College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

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Foucault, genealogy, plasticity, Malabou, Barad


This project describes a problem in Foucauldian genealogy centered on the relationship between discourse and matter, while coordinating a few related projects to indicate a possible resolution. It gathers a set of critiques of Foucault that coalesce around common articulations of the issue together with a set of developments that differently attempt to resolve it. The overarching goal is both to define the extant problem and to assert that it is necessary and possible for genealogy to overcome it. For the set of critics taken up here, including Karen Barad, Beatrice Han, David Harvey, and Catherine Malabou, the problematic ambiguity in Foucault's work crystallizes in the figure of the individual and the question of how genealogy handles the non-discursive. To Han, and differently to Harvey, these mark a terminal failure of genealogy to overcome the Kantian transcendental themes Foucault explicitly rejects; genealogy remains either anthropological (Han) or stuck in an outmoded thinking of space and time inherited from Kant (Harvey). However to Barad, and differently to Malabou, carefully developing certain concepts in genealogy’s analytic framework can resolve these issues, which they in turn acknowledge. Separately, both Barad and Malabou aim to move genealogy towards a new engagement with the natural sciences as part of this response. For Barad, this entails revising the concept of the dispositif or apparatus to account more directly for the material arrangements of forces. For Malabou, this entails rethinking contingency in terms of plasticity. This project puts their elaborations in concert with a third positive program, the cognitive archaeology of Lambros Malafouris, that shares an interest in accounting for historical transformations in subjectivity with attention paid to their material dimension. The goal in weaving these developments together is to apply their analyses to the concept of the "sub-individual," deployed by Foucault in "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History" and elsewhere, suggesting further development of the concept. Ultimately, this is to assert the possibility (and necessity) of a "plastic" genealogy that would be able to engage in a more material analysis that successfully navigates the transcendental and anthropological pitfalls identified by the critics.

Available for download on Saturday, July 09, 2033