Rethinking Revolution as Genealogical Practice

Rethinking Revolution through Genealogical Practice

Since I am currently ensconced in an entirely different writing project at the moment, this project summary will be a bit programmatic. Specifically, the concrete details of what a genealogical reading of the Algerian revolution might facilitate will be conspicuously lacking, given that I have yet to revisit Fanon’s text in such a way. Nonetheless, I hope it will give you all a sense of the particular moves I want to make in this paper.

In Nietzsche, Genealogy, History, Michel Foucault offers a telling methodological formulation: “Genealogy does not oppose itself to history as the lofty and profound gaze of the philosopher might compare to the molelike perspective of the scholar; on the contrary, it rejects the meta-historical deployment of ideal significations and indefinite teleologies. It opposes itself to the search for ‘origins’.” (pg 140). Genealogical practice thus entails a radical transformation of the both the material of conventional history and the very conceptual framework through which its respective categories and objects are rendered intelligible. This reconfiguration implies a temporal structure which reworks the dimension of the past in order to open the present up to new and unforeseen vectors of the future. It will be my intention to propose genealogy as a schema through which a rethinking of the historiography of revolution and revolutionary practice itself might get off the ground. I will thus carefully thresh out the methodological contours of genealogy in order to demonstrate how it might supply a means of historical framing that overcomes the ‘catastrophic’ or ‘conservative’ concept of revolution, and moreover, offers a vision of revolutionary change that is at once micropolitical, material, and multi-agential.

                I will then turn to the work of Frantz Fanon and his specific socio-historical conjuncture with aim of reexamining his revolutionary situation through the lens of genealogy. I will contend that the Négritude movement inaugurated by Aimé Césaire and others (from which Fanon drew considerable influence as revolutionary practitioner) is better understood as a reaffirmation of certain concealed historical elements, namely the black African component of the Martiniquais subjectivity. Fanon’s concern for trauma that colonial imposition produces on body of the colonized as well as his pan-Africanism will also attain a more nuanced articulation via the framework of genealogy. Finally, I will attempt to gesture toward how genealogy as revolutionary practice might be deployed in our current historical situation from out of a reflection on Fanon’s writings.


Friedrich Nietzsche. The Genealogy of Morality

Michel Foucault. Language, Counter-Memory and Practice.

Michel Foucault. Discipline and Punish.

Aimé Césaire. Discourse on Colonialism

Frantz Fanon. The Wretched of the Earth

Frantz Fanon. A Dying Colonialism

Frantz Fanon. Toward an African Revolution

David Graeber. Revolutions in Reverse


About Jared Bly

Radical materialism in the present.
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One Response to Rethinking Revolution as Genealogical Practice

  1. grockhil says:

    This is a very rich topic. For purposes of space, it might make sense to concentrate either on Fanon or Césaire. Based on what you have said here, it strikes me that the latter has a lot to say about the role of counter-histories in the formation of alternative socio-political and cultural identities. This could overlap in interesting ways with Foucault, although the latter tends to leave his reader situated in a much more individualistic vantage point.
    Concerning the bibliography, there are of course numerous essays and interviews around the mid-1970s in which Foucault develops his conception of genealogy.
    Finally, I think that it would be interesting to figure out if there was any direct influence between Fanon/Césaire and Foucault. If not, how can we make sense of an apparent methodological proximity?

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