Archaeology as Method

For these purposes, the intellectual will deploy an archaeological method of historical inquiry, whose concrete method we shall not describe here, opting instead to say something about the “domain of empiricity” peculiar to an archaeology of the present. More specifically, this involves identifying the immediate object of the method, its subject matter (materiau) and the way that archival work (in the historians’ sense of the word) organizes access to the archive in Foucault’s sense—that is, to a system of rules authorizing the emergence of one statement (enonce) rather than another in a given period.

Construed as a form of discourse analysis centered on concepts,8 archaeology “finds the point of balance of its analysis in savoir.”9 In 1976,

Foucault presented it as “the method specific to the analysis of local discursivities,”10 in the service of genealogy understood as a tactic for the dis-subjection of local knowledges. Let us recall here that discourse is to be understood in contradistinction to language, and savoir in contradistinction to connaissance (particularly scientific). By contrast with the latter, a subject/agent is never the “bearer” of savoir in Foucault’s work, any more than discourse refers to a speaking subject. Savoir cannot be said to be “true or false, exact or inexact, approximate or definite, contradictory or consistent.”11 There is nothing subjective about discourse(s) and savoir(s). On the contrary, they are what installs the subject in a kind of subjectivity peculiar to the occasion of the process of appropriation of savoir (savoir being appropriable), which is also the process of knowledge whose object is the concepts around which this savoir is articulated. For Foucault, concepts, savoir and discourse are inseparable.

The concepts I attended to in my own research are not scientific or philosophical, but those that might be called “general.” In a given domain of practices (here security in relation to violence), they organize an era’s technical savoir on which the technico-practical knowledge is built and then deployed in all the different types of security savoir faire (especially the police, military and intelligence savoir faire. We shall find these concepts in what is sometimes called “grey literature,” mainly written output composed of institutional reports, guidelines or “guides to best practices,” doctrine documents, armed forces field manuals, administrative glossaries and other dictionaries, where this knowledge (savoir) is recorded. This material must be systematically collected so as to reconstruct the fullest possible series for each type of document, and thereby identify chronological continuities that will facilitate the study of concepts and their variations over time. This method, a serial one, should make it possible to reconstruct the textual network that forms the base of the archive peculiar to a domain of practices, which a specifically archaeological inquiry will then fix on to identify the forms of rationality that organize and govern ways of doing and acting.

In this chapter, an attempt will therefore be made to locate and describe the emergence of new concepts and the mutation of the conceptual network it potentially prompts, and then to see if and how these new concepts are bound up with the formation of a new savoir and, where necessary, describe the way that the latter is connected with established savoirs. This is what I have been endeavoring to do since undertaking an archaeology of the savoirs of security and the concept of terrorism.

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