Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Foucault on Index Cards

There is a remark by Foucault on index cards that escaped me, even though I came across it several times. The Atlantic article referred I called attention to in the last post reminded me. Apparently, Foucault "ironically" remarked that the “appearance of the index card and the constitution of the human sciences: another invention little celebrated by historians.” in Discipline and Punish. It is not much of a remark—more like a throwaway line. It's true but trite, even though this book review claims that Foucault's "ironic remark" has been moot by Markus Krajewski's on work on index cards.

In researching whether there was anything more substantial in Foucault's attention to index cards, I came across this passage in a book:
Foucault had [sic] often been accused by critics of being cavalier in his research. The French historian Jacques LĂ©onard asks in relation to Discipline and Punish for example: When a philosopher engages with historians, they wonder ... whether he is a sufficiently erudite scholar to dare to talk this way: does he have enough index cards, are they comprehensive, well-catalogued? Are his files as thick as our own?
The author obviously thinks they are. I am less sure, but I would like to know more about whether Foucault used index cards, and if so, how?

1 comment:

Peter said...


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Apparently, Foucault "ironically" remarked that the “appearance of the index card and the constitution of the human sciences: another invention little celebrated by historians.” in Discipline and Punish.
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Whu?