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French historian Michel Foucault uses this term to describe his research methodology. It is characterized by the suspension of all established conventions for thinking and doing history and the supposition that those very conventions for thinking and doing history should themselves be subjected to historical inquiry. Outlined in extensive detail in L'Archéologie du savoir (1969), translated as The Archaeology of Knowledge (1972), archaeology takes shape as a series of injunctions against the perceived unities of author, discipline, genre, and a corresponding call to recognize the significance of dispersion, recurrence, and transformation. Foucault wanted to shift the objective of history away from what has been said and done to the set of conditions (which he referred to as the discursive formation) enabling those things to be said and done. For example, for Foucault what is important is not the fact that the mentally ill are locked up, but the diverse ways by which the very classification ‘mentally ill’ came into being in such a way as to render ‘normal’ the incarceration of those people so classified.

Further Reading:

J. Bernauer Michel Foucault's Force of Flight (1990).C. O'Farrell Michel Foucault (2005).

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies.

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