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The International Encyclopedia of Media Studies, 7 Volume Set by Fabienne Darling-Wolf, Radhika Parameswaran, Erica Scharrer, Vicki Mayer, Sharon Mazzarella, Kelly Gates, John Nerone, Angharad N. Valdivia

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3

The Conditions of Media's Possibility

A Foucauldian Approach to Media History

Jeremy Packer

ABSTRACT

This chapter integrates Michel Foucault's historiographic approach with media history. After describing how Foucault's work has traditionally been used and understood by media historians, four areas of work are used as examples for establishing a more holistic account of the value of Foucault's archaeological and genealogical methods of historical enquiry. They are (1) the work of German media theorist Friedrich Kittler, (2) the Stanford School of the philosophy of science, (3) cultural studies work in governmentality studies, and (4) Giorgio Agamben's application of the Foucauldian concept apparatus. After providing eight questions for orienting Foucauldian historical investigation, the chapter explains how this leads to understanding the interrelated dimensions of power, knowledge, and subjectification as they intersect with the historical establishment of media forms, institutions, and technologies.

Michel Foucault was not a media historian. This statement is neither surprising, nor likely to meet with much resistance. While clearly the books and texts forming the archives of Foucault's investigations are media, their explicit materiality as technologies for overcoming time and distance, reducing noise, or maintaining culture, was very rarely if ever the focus of his historical investigations.1 Yet, numerous scholars have drawn upon Foucault's work in their historical investigations ...

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