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Description - Method 5: Genealogies, histories, time

Genealogy begins with the recognition of the politics of history. History is composed of struggles, concessions, victories and defeats, and the way history is represented is itself political. Genealogy begins with a challenge to think history not in terms of a series of ‘past presents’ arranged in a linear flow (e.g. Newton), but as a field of complexity, marked by bifurcations and non-linearity, whose contingent structure exerts a real force on the present and potential futures.

Genealogy aims not to reduce complexity to a historical model, but to articulate its mechanisms of openness and closure. It aims to draw attention to the temporal complexity of historical problematizations, their multiple streams, branches, tributaries and confluences, creating new courses and dried up possibilities. Finally, it aims to recognize the politics of continuities, stabilities and non-events as much as it recognizes the politics of rupture.

Genealogy does not seek to make a representation of history, but to act upon it, or as Nietzsche describes it: "acting against time, and thus on time, for the sake of a time one hopes will come." (as quoted in Deleuze, 1992, pp. 164-165)

To guide our investigation, we have set out a number of guiding questions:

  • What understanding of critique operates within genealogies and how does this distinguish it from performing a ‘history’?
  • How can archival work be mobilized to identify continuities and ruptures through a systematic, but non-exhaustive, method?
  • And how do social agents identify and produce continuities and ruptures in their own narratives?
  • And how do institutions, materialities, networks and things create these continuities themselves?
  • How do we study both events and non-events without making a fetish of either continuity or rupture?
  • The aim of the ‘Genealogies, Histories, Time’ cluster is to work towards an understanding of genealogy that is both political and critical.

Deleuze, G. (1992). 'What is a Dispositif?', pp. 159-168 in T. J. Armstrong (ed), Michel Foucault Philosopher. Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf.

Method coordinator

Christopher Zebrowski,