Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Schmidgen, Henning, et al. “From the Archive to the Computer: Michel Foucault and the Digital Humanities.” Journal of Cultural Analytics, vol. 7, no. 4, Mar. 2023, doi:10.22148/001c.55795.

Abstract
Michel Foucault famously introduced the method of “discourse analysis” in the humanities, especially in historiography. In his Archaeology of Knowledge, originally published in 1969, in particular, Foucault argues for making the history of knowledge the object of discourse analyses. In the context of the current surge of interest in discourse analysis in the field of computer science, however, there are hardly any references to Foucault, partly because he never defined a methodological process that could be operationalized. Nonetheless we argue for re-reading The Archaeology of Knowledge in the context of computer science and the digital humanities. As a matter of fact, there are considerable affinities between Foucault’s search for the regularities of discourse and current projects dealing with the digitization of texts, their indexing, distributional features, stylometry, etc. We show that these projects were already quite prominent in Foucault’s day, to the point that historian Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie could assert, in 1968, that “the future historian will be a programmer.” A year later, Foucault’s Archaeology of Knowledge actively responded and constructively took up the challenge – which, given the recent advances in machine learning and computational linguistics, strikes us as a crucial move today.

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