Counter Memory displaces contrived discourses that construct official history
( Benjamin, November 2, Professor at James Madison unversity, Techniques of Forgetting? Hypo-Amnesic History and the An-Archive, http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/sub/summary/v036/36.2hutchens.html, , June 25, S.M)
Now, counter-memory can arise at this nexus whenever a forgotten memory becomes remembered in direct opposition to the normative and canonical (“official”) tradition in which it was forgotten. In other words, counter-memory is anti-archival in the sense that it seeks to remember what has been consigned there (or deemed unworthy of consignation); but it also composes a counter-archive which, in opposing the “official” tradition, constitutes an alternative thread of discursive connectivity. Counter-memory displaces the contrived commensuration of the discourse(s) that interpret the archive. It devises alternative protocols for remembering memory, as well as thematic frameworks that can preserve memories that have been excluded from the canon. A counter-memory has an intertextuality (and orality) and a material (or thematic) basis all its own. Thus its material trajectory is defined in terms of the precise co-ordinates of a given mneme to its textual/oral predecessors and to the common theme shared by all counter-memories opposed to the official tradition. Each “token” mneme relates differently to its “typal” tradition and to its theme from the way others do. Often, Assmann argues, a counter-memory remembers precisely what is encrypted in the official history, and indeed, it can strive to establish dialogue with it by disclosing this encryption, especially under conditions of (political) crisis. Counter-memory allows us to shatter the mold of national identity Clifford 01[Michael, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Mississippi State University, Political Genealogy After Foucault: Savage Identities, p. 142]
Foucault’s reflections on counter-memory show that freedom is not so much an issue of power (as it is conventionally understood in traditional political philosophy), as it is of identity. Rousseau and Nozick are attempting to elaborate views of political freedom that would liberate the political subject from any arbitrary and excessive exercise of power; but in actuality, they are articulating forms of political identity: the citizen and the autonomous individual, respectively. Both of these identities are best understood in terms of subjectival constraints and determinations through which otherwise meaningless bodies are bound to, and identified in terms of, a set of political (i.e., power) relations. As I argued earlier, both positive and negative freedom are subsumed—in a sense, conscripted—by the disciplinary agendas of a governmental rationality. Moreover, this subsumption is so subtle, so thorough, so efficient that those who are subjugated are not even aware of it. In fact, the success of this disciplinary-identificational machinary is such that those subjected to it assume they are free (in the ideological senses elaborated by Rousseau and Nozick). In this sense, identity is an instrument of power. That is, it is through identity that power is channeled and manifested as this or that political personage: sovereign/subject, master/slave, capitalist/proletarian, liberal/conservative, noble savage/ savage noble, and so on.Counter-memory allows us to break through, to fracture these identificational determinations and to permit a possible transformation by attending to the power relations through which such identities are both constructed and sustained. Counter-memory opens up space for resistance Against the hegemony of dominant narratives of national identity.
[Michael, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Mississippi State University, Political Genealogy After Foucault: Savage Identities, p. 12-13]
In part 2 of this book, “Against Identity,” I show how these three movements of Foucault’s thought belong together and how, as such, this forces us to rethink the problems of power, political freedom, and the tasks of political philosophy. Specifically, I discuss the axial interplay of discourse, power relations, and modes of self-formation, this time with an emphasis on their interplay and complicity. My aim is to demonstrate how the political subject is fabricated within a complex “matrix of experience” structured and defined by this axial interplay. This matrix houses the “political technology” through which individuals are “constructed.”At the heart of this matrix is the concept of conduire, or conduct, which weaves together the multifarious modes of self-government—understood in a very literal sense, as referring to a form of “self” attenuation and effectuation—with the rationality and instrumentality of governmentality, in such a manner as to constitute the form of selfhood animating modern political identity. The problem of freedom is perhaps the most important issue in any philosophical consideration of political subjectivity. In contrast to the juridical, rights-based conceptions of freedom peculiar to the liberal tradition, Foucault offers us an understanding of freedom that is quite different, an understanding that is in part effected by rethinking, through genealogy, the formation of political subjectivity. Genealogy can be understood as the “discipline” that exposes the entrenched forms of valuation and structuralized practices that determine what we are. In so doing, genealogy creates distance—that is, spaces of freedom—from those forms. In this sense, Foucault’s own work is, potentially at least, a vehicle of such freedom. That is, there is a liberational aspect to Foucault’s work which consists in “delimiting,” or transgressing, the historically contingent limitations imposed upon us by the interplay of discursive practices, power relations, and modes of subjectivation. I shall want to show that this liberational aspect lies in what Foucault has called “counter-memory.” Freedom through counter-memory presents itself as a strategic option to the ideological and philosophically suspect notions of positive and negative freedom offered to us from the liberal tradition. I have already mentioned how the notion of savage nobility, or free individuality, represents a reversal of the terms immortalized by Rousseau. In a very important sense this whole project represents yet a second reversal of Rousseau, that pertaining to the difference between a hypothetical political history such as Rousseau’s and genealogy as it is understood by Foucault. This is in part accounted for by the difference between Ursprung, or “origin,” and Entstehung, or “emergence,” as Friedrich Nietzsche understood and employed the terms.32 Rousseau’s history, like Hobbes’s, is meant to have the juridical function of justifying a certain kind of political relation between subjects and sovereign power. To accomplish this, Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origin of Inequality adopts the approach of what Nietzsche calls a “Monumental” history: the project of such a history is to convince us “that the great which once existed was at least possible once and may well again be possible sometime,” if only we learn to recover and venerate that which is “exemplary and worthy of imitation” from the past.33 The Ursprung that Rousseau would like to recover is the condition of “original man,” the noble savage.34 Not that Rousseau would have us abolish society and “retire to the woods,” but it is by recovering their lost historical origins that so-called civilized men will learn again to “respect the sacred bonds of those societies to which they belong; they will love their fellows, and will serve them to the utmost of their power.”35 Genealogy, on the other hand, appeals to a notion of origin—Entstehung— that subverts the very ground upon which a monumental project such as Rousseau’s would stand. This is what Foucault refers to as the “parodic” use of genealogy, whereby the “alternate identities” that the monumental historian would like to recover for us are exposed as “ephemeral props that point to our own unreality.”36
Counter-memory is a vital strategy to break the dominance of current identities
[Michael, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Mississippi State University, Political Genealogy After Foucault: Savage Identities, p. 133]
Following Foucault, the guiding methodological question of this study is not, “What is the political subject?” but rather, “How are political subjects formed?” The first question is metaphysical; that is, it inquires into the essence of political subjectivity. The second question, on the other hand, is genealogical; it inquires into the contingent historical, discursive and nondiscursive conditions of the emergence of political subjects. Genealogical critique, in fact, challenges the metaphysics of essence, which posits a substantive, given subject. As Foucault explains, “One has to dispense with the constituent subject, to get rid of the subject itself, that is to say, to arrive at an analysis which can account for the constitution of the subject within a historical framework. And this is what I call genealogy.”17 Genealogical critique is not only “different” from metaphysical inquiries, it puts into play a difference (a suppressed event, a marginalized practice, a forgotten desire) that undermines the necessity of certain metaphysical postulates such as those supporting traditional understandings of the human subject. In other words, genealogy “disturbs what was previously considered immobile; it fragments what was thought unified; it shows the heterogeneity of what was imagined consistent with itself.”18 For centuries we have been enamored of the idea of a human subject as a self-identical being animated by spirit, consciousness, or will. This notion of a self-identical subject has been imported into the discourses of traditional political philosophy, which take this subject for granted in its projects to define rights and freedoms or to lay down principles of political justice.
A genealogical critique of political identity allows for spaces of resistance that can return subjectivity to the individual and break down the myth of national identity.
[Michael, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Mississippi State University, Political Genealogy After Foucault: Savage Identities, p. 5-6]
This book conducts a genealogical critique of modern political identity. Methodologically, I rely on the work of Michel Foucault to trace out the transmutation of Rousseau’s Noble Savage into what I have called the Savage Noble. Specifically, I wish to reveal the mechanisms through which this form of political identity has been both constituted and subjugated. It is important to note, however, that for the purposes of my project the term savage noble is largely a trope for a form of political subjectivity—namely, autonomous individualism—that informs the texts of traditional political philosophy and animates modern politics. It is this form of political subjectivity, and the specific types of political identity to which it gives rise (and not so much the popular figures of the American mythos) that will be my primary objectof concern. By individual I mean the traditional notion of the political subject as “a titular control of personal rights subjected to the laws of nature and society.”14 Individuality is without doubt the principle and privileged register of political subjectivity in modern political philosophy, and of our own self-conception as political subjects.15 However, this juridical, rights based notion of the political subject is a relatively recent development. It can be traced back to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and it is only since the nineteenth century that “individualism” has been separated from the problem of absolute monarchy and conceived as a political philosophy on its own terms.16 Since that time the notion of the individual has become so entrenched in our culture that it is seldom even put into question. Of course, it goes without saying that the individual has received a great deal of attention in traditional political discourse, but it is usually in terms of a juridical project to define the rights, freedoms, power, and obligations of the political subject. In this study, by contrast, I will suspend the “givenness” of the individual, in order to see what happens to the necessity of such juridical projects. I want to show how this individual is not merely a symbolic representation of political subjectivity, but a fabrication by an anonymous technology that turns individuality into an instrument of domination and subjection. Why undertake such a study?A genealogical critique of our history as political subjects cannot only help us to better understand the origins and character of our present political identities, but in so doing may cause us to reevaluate the way we presently understand the tasks of political philosophy. In particular, genealogical critique forces us to rethink the notions of political freedom and political power, and to examine the source and necessity of our ideological oppositions, which is the source of so much political conflict. This examination roots out the common genealogical origins of our various political positions, challenges the necessity of their oppositional character, and points toward the possibility of forms of political identity that might avoid (or at least alter in a way less polarizing and hence paralyzing) the fractious and agonistic structure peculiar to modern politics—not in the name of some utopian political brotherhood or sisterhood, but through artful experimentations with identity itself.