• The physiology of inscription : Foucault's genealogy as curative science

      Johnston, Sean.; Department of Philosophy (Brock University, 2007-05-21)
      In ''Nietzsche, Genealogy, History," Foucault suggests that genealogy is a sort of "curative science." The genealogist must be a physiologist and a pathologist as well as an historian, for his task is to decipher the marks that power relations and historical events leave on the subjugated body; "he must be able to diagnose the illnesses of the body, its conditions of weakness and strength, its breakdowns and resistances, to be in a position to judge philosophical discourse." But this claim seems to be incongruent with another major task of genealogy. After all, genealogy is supposed to show us that the things we take to be absolute are in fact discontinuous and historically situated: "Nothing in man-not even his body-is sufficiently stable to serve as the basis for self-recognition or for understanding other men." If this is true, then the subjugated body can never be restored to a healthy state because it has no essential or original nature. There are no universal standards by which we can even distinguish between healthy and unhealthy bodies. So in what sense is genealogy to be a "curative science"? In my thesis, I try to elucidate the complex relationship between genealogy and the body. I argue that genealogy can be a curative science even while it "multiplies our body and sets it against itself." Ifwe place a special emphasis on the role that transgression plays in Foucault's genealogical works, then the healthy body is precisely the body that resists universal standards and classifications. If genealogy is to be a curative science, then it must restore to the subjugated body an "identity" that transgresses its own limits and that constitutes itself, paradoxically, in the very effacement of identity. In the first chapter of my thesis, I examine the body's role as "surface of the inscription of events." Power relations inscribe on and around the body an identity or subjectivity that appears to be unified and universal, but which is in fact disparate and historically situated. The "subjected" body is the sick and pathologically weak body. In Chapters 2 and 3, I describe how it is possible for the unhealthy body to become healthy by resisting the subjectivity that has been inscribed upon it. Chapter 4 explains how Foucault's later works fit into this characterization of genealogy