Tuesday, August 12, 2008


My friend Christophresh and I were recently discussing Michel Foucault's eccentric text I, Pierre Riviere... (not the full title, but you should check out the full title), which deals with a multiple-murder case in France in the 19th Century. Although Foucault is listed as the author of the text, he did not so much "author" it as he did collect and assemble the documents related to Pierre Riviere's case, including medical and legal testimony, police reports, and Riviere's own memoir. It's a really fascinating read and I highly recommend it. For those familiar with Foucault's work, it also serves as an example of the kind of meaningful "counter-memory" that could be constructed if historians saw themselves more as archaeologists/genealogists instead of authorities.

The text of I, Pierre Riviere is, in effect, a dossier... and as such it includes all of the details of Riviere's case before those details had been classified as "significant" or "insignificant." As opposed to a "biography" of Pierre Riviere, which ostensibly would have already shaped the myriad details of his life into a coherent narrative, Foucault's text gives us the unfiltered dossier, which is messy, confusing, contradictory, at times maddeningly mundane... just as a real life is. In my cartoonish imaginings of scientists, this is exactly the sort of material that I envision them sorting through and assembling. (Though I should note that, nowadays, I find myself in the unprecedented situation of having more and more "scientist" friends, which makes it harder and harder to maintain my cartoonish imaginings of them and what they do.) We philosophers rarely handle texts like these-- preferring instead the abstractions-from-undifferentiated-Sinn that have already undergone interpretation-- which is exactly what Foucault's work so provocatively calls into question.

At any rate, in our conversation, Christophresh speculated that we should compile more dossiers like I, Pierre Rivere and I responded that, for me at least, this blog was probably already serving that function. Then, in a turn of sheer brilliance, Christophresh coined the neologism: blogspossier (blogspot + dossier = blogspossier). And I thought to myself, damn, I wish I had thought of that.

The very idea of a blogspossier is such timely and monumentally accurate description of how some of our lives are being archived that I am tempted to propose it being added to the O.E.D.


Ideas Man, Ph.D. said...

Great idea. The sound might be too encumbersome though. Would blossier work, or is that losing to much? What about bloggsier? Of course, with pronouncing any of these is that one needs to know the etymology or else it sounds like a comparative, as in

"Christophresh is blogspossier than Ideas Man, but Dr. J. is the blogspossiest of all."

anotherpanacea said...

I can't quite work out how it's to be pronounced, nor reverse-engineer the parts from the portmanteau.

There's definitely something to the concatenation of Foucault and blogging, though: I've seen papers suggesting Foucault thought of his own work as a kind of 'book of life' that collected the various texts he encountered alongside his annotations, rather than something more systematic.

Hmm... blogsposé? Blossier? Dossiog? Ok, now I'm just being silly.

DOCTOR J said...

Pronounced like this:


John said...

I am wondering whether the memoir and the complete dossier are not still forms of text, and as such do not achieve the communication of the incommunicable (perhaps the aim of publishing these texts?) Isn't that ultimately the issue, the borderline between the communicable and the incommunicable? We have the text and (as opposed to) the extra-text not written down, "undocumented" text(the two which are not unified nor are they absolutely seperate and distinguishable). If the attempt at constructing a "counter-memory" puts into to question the line between the life lived (internally) and the life observed, biography and autobiography, must it not renounce all attempts to capture elements of the autobiographical life work? Or at least if historians are not to see themselves as authorities, as you say, must the authorship and authority that draws out the life experience of cases like this (the strange, the pathological, the abhorrent), not also be marked and re-marked? The case and the casing-effect (of legal, medical, or scholarly classification) is exactly what becomes an issue here, isolating the judged individual in order to make him answer for himself-- and establishing the boundaries of authority and authorship.