Foucault’s Archive

For F, all utterances happen within a system of what can and cannot be said: the archive is what differentially organizes these utterances within a constituting system, which, at the same time, is constituted by the utterances as they get categorized—archived—as unique events or statements (rather than… rather than not?).

The archive doesn’t safekeep, it defines; it doesn’t preserve a set of “statement-events,” it defines their “systems of enunciability” and it defines the system of its functioning (the mode in which they occur—“occur” because things said and unsaid = events).

In the first and last instance, the archive is the law of what can and cannot be said, a system whose function is to give statements the appearance of a unique event, or not.

I derive from this that there’s an inherent and central element of dynamism in F’s archive, a present-continuous ethos that never stops unfolding, that we continue to be defined by and define as we engage with the historical present.

Diana Taylor’s Repertoire

For this reason it seems to me that F’s archive is closer to Diana Taylor’s repertoire than Taylor’s own definition of archive (which she ultimate finds limiting): for Taylor, the archive inevitably separates the knower subject from the known object, and does in fact act as a keeper of knowledge, turning it into something static and separate from the lives that constitute and are represented in and silenced because of it. As a static thing, the archive has been regarded as a hermetically sealed chamber of knowledge, separating and separated from the world, existing even apart from the “archival impetus” (the set of epistemological assumptions that activate the archival process) (19).

Her use of the repertoire comes as a response to the limits of archival processes, not necessarily as a substitution. To pay attention to the repertoire means “to shift the focus” of our analysis toward the live and develop strategies of information gathering that attend to the live; to alter “structures of legitimation” of knowledge and meaning, and above all to rethink analytical methods (27).

While the archive separates and compartmentalizes, the repertoire exists only insofar as knowing and knower are present for each other—it is irreducibly relational in that way (19-20).

Yet archive and repertoire are not mutually exclusive. No easy binary. They constantly interact and enable historical processes to be analyzed under differing epistemological rubrics. But neither can we hold these analytical and qualitative differences with equal regard: analytical and epistemological genealogies must also be historicized, so we know what tools we’re working with, what epistemes we’re valorizing, what claims about meaning we are making, and what all those assertions leave out and silence on the way.

What does the repertoire enable, then? It makes visible alternative epistemologies. It allows us to move past the belief that meaning making is exclusive to what can be recorded textually and archived.

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