“Part III: The Statement and the Archive”
Parts III-V of Archaeology of Knowledge, Foucault focuses on breaking down the key element of discursive formation: the statement.
The statement is “the atom of discourse” (80). He presents that the characteristics of the statement by explaining what statements are NOT. Statements are not logical propositions, sentences, or speech acts. They may take the form of these things but they are not these forms. The statement seems to be a slippery concept, but if it is viewed as a function:
it is a function of existence that properly belongs to signs and on the basis of which one may then decide, through analysis or intuition, whether or not they make sense, according to what rule they follow one another or are juxtaposed, of what they are the sign, and what sort of act is carried out by their formulation (oral or written)” (87).
In the next section Foucault presents the four characteristics of statements. The two characteristics that stood out to me were the relationship to the subject and material existence.
Relationship to Subject: The author and the subject of the statement are not the same. The subject of the statement is a particular function; however, this is not the same statement to statement. When I read this I immediately made the connection between author and subject, as if they were one in the same. However, the focus is not on who made the statement, but on the function of the statement in relation to the subject of the statement. This focus on relations between statement, subject, and author led me to the rhetorical situation. Foucault is presenting a complex relationship between the author and the subject that reminds me of the debate between Bitzer and Vatz. Where Bitzer and Vatz are caught in an Chicken-and-Egg debate about the relation of the author and the exigence, Foucault falls inline with Biesecker in that the relations are complex, dynamic, and interactive. The subject of a statement is “a particular, vacant place that may in fact be filled by different individuals” (95). This makes the connections dynamic and shifting.
In regards to the material existence, statements have to be given through some material medium. When the material existence of the statement shifts the statement shifts, also. There are conditions and limits on the statement, such as the limits imposed by other statements. I interpreted the statement as being abstract; however, it does not have to be in a specific time and place. The statement being repeatable. The statement is presented as “specific and paradoxical object, but also as one of those objects that men produce, manipulate, use, transform, exchange, combine, decompose and recompose, and possibly destroy.” The statement operates in the space between the concrete and abstract. The two characteristics that I have focused on present the fixed nature of the subject. The statement is not bound to the abstract and it is not bound to the material form. The statement is repeatable but the enunciation is not.
The repeatable materiality was interesting to me because it made me think of the ephemeral nature of Snap Chat and of the much of the information being shared today. Foucault presents that the statement “must have a substance, a support, a place, and a date [and] when these requisites change, it [the statement] too changes identity (101).”I mentioned this above with the idea that the statement is shifting and dynamic. The ability for statements to be repeated made me think of the how quickly information travels and how often information is reproduced in different mediums. If a statement is reproduced in a different mediums how does it change? The same message sent via traditional text and snap chat may have a different meaning or interpretation. On the other hand Snap Chat could be seen as an enunciation, as it is “an unrepeatable event.” The enunciation has “situated and dated uniqueness that is irreducible (101). Snap Chats are unrepeatable. Even if there is an attempt at repetition it is impossible for them to be the same.