Genealogy of Genealogy

Foucault, Nietzsche, History and “Race”

In the process of my research trajectory toward a longer-book about power, I decided to systematically work through the corpus of Michel Foucault in so doing, I came to the realization that I had to write a short book on “A Genealogy of Genealogy” or Foucault and the history and legacy of “genealogy” as method. This page is a nub that will ultimately accumulate more about that project as I write more.

To non-specialists who stumble across our literature, it can be striking that the term “genealogy” has such a peculiar meaning in humanities’ scholarship. Scholars of religion routinely deploy the notion of “genealogy” to indicate a particular research mode emphasizing historical contingency and rupture. But to non-specialists, genealogy suggests first and foremost a kind of heredity or familial relationship, often associated with evolution, antiquarianism, or perhaps even Mormonism.

In this short monograph, I am to provide a critical genealogy of “genealogy.” In that respect, I intend to de-reify genealogy and in so doing show how the term all along has historically been entangled with notions of race, religion, and biological heredity. In broadest strokes, I will examines the function of the term “genealogy” in contemporary academic discourse (especially in Religious Studies) and describe the conditions of the possibility of genealogy as a specific (anti)humanistic academic enterprise. I will then trace the history of the term back through Foucault, Deleuze, and Nietzsche to demonstrate how in their writings it carried messy connections to older notions of “race” and heredity, even as it suggested a skeptical liberation from previous historical conventions. In so doing, it attempts to address common misreadings of Foucault and to answer lingering questions about his transition from archaeology to genealogy and the role of modernism in his thought. Finally, the monograph provides a philosophical treatment of genealogy and its limits with implications for future research.

Stay tuned for more.

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