Foucault replies to questions from the audience at Berkeley's History Department in 1983*
Foucault is a historian first and foremost so we are glad to have him here. Regarding the shift in the methodological focus from the earlier archaeological perspective to what you describe since the 1970s in the essay you wrote on Nietzsche as a genealogical perspective: is this a radical break?
This is a good and hard question: I used these two words in very different meanings and in order to indicate two different sets of problems. I would say that when I used the word archeological research I want to differentiate what I am doing from both social history, since I don’t want to analyse society but facts of discourses and discourses, and I also wanted to disassociate this analysis of discourses from what could be philosophical hermeneutics, which is something like the interpretations of what has been said or for the deciphering of something which wouldn't have been said.
With the term archaeological research what I want to say is that what I am dealing with is a set of discourses, which has to be analysed as an event or as a set of events. Something has been said, such and such things have been said, and in a way it is in this kind of discoursive events that are like any other events, but they have special effects that are not similar to what can be economic events, law or demographical change. That is what I mean by archaeology: it is the methodological framework of my analysis.
Geneaology is both the reason and the target of the analysis of discourses as events, and what I try to show is how those discursive events have determined in a certain way what constitutes our present and what constitutes ourselves: our knowledge, our practices, our type of rationality, our relationship to ourselves and to the others. So geneaology is the aim of the analysis and the archaoleogy is the material and methodological framework...
*Transcribed by Arianna Bove from audiofiles that can be downloaded here: