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Understanding Genealogy: History, Power, and the Self

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The aim of this article is to clarify the relation between genealogy and history and to suggest a methodological reading of Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals. I try to determine genealogy's specific range of objects, specific mode of explication, and specific textual form. Genealogies in general can be thought of as drastic narratives of the emergence and transformations of forms of subjectivity related to power, told with the intention to induce doubt and self-reflection in exactly those readers whose (collective) history is narrated. The main interest in understanding the concept of genealogy and revisiting Nietzsche's introduction of it into philosophy lies in understanding how a certain way of writing and a certain textual practice function that successfully call into question current judgments, institutions and practices. Nietzsche's example, I argue, can provide a paradigm for a critical practice that accounts for historical processes of subject formation in terms of power and turns them against given forms of subjectivity.

Affiliations: 1: Institute for Political Science, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main, Germany;, Email:


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