Applying Statement Archaeology


The book so far has introduced the reader to the principles of Statement Archaeology (Chapter 1) and guided them through the worked examples (Chapters 2-5) to demonstrate in detail how the method is used. The findings from these examples have been brought together as a model showing how the deployment of Statement Archaeology in relation to a series of statements can be used to develop both a broader historical narrative and new theories and conceptual frameworks of education policy development (Chapter 6).

This final chapter takes a step back from the detailed processes of Statement Archaeology and provides an opportunity to reflect on some of the practical and theoretical issues relating to the approach in use. It responds particularly to a number of questions that have been asked about the method during its development, and pre-empts some practical questions that might have occurred to the reader as they have progressed through the worked examples. Based on these responses, and drawing on the exemplifications earlier in the book, the chapter offers further guidance regarding the use of the method, confirming the utility of Statement Archaeology as a method for exploring how certain practices become possible. Consideration is given to how digital technologies, particularly techniques such as data mining, could be combined with Statement Archaeology, and prompts for reflection are offered that will help the reader think about how to translate the method to their own areas of research.

Revisiting the theoretical underpinnings of Statement Archaeology

The development of Statement Archaeology, particularly the presentation of the method to others, has given rise to some important theoretical questions. Here, I will set out three of the most frequently asked questions, and rehearse some considered responses. We will look in turn at the questions ‘Why Statement Archaeology and not Statement Genealogy!'; ‘Why focus so much on discontinuities?’; ‘Why not use another method of Critical Discourse Analysis?’

Why Statement Archaeology and not Statement Genealogy?’

Foucault refers to both Archaeology and Genealogy in his work. This is not much disputed by commentators, but the meanings of—and the relationship between—these two terms is. A number of authors treat these as if they are two separate and unconnected methods, with some commentators constructing the latter as an improved—more developed—version of the former that somehow supersedes and consequently replaces it.1 Whilst it is arguable that one is successor to the other in temporal terms, Foucault appears to consider genealogy to be a way in which his archaeological method is put to work; genealogy is—he says—‘the strategic development of archaeological research’.2

The key difference between the two approaches is centred on the contrast between archaeology’s emphasis on the historic snapshot, or ‘slice through the discursive nexus’, and genealogy’s emphasis on the ‘processural aspects of the web of discourse’.3 A useful analogy that has been proposed to explain this distinction is the comparison between photographs and stop-frame animation; photographs capture a moment, but when a scries of photographs, each capturing a separate moment, are shown in succession, a moving image is perceived. So, when insights from a series of archaeological explorations (or slices) are synthesized, a genealogy is produced. Whilst this illustration does not adequately exemplify all of the interactions within webs of discourse that are at the heart of the narratives that Statement Archaeology can generate, it is useful in showing the relationship between the two notions. In short, Statement Archaeology is the forensic, rigorous tracing of statement’s circumstances of production, criteria of formation, transformation, and correlation; what is discovered as a result can be shaped into a policy genealogy. Thus, in this volume, Chapters 2-5 are examples of Statement Archaeology in practice, each of which yields an archaeological slice, whilst Chapter 6, in bringing these slices together, acts as an example of Genealogy.

Why focus so much on the search for discontinuities?

The introduction to Statement Archaeology set out in Chapter 1 accentuates the importance of the notion of ‘discontinuity’ in Foucault’s approach, yet the question is still asked—why focus so much on that? The emphasis on discontinuity is, to some extent, rooted in Foucault’s challenge to what he describes as the ‘existing’ ways of writing history, which tend to presume that certain groupings and conceptualizations (including the concept of‘human nature’) remain constant throughout history—that is, there is an emphasis on continuity. Within such approaches, discontinuities are habitually overlooked or attempts arc made to ‘explain them away’.4 Further, much historical analysis of this style has been traditionally based on the foregrounding of the ‘event’.5 Of course, events can be considered as embodied discontinuities; an event has a ‘beginning and end, both of which can be constructed as moments of discontinuity’.6 But Foucault’s notion of discontinuity is more

Applying Statement Archaeology 157 nuanced. It is not only ‘significant’ events such as ‘battles, dynasties and governments’ that are moments of discontinuity; according to Foucault, ‘change and discontinuity exist at every level’.7

In Foucault’s work, through foregrounding moments of discontinuity, the historiography moves away from reconstruction and towards representation, facilitating the move away from a period-based comprehension of history towards a problem-based approach. In particular, the period-based approach that Foucault critiques fails to allow (he claims) for the full description of dissimilarities and discontinuities; in fact many of the ‘discontinuities’ that arc so central to Foucault’s approach ‘disappear into the gaps’ when a period-based approach is taken.8 This impedes the identification of points at which discourses are reconfigured, something that often happens during transitions. Thus, being attentive to the moments of discontinuity facilitates the exposure of such reconfigurings and, in turn, exposes both changes in constraints on thinking and potential relative beginnings.9

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