On 7th May 1981 André Berten, a lecturer at the University of Louvain, engaged a visiting professor, Michel Foucault in dialogue over his research method, genealogy. This dialogue provided Foucault with the opportunity to explain his approach when he analysed collections of texts, a process he called in their discussion, « la généalogie des problèmes ».
In this process, the researcher must be sensitive to the moment in human practices when in some way the evidence is blurred. For Foucault, he saw this in the archive material he studied. In everyday speech, you could say that evening fell, which left the people no longer able to see why they were continuing with an old tradition. New light was needed, explained Foucault, to show what had happened as traditions took hold. His work was to show the fragmented ground upon which tradition was standing, so that the decisions we take today and what we decide to do next are free from the problems inherited from the past.
I wanted to mark this day, 6th April 2021, because Clarisse and I started a new research project this morning on tourism and travel writing in Tangier. An initial aimed emerged, to see if Foucault’s genealogy was a productive method for reading our own journaling entries and the texts we collected from blogs and books. Could it be a reliable method? Can we find moments of blurring and from them detect places of emergence? It is writing history to see the genealogy of today’s practices. Genealogy as a method disturbed the foundations of traditional history 40 years ago. In our study of cities and destinations it will disturb the ground to uncover what problems are hidden in the texts that describe these places.
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