a project be?
  • If genealogy is understood “as a singular effort to consider how philosophical critique can bring historical inquiry into its orbit” (Koopman 6), does this mean that genealogy and historiography must work together? What components of the historiographic method that we discussed last week are important when utilizing a genealogical method?
  • In light of last week’s conversation, I am curious if we feel like genealogy is another method with a history traced back to one or two white men and whether we find that problematic? Additionally, do you think that genealogy is a method that could be used to resist the whiteness and masculinity of the tradition? Why or why not?

Additional Sources:

Alexander, M. Jacque, and Chandra Talpade Mohanty, eds. Feminist Genealogies, Colonial Legacies, Democratic Futures. Routledge, 1996.

Nedelsky, Jennifer. Law’s Relations: A Relational Theory of Self, Autonomy, and Law. Oxford University Press, 2011.

Stormer, Nathan. “Rhetoric’s diverse materiality: polythetic ontology and genealogy.” Review of Communication, vol. 16, no. 4, 2016, pp. 299-316.

Walzer, Arthur. “Parresia, Foucault, and the Classical Rhetorical Tradition.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly, vol. 43, no. 1, 2013, pp. 1-21.