Genealogy as a research tool in International Relations
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 September 2010
This article considers the status of genealogy among research methods currently taught, learned and used in International Relations (IR). The article makes two claims. The first is that genealogy is a unique research tool, but not radically different from the rest of the qualitative-interpretative arsenal more commonly found in the discipline. The second is that genealogy can be used in the pursuit of epistemologically varied truth-claims, including those regarding causal connections.
- Research Article
- Copyright © British International Studies Association 2010
2 For a notable exception, see, Klotz, Audie and Lynch, Cecelia, Strategies for Research in Constructivist International Relations (Amronk, New York: M. E. Sharpe, 2007), pp. 30–35Google Scholar .
3 In my sample of sixty two recent ‘research methods’ course syllabi written by IR instructors for their graduate students only two devoted any portion of the course to genealogy as a research method. Sampling was not scientific: I accessed and collected them in order in which they were listed by an online search engine. All contained the English word ‘methods’ and were authored by self-identified IR scholars in the period between 2000 and 2007. My review of the programmes of the last four annual conventions (2003–2007) of American Political Science Association, International Studies Association, British International Studies Association and European Consortium on Political Research found no panels dedicated to genealogy. IR scholars were much more likely to discuss genealogy at more specialised and multidisciplinary conventions, such as those organised by groups such as the History of Political and Social Concepts Groups or the History of the Present.
4 The appellation comes from Vincent Descombes, cited in Flyvbjerg, Bent, Making Social Science Matter: Why Social Inquiry Fails and How It Can Succeed Again (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 98Google Scholar . On the many Foucaults (including the dominant Foucaults in the US-centric disciplines), see, Cusset, François, French Theory: Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze & Cie et les mutations de la vie intellectuelle aux Etats-Unis (Paris: Éditions La Découverte, 2003)Google Scholar ; Paras, Eric, Foucault 2.0: Beyond Power and Knowledge (New York: Other Press, 2006)Google Scholar , and Veyne, Paul, ‘The Final Foucault and His Ethics’, Catherine Porter, trans and Davidson, Arnold I., Critical Inquiry, 20:1 (1993), pp. 1–9Google Scholar .
5 As practiced in IR, critical realism believes that unobservable phenomena are in principle subject to reliable knowledge. For ontological discussions relevant to my argument, see, especially, Wight, Colin, Agents, Structures and International Relations: Politics as Ontology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006)Google Scholar ; Gutting, Gary, Foucault: a Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005)Google Scholar , Joseph, Jonathan, ‘Foucault and Reality’, Capital & Class, 82:2 (2004), pp. 141–163Google Scholar , and Patomäki, Heikki, After International Relations: Critical realism and the (Re) construction of World Politics (London: Routledge, 2002)Google Scholar . To appreciate the variable status of reality, materiality as well as causation in the readings of Foucault, compare and contrast the following passages: Alcoff, Linda, ‘Foucault's Philosophy of Science: Structures of Truth/Structures of Power’, in Gutting, Gary (ed.), Continental Philosophy of Science (Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub., 2005), pp. 215–216Google Scholar ; Danaher, Geoff, Schirato, Tony and Webb, Jennifer (eds), Understanding Foucault (London: Sage, 2000), pp. 57–58Google Scholar ; Diez, Thomas, ‘Speaking “Europe”: The Politics of Integration Discourse’, in Christiansen, Thomas, Erik Jørgensen, Knud, Wiener, Antje (eds), The Social Construction of Europe (London: SAGE, 2001), pp. 89–90Google Scholar ; Fairclough, Norman, Discourse and Social Change (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1992), pp. 60–66Google Scholar ; Flynn, Thomas, ‘The Philosopher-Historian as Cartographer: Mapping History with Michel Foucault’, Research in Phenomenology, 29:1 (1999), pp. 37–38Google Scholar ; Gutting, Gary, Foucault, pp. 40–41Google Scholar ; Prado, C. G., Starting with Foucault: An Introduction to Genealogy (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 2000), pp. 25–30, p. 109, fn. 98Google Scholar , and Kendall, Gavin and Wickham, Gary, Using Foucault's Methods (Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, 1999), pp. 39–46Google Scholar .
6 As Martin Saar observed, Foucault developed and used genealogy only in his middle period. Saar, , ‘Genealogy and Subjectivity’, European Journal of Philosophy, 10:2 (2002), p. 232Google Scholar . See, above all, Foucault, Michel, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sherdian (New York: Vintage, 1979)Google Scholar and Foucault, , The History of Sexuality, Vol. I and II. trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Vintage, 1990)Google Scholar . Among Foucauldian perspectives used in IR, governmentality is currently more popular than genealogy. For the reasons of space, I cannot discuss these other tools or how geneology relates to other Foucauldian concepts (for example, biopolitics, historical a prioris, state racism, etc.).
8 For the reasons of space, I cannot consider the status of these definitions in the philosophy of science. Anecdotally, they appear to resonate at the usual disciplinary/disciplined sites such as the Institute for Qualitative Research Methods or the European Consortium for Political Research Summer School in Methods and Techniques. For claims of unity/difference between qualitative and interpretative methods in the social sciences, see the contributions in Yanow, Dvora and Schwartz-Shea, Peregrine (eds), Interpretation and Method: Empirical Research Methods and the Interpretive Turn (Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe, 2006)Google Scholar .
9 See, respectively, Shiner, Larry, ‘Reading Foucault: Anti-Method and the Genealogy of Power-Knowledge’, History and Theory, 21:3 (1982), p. 397Google Scholar ; Megill, Allan, Prophets of Extremity: Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault, Derrida (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), chap. 5Google Scholar , and Allen, Barry, Truth in Philosophy (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press), 1993, chap. 8Google Scholar .
10 Citations in O'Farrell, Claire, Michel Foucault (London: Sage, 2005), p. 52Google Scholar and Shiner, , ‘Reading Foucault’, p. 396Google Scholar . Some of his students also added, with various degrees of approval, the following descriptions: ‘non-general method’, ‘ad hoc method’, ‘un-method’, ‘non-method’, ‘anti-method’. See, inter alia, Brass, Paul, ‘Foucault Steals Political Science’, Annual Review of Political Science, 3 (2000), pp. 305–330Google Scholar ; Dreyfus, Hubert L. and Rabinow, Paul, Michel Foucault, Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics, with an Afterword by and an Interview with Michel Foucault (Chicago: University of Chicago Press), 1983Google Scholar ; Shiner, ‘Reading Foucault’, Megill, Prophets, and Roth, Michael S., ‘Foucault's “History of the Present”’, History and Theory, 20:1 (1981), pp. 32–46Google Scholar .
12 But these lessons are subject to wide interpretations. On the status of the ‘why resist?’ question and Foucault, see, inter alia, Bernstein, Richard, The New Constellation (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1994), chap. 5Google Scholar ; Deleuze, Gilles, Foucault trans. and edited by Hand, Seán (London: Athlone, 1988)Google Scholar ; Mills, Sara, Discourse (London: Routledge, 2004), chaps 4–5Google Scholar ; O'Leary, Timothy, Foucault and the Art of Ethics (London: Continuum, 2006)Google Scholar ; Paras, Foucault 2.0; Saar, , ‘Genealogy and Subjectivity’, pp. 234–237Google Scholar ; Veyne, , ‘The Final Foucault’, and Wood, David, The Step Back: Ethics and Politics after Deconstruction (Albany: SUNY Press, 2005)Google Scholar .
13 Alcoff, Linda, ‘Foucault as Epistemologist’, The Philosophical Forum, 25:2 (1993), pp. 95–124Google Scholar .
14 Fernández-Armesto, Felipe, Truth: A History and a Guide for the Perplexed (New York: Dunne Books/St Martin Press, 1999)Google Scholar .
15 Foucault, , The Archaeology of Knowledge and the Discourse on Language, trans. Sheridan, A. M. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1972), p. 234Google Scholar . For the standard interpretative squabbles over Focault's alleged positivism, compare, inter alia, Dreyfus and Rabinow, Michel Foucault, p. 105; Catherine Elgin, ‘Epistemology's End’, in Martin Alcoff, Linda (ed.), Epistemology: The Big Questions (London: Blackwell, 1998), pp. 26–40Google Scholar ; Gutting, Gary ‘Foucault and the History of Madness’, in Gutting, Gary (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Foucault (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 64–69Google Scholar ; Mirchandani, Rekha, ‘Postmodernism and Sociology: from the Epistemological to the Empirical’, Sociological Theory, 23 (2005), pp. 91–92, 109–110Google Scholar ; Saar, , ‘Genealogy and Subjectivity’, p. 233Google Scholar , and Williams, Bernard, Truth & Truthfulness: an Essay in Genealogy (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2002), pp. 64–65Google Scholar .
17 There are multiple citations, with slightly varying translations. Gutting, , Foucault pp. 112–113Google Scholar . Less famous is Foucault's description of his books as ‘surgeon's knives, Molotov cocktails or, galleries in a mine […] to be carbonized after use.’ Quoted in Steven V. Hicks, ‘Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Foucault: Nihilism and Beyond’, in Milchman, Alan and Rosenberg, Alan (eds), Foucault and Heidegger: Critical Encounters (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), p. 102Google Scholar . Referencing Foucault ‘properly’ is becoming an exercise in scholasticism and will not be pursued in this article.
18 On the evolution of this concept, see Torfing, Jacob, ‘Discourse Theory: Achievements, Arguments and Challenges’, in Howarth, David and Torfing, Jacob (eds), Discourse Theory in European Politics: Identity, Policy and Governance (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2005), pp. 5–9, 24Google Scholar .
19 Foucault never fully developed a theory of politics, but thanks to his insights, we can now better understand why the Haitian revolution, the successful black slave rebellion in Saint-Domingue, was unthinkable in Europe in its time or why systematic studies of UFOs do not exist. See, respectively, Trouillot, Michel-Rolph, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995)Google Scholar , and Wendt, Alexander and Duvall, Raymond, ‘Sovereignty and the UFO’, Political Theory, 36:4 (2008), pp. 607–633Google Scholar .
20 What constitutes a non-discursive context is a much-debated question among Foucault's acolytes. For critical realists, reality is socially constructed in the sense that people construct their interpretations of the non-discursive real. See, especially, Joseph, , ‘Foucault and Reality’, and Joseph, Jonathan and Michael Roberts, John, ‘Introduction’, in Michael Roberts, John and Joseph, Jonathan (eds), Realism, Discourse and Deconstruction (London: Routledge, 2004), pp. 1–19Google Scholar .
22 In general, far more intellectually defensible is the rejection of casing when the latter is put forward as the statistical method writ small, a qualitative method without qualitative methodology, so to speak.
23 See the discussion in Jacob Torfing, ‘Discourse Theory’ and Flyvbjerg, Making Social Science Matter, chap. 6; Also see Bartleson, Jens, A Genealogy of Sovereignty (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 8, 76Google Scholar , and Hansen, Lene, Security as Practice: Discourse Analysis and the Bosnian War (London: Routledge, 2006), chap. 6Google Scholar .
25 Contrary to the conventional wisdom, effective history is not the same as Wirkungsgeschichte, as in Gadamer's (and so perhaps Heidegger's) hermeneutics, but from Nietzsche's (and so perhaps Rousseau's) wirkliche Historie (real or true history); here, Machiavelli's verita effettuale (effective truth) is a possible predecessor as well. Flyvbjerg, , Making Social Science Matter, p. 114)Google Scholar . Also misleading are claims of identity between genealogy and Begriffsgeschichte of Reinhart Koselleck and others and/or Cambridge contextualism of Quentin Skinner and others; neither one of these is identical with the ‘history of concepts’ that Foucault read under Georges Canguilhem. Gutting, , Foucault, pp. 8–10Google Scholar . Cf. Bevir, Mark, ‘Begriffsgeschichte’, History and Theory, 39:2 (2000), pp. 273–284Google Scholar . On historical knowledge before and after Foucault in the discipline of history, see, inter alia, Berkhofer, Robert, Beyond the Great Story: History as Text and Discourse (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1995)Google Scholar ; Fernández-Armesto, , Truth, ; and Clark, Elizabeth A., History, Theory, Text: Historians and the Linguistic Turn (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2004)Google Scholar .
26 This pre-theory of power – its ‘apparatus’, ‘dispositif’ – is what makes genealogy an ‘upgrade’ to archaeology, Foucault's earlier tool for historical-interpretative analysis. There is a debate to what extent Foucauldians should regard these two as different. Compare Dean, Mitchell, Critical and Effective Histories: Foucault's Methods and Historical Sociology (London: Routledge, 1994), pp. 32–34Google Scholar ; Dreyfus, and Rabinow, , Michel Foucault, p. 104Google Scholar ; Gutting, , Foucault, pp. 45–46Google Scholar ; Couzens Hoy, David, Foucault: a Critical Reader (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986), pp. 6–7Google Scholar ; O'Farrell, , Micheal Foucault, p. 129Google Scholar ; Paras, , Foucault 2.0, pp. 68–69Google Scholar .
27 See the discussions in Bernstein, Richard, ‘Foucault: Critique as a Philosophic Ethos’, in Kelly, Michael (ed.), Critique and Power: Recasting the Foucault/Habermas Debate (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1994), pp. 222–225Google Scholar ; Kendall, and Wickham, , Using Foucault's Methods, p. 4Google Scholar ; Flynn, , ‘The Philosopher-Historian’, p. 42Google Scholar ; and Roth, , ‘Foucault's “History of the Present”’, p. 43Google Scholar .
30 Foucault still concluded that ancient Greeks were less libertarian in their sexual practices than late moderns. Foucault, , Archealogy, Vol. II, p. 39Google Scholar . Foucault's analyses were also effective because they shifted the study of the human body in history, but, once again, that is another story.
31 See, Foucault, Michel, ‘Nietzsche, Genealogy, History’, in Rabinow, Paul (ed.), The Foucault Reader (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984), pp. 81–83Google Scholar . Cf. Saar, , ‘Genealogy and Subjectivity’, and Sluga, Hans, ‘Foucault's Encounter with Heidegger and Nietzsche’, in Gutting, Gary (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Foucault (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 210–239Google Scholar . In the liberal Kantian tradition, contingency can be understood as subject-centred agency – the capacity of a human actor to make judgments and decisions despite structural conditions (whereby agency is proportional to contingency). On Kant's conceptions of causation, see Watkins, Eric, Kant and the Metaphysics of Causality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005)Google Scholar .
32 For major controversies and issues, see Tetlock, Philip and Ned Lebow, Richard, ‘Poking Counterfactual Holes in Covering Laws: Cognitive Styles and Historical Reasoning’, American Political Science Review, 95:4 (2001), pp. 829–843Google Scholar .
36 See Hay, Colin, ‘Constructivist Institutionalism’, in Rhodes, R. A. W., Binder, Sarah and Rockman, Bert (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Political Institutions (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 56–75Google Scholar .
40 See, inter alia, Sterling-Folker, Jennifer, Making Sense of International Relations Theory (Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2006), pp. 172–175, 329–330Google Scholar , and Milliken, , ‘The Study of Discourse’, pp. 246–248)Google Scholar . Bartelson famously declared that his methodology must not be taken ‘too seriously’, but then he still went on at some length to discuss the rationale for selecting his episodes and generating his archive. Bartleson, , Genealogy, p 78 vs. pp. 7–11, 78–87Google Scholar .
41 Campbell, David, Writing Security: US Foreign Policy and the Politics of Identity (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998), pp. 14, 91, cf. p. 275, n. 5Google Scholar . Paradigmatic cases are unique for being chosen on intuition, as they are meant to set the selection standard, rather then being selected on a standard Flyvbjerg, , Making Social Science Matter, p. 80Google Scholar .
42 Price, Richard, The Chemical Weapons Taboo (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1997), p. 1Google Scholar .
44 Hansen commits an entire chapter, and then some, on methodological trade-offs in genealogical scholarship. Hansen, , Security as Practice, pp. 52–92, 217–220Google Scholar .
46 Foucault, , Archaeology, pp. 10–14Google Scholar . Cf. Kendall and Wickham, Michel Foucault, p. 5; Torfing, , ‘Discourse Theory’, p. 19Google Scholar ; Henrik Haahr, Jens and Walters, William, ‘Introduction’, in Haahr, and Walters, (eds), Governing Europe: Discourse, Governmentality and European Integration (London: Routledge, 2005), p. 17Google Scholar .
47 See, especially, Gary Gutting's interpretation of genealogy as a ‘historical causal explanation that is material, multiple, and corporeal’. Gutting, , Foucault, p. 47Google Scholar . While Foucault's conceptualisation of causation varied, he always clearly rejected monocausality (that is, direct correspondence between discourse and action) and idealism (that is, ‘collective unconscious') and there is an inconsistency in his claims that there is ‘nothing outside discourse’.
50 IR has long been overloaded with reflections on large and old philosophical debates on human experience, and the understanding-explanation debate goes back at least to Wilhelm Dilthey. For a widely-read statement, see Hollis, Martin and Smith, Steve, Explaining and Understanding International Relations (Oxford: Oxford Clarendon Press Paperbacks, 2004)Google Scholar .
52 Smith, Steve, ‘Wendt's World’, Review of International Studies, 26:1 (2000), pp. 151–163Google Scholar . By attempting to walk his via media, Wendt was also attacked by positivists who contend that constitution is already part of explanation, either as description or as a task of specifying antecedent conditions (permissive/deep causes) that permit a later outcome to occur (proximate/shallow causes). For the ongoing debate, see, inter alia, the contributions in Guzzini, Stefano and Leander, Anna (eds), Constructivism and International Relations: Alexander Wendt and His Critics (London: Routledge, 2006)Google Scholar ; Dessler, David and Owen, John, ‘Constructivism and the Problem of Explanation: A Review Article’, Perspectives on Politics, 3:3 (2006), pp. 1–15Google Scholar ; Jorge Rivas, ‘Realism is Not a Via Media between Positivism and Interpretivism: Assessing Wendt's Version of Scientific Realism’, Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ISA's 49th Annual Convention, San Francisco (2008). On file with the author.
53 See, inter alia, Fierke, Karin, ‘Critical Methodology and Constructivism’, in Fierke, Karin, Diplomatic Interventions: Conflict and Change in a Globalizing World (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), p. 12Google Scholar ; Campbell, , Writing Security, pp. 217–218Google Scholar ; Hansen, , Security, pp. 1, 10–11, 25–28Google Scholar .
54 Jackson, , Civilizing the Enemy, p. 41Google Scholar . Also see, Edward Keene, ‘Reconstructing the English School's Conceptual Vocabulary: An Ideal-Typical approach’, Paper presented at the Annual ISA Convention, Chicago (2007). On file with the author. For philosophical discussions of the ‘reasons as causes’ debate, see, especially, Asma, Stephen, ‘Darwin's Causal Pluralism’, Biology and Philosophy, 11:1 (1996), pp. 1–20Google Scholar ; Cartwright, Nancy, ‘Causation: One Word, Many Things’, Philosophy of Science, 71:5 (2004), pp. 805–851Google Scholar ; Little, Daniel, Varieties of Social Explanation: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Social Science (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1991)Google Scholar ; Roth, Paul, ‘Beyond Understanding: The Career of the Concept of Understanding in the Human Sciences’, in Turner, and Roth, (eds), The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of the Social Sciences (London: Blackwell Philosophy Guides, 2002), pp. 311–333Google Scholar ; Rorty, Richard, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1979)Google Scholar , and Stephen P. Turner and Paul A. Roh, ‘Ghosts and the Machine: Issues of Agency, Rationality, and Scientific Methodology in Contemporary Philosophy of Social Science’, in Turner, and Roth, (eds), The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of the Social Sciences (London: Blackwell Philosophy Guides, 2002), pp. 1–18Google Scholar .
55 From an epistemological standpoint, a claim that all meaning is unstable is indefensible: even the most anti-epistemological analysis must value some intellectually evaluative criteria – spelling and grammar in the exposition, consistency of the narrative and evidence.
60 Read, Rupert and Richman, Kenneth A. (eds), The New Hume Debate (London: Routledge, 2007)Google Scholar .
61 The terms come from Kurki, Milja, ‘Causes of a Divided Discipline: Rethinking the Concept of Cause in International Relations Theory’, Review of International Studies, 32:2 (2006), pp. 211–212Google Scholar . Here, anything that produces a certain reality is causation. For earlier calls to ‘broaden and deepen’ the conceptualisation of causation in IR, see Price, and Reus-Smit, , ‘Dangerous Liaisons?’, pp. 278–279, 282Google Scholar ; Patomäki, , After International Relations, pp. 76–82Google Scholar ; Wendt, , Social Theory, pp. 55–56, 84–87, 165–168Google Scholar , and Ibid., , ‘Why a World State is Inevitable: Teleology and the Logic of Anarchy’, European Journal of International Relations, 9:4 (2003), pp. 494–495Google Scholar .
63 X, Y, and Z are not to be confused a type of constitutive analysis that focuses on the inter-subjective context ‘C’. See, especially, Searle, John R., The Construction of Social Reality (New York, Free Press, 1995)Google Scholar . Here, an analysis of the relationship between discourse ‘X’ and outcome ‘Y’ leads to a conclusion that that X renders Y in C. For instance, a same-sex couple from Whitehorse was constituted as married (Y) by a decision of the Supreme Court (X) in Yukon Territory (C).
64 Stuart Hughes, H., ‘The Historian and the Social Scientist’, The American Historical Review, 66:1 (October 1960), p. 28Google Scholar .
68 Ibid., p. 340.
69 To the extent that IR, like Marxism, is ultimately interested in evaluating realities most conducive to emancipation (meaning the human subject's pursuit of goals in ways that do not stop other subjects from doing the same), then Foucauldian research tools must also be ready to engage questions such as ‘what is right, just or fair?’, ‘what is to be done?’ or ‘what could work?’