Chandra Mukerji University of California, USA
There are two ways to view and tinker with the foundations of a (sub)field: one theoretical, the other methodological. The cultural turn in sociology seems so successful that theoretical arguments for taking some new area of culture seriously do not seem particularly useful at this point. There is no needto call attention to the power of language, the political importance of media, the stratifying possibilities of taste, the social character of objects, the creative nodes in networks, cultural forms of violence, patterns and practices of ‘activism,’ the classificatory underpinnings of race, gender, and sexuality, or the cultural dynamics and patterns of decorum that characterize and shape history. I could add to the list of potentially revealing subjects to study by doing theoretical lob- bying, but I think the more pressing issue is how to do research well or better.
More precisely, I think we need to reflect on our epistemic culture (Knorr- Cetina, 1999), the links between knowledge claims and practices that underlie our studies, particularly in relation to history. We know that culture has distinc- tive ways of oozing through time, but we have few ways of approaching the prob- lem systematically. We need an epistemic culture to warrant our research that gives full sociological attention to time itself as a cultural form and a tool of col- lective identity that meddles in our attempts to write sociologically about the past.
Historical sociology has always been a productive site of theoretical devel- opment, and a subfield with high epistemic legitimacy, but one that has had limited interest in time itself, periodicity, or the negotiations of past and present that give cultural depth to social processes. Cultural sociologists, on the other hand, take seriously both time and periodicity as subject-matter for research (Wagner-Pacifici, 2005; Zeruvabel, 1985), so we are in a privileged position to consider the epistemic problems of doing historical work. And we would bene- fit, I think, by considering how we look ‘into history’, what time-marking activ- ities we find there, and how we participate (or not) in on-going efforts to narrate the past.
Anthropologists treat methodological practices as interesting sociocultural processes in themselves, and I take my warrant for these reflections from them. I ask myself how would I write a counterpart to Rabinow’s (1977) book on fieldwork in Morocco to describe historical research? What is the relationship of a cultural sociologist to the author of a document or book on history? What can we say about the others who we see as ‘inhabiting’ the places in the past we visit vicariously? How do we think about the textual and other bases of our studies? And how do we give voice in our writing to those whose words we read or practices we study? Better, how do we place their voices in relation to each other to see inter-subjectivity in the face of archives and histories organized around autonomous actors? And what kind of past do we write as sociologists and hold against canonical works in history and sociology?
Analyses in cultural sociology are often based on ethnography. The method helps distinguish this type of cultural analysis from the more textual approaches of the humanities. Fieldwork data has made it easier for sociologists to borrow ideas from cultural studies without abandoning their disciplinary training and identities, and to contribute to humanistic studies in a useful and distinctive way. Historical work in cultural sociology, on the other hand, has not had the benefit of such an identifiable set of methods. The comparative methods from historical sociology were never designed to answer questions of culture. This has left practitioners in this subfield (including me) mucking around with his- torical, art historical, feminist and literary methods to try to write something
empirically grounded with a theoretical focus appropriate for a historical soci- ology of culture. The purpose of this article is to consider one methodological option for this type of work: genealogical analysis. In spite of the criticism often leveled at it by sociologists, this method from cultural studies can be useful for sociologists interested in patterns of cultural inheritance and the historical social practices that have shaped them.
To make the point, this article will draw on Nietzsche’s ideas about geneal- ogy to reconceptualize cultural descent in more sociological terms. Then it will apply genealogical methods to a particular case: construction of the Canal du Midi in 17th-century France. The Canal du Midi was not just a piece of infras- tructural engineering, but also a demonstration of cultural intelligence and part of a propaganda effort to define France as the New Rome. Descriptions of the canal explained its importance as evidence that ‘moderns’ in France could sur- pass the ‘ancients’ in the ‘art’ of engineering. Unknown to the political archi- tects of the New Rome, however, there was more than political rhetoric linking the French present to the ancient past. The military engineers, surveyors, labor- ers and artisans who built the canal actually used ancient engineering tech- niques for the work – some of which had become part of vernacular culture. The New Rome was really built on the foundations of the old empire, but this cultural heritage was buried. Some ancient knowledge was exercised without any sense of its provenance. Peasants who employed Roman methods to improve their towns with canals did not see their skills as Roman. In addition, their contributions to the canal that had engineering value in the eyes of learned men were attributed to others. To carriers of formal knowledge, the contribu- tions of low-status people to the engineering had no standing. Carriers of clas- sical technique were erased from the historical record to give these engineering achievements the political value desired for building the New Rome.
Papers from the Archives du Canal du Midi are marked as ACM with a file and document number. Some of the documents are titled; others are not. There are a few printed sources from the archives:
Le 14 octobre 1666, l’Arrêt d’adjudication des ouvrages à faire pour le canal de communication des Mers en Languedoc est promulgué. Ce même jour, le Roi ‘fait bail et délivrance à M. de Riquet des ouvrages contenues au Devis’ préal- ablement défini sous l’autorité du Chevalier de Clerville. Reprinted in ‘Edit du Roy pour la construction d’un canal du communication des deux mers, Océane & Méditerrannée. ACM 03–10.
Claude Bazin, ‘Bail et Adjudication des Ouvrages à Faire Pour la Continuation du Canal et du Port du Cette, 20 Août 1668’, 9, section x, Archives de Canal du Midi (ACM), folder 07, item12 (07–12).
Adgé, Michel (1992) ‘L’Art de l’hydraulique’, in Conseil d’Architecture, d’Urbanisme et de l’Environment de la Haute-Garonne, Canal Royal de Languedoc: Le Partage des Eaux, pp. 202–3. Caue: Loubatières.
Alexander, Jeffrey (2003) The Meanings of Social Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Apostolidès, Jean-Marie (1981) Le Roi-Machine: Spectacle et Politique au Temps de Louis XIV. Paris: Editions de Minuit.
Bechmann, Roland (1993) Villard de Honnecourt. Paris: Picard.
Becker, Howard and Faulkner, Robert (2006) ‘Studying Something You Are Part Of: The View from the Bandstand’, Paper presented at the International Conference ‘Ethnographies of Artistic Work’, Sorbonne, Paris, September 2006.
Belidor, Bernard Forest de (1753) Architecture Hydraulique, Seconde Partie Qui Comprend l’Art de Diriger les Eaux dès la Mer & des Rivières à l’Avantage de la Défense des Places, du Commerce & de l‘Agriculture. Paris: Jombert.
Bellah, Robert, Madsen, Richard, Sullivan, William, Swidler, Ann and Tipton, Steven (1988) Habits of the Heart. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Bergasse, Jean-Denis (ed.) (1985–1986) Le Canal du Midi (Vols 1–4). Cessenon:
J.-D. Bergasse. Blanchard, Anne (1979) Les Ingénieurs du Roy de Louis XIV à Louis XVI.
Montpellier: Université Paul-Valéry. Blanchard, Anne and Adgé, Michel (1985) ‘Les Ingénieurs du Roy et le Canal de
Communication des Mers’, in Jean-Denis Bergasse (ed.) (1985–1986) Le Canal
du Midi (Vol. 3), pp. 181–94. Cessenon: J.-D. Bergasse. Bouillet (1693) Traite des Moyens de Render les Rivieres Navigables avec Plusieurs
Desseins de Jettées. Paris: Chez Estienne Michallet. Bourdieu, Pierre (1984) Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste
(Richard Nice, trans.). London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Burke, Peter (1992) Fabrication of Louis XIV. New Haven, CT: Yale University
Press. Carruthers, Mary J. (1990) The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval
Culture. New York: Cambridge University Press. Carruthers, Mary J. (1998) The Craft of Thought: Meditation, Rhetoric, and the
Making of Images, 400–1200. New York: Cambridge University Press. Collins, Harry (1985) Changing Order: Replication and Induction in Scientific
Practice. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Collins, Randall (2004) Interaction Ritual Chains. Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press. Conseil d’Architecture, d’Urbanisme et de l’Environment de la Haute-Garonne
(1992) Canal Royal de Languedoc: Le Partage des Eaux. Caue: Loubatières Degage, Alain (1985) in ‘Le Port de Sète: Proue Méditerreanéenne du Canal de Riquet’, in Jean-Denis Bergasse (ed.) (1985–1986) Le Canal du Midi (Vol. 4),
pp. 265–306. Cessenon: J.-D. Bergasse. Degage, Alain (1987) ‘Un Nouveau Port en Languedoc (de la fin du XVIe siècle au
début du XVIIIe)’, in Jean Sagnes Histoire de Sète, pp. 47–52. Toulouse: Privat. DiMaggio, Paul (1997) ‘Culture and Cognition’, Annual Review of Sociology 23:
263–88. Foucault, Michel (1965) Madness and Civilization (Richard Howard, trans.). New
York: Vintage Books. Foucault, Michel (1970) The Order of Things. New York: Pantheon Books. Foucault, Michel (1977) Discipline and Punish (Alan Sheridan, trans.). New York:
Pantheon. Froidour, Louis de (1892) Memoire du Pays et des États de Bigorre (Intro and notes
by Jean Boudette). Paris: H. Champion, Tarbes: Baylac. Frontinus, Sextus Julius (1913) The Two Books on the Water Supply of the City of
Rome of Sextus Julius Frontinus, Water Commissioner of the City of Rome A.D. 97. New York: Longmans, Green.
Gabolde, Bertrand (1985a) ‘Riquet a Versailles Vu par le Conteur Charles Perrault’, in Jean-Denis Bergasse (ed.) (1985–1986) Le Canal du Midi (Vol. 1), pp. 185–9. Cessenon: J.-D. Bergasse.
Gabolde, Bertrand (1985b) ‘Les Ouvriers du Chantier’, in Jean-Denis Bergasse (ed.) (1985–1986) Le Canal du Midi (Vol. 3), pp. 235–7. Cessenon: J.-D. Bergasse. Goffman, Erving (1959) The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York:
Doubleday. Goffman, Erving (1963) Behavior in Public Places. Glencoe: Free Press. Gratacos, Isaure (2003) Femmes Pyrénéennes, un Statut Social Exceptionel en
Europe. Toulouse: Editions Privat. Grewal, Interpal and Kaplan, Caren (1994) Scattered Hegemonies. Minneapolis,
MN: University of Minnesota Press. Hall, Stuart (1990) The Question of Cultural Identity. London: Polity Press. Haraway, Donna (1990) Primate Visions: Gender, Race and Nature in the World
of Modern Science. New York: Routledge. Joyce, Patrick (1998) ‘The Return of History: Postmodernism and the Politics of
Academic History in Britain’, Past and Present 158: 207–35. Joyce, Patrick (1999) ‘The Politics of the Liberal Archive’, History of the Human
Sciences 12: 35–49. Joyce, Patrick (2003) The Rule of Freedom: Liberalism and The City in Britain.
London: Verso. Knorr-Cetina, Karin (1999) Epistemic Cultures. New York: Cambridge University
Press. Konvitz, Josef W. (1978) Cities and the Sea: Port City Planning in Early Modern
Europe. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. La Lande, M. de (1778) Des Canaux de Navigation, et Spécialement du Canal de
Languedoc. Paris: Chez Veuve Desain. Lipsitz, George (1990) Time Passages: Collective Memory and American Popular
Culture. Minneapolis, MD: University of Minnesota Press. Long, Elizabeth (ed.) (1997) From Sociology to Cultural Studies: New Perspectives.
New York: Blackwell. Long, Pamela O. (2001) Openness, Secrecy, Authorship: Technical Arts and the
Culture of Knowledge from Antiquity to the Renaissance. Baltimore, MD:
Johns Hopkins University Press. Maistre, André (1998) Le Canal des Deux-Mers: Canal Royal du Languedoc,
1666–1810. Toulouse: E. Privat. Marliave, Olivier de (1996) Tresor de la Mythologie Pyreneene. Luçon: Editions Sud
Oust. Morrison, Elting (1974) From Know-how to Nowhere. New York: Basic Books. Mourgues, Matthieu de (1992) ‘Relation de la Seconde Navigation du Canal Royal,
1683’, quoted by Philippe Delvit, ‘Un Canal au Midi’, in Conseil d’Architecture,
p. 206. Mukerji, Chandra (1997) Territorial Ambitions and the Gardens of Versailles.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Mukerji, Chandra (2002) ‘Cartography, Entrepreneurialism and Power in the Reign
of Louis XIV: The Case of the Canal du Midi’, in Pamela Smith and Paula Findlen (eds) Merchants and Marvels: Commerce, Science and Art in Early Modern Europe, pp. 248–76. New York: Routledge.
Mukerji, Chandra (2006) ‘Tacit Knowledge and Classical Technique in Seventeenth- Century France: Hydraulic Cement as Living Practice among Masons and Military Engineers’, Technology and Culture 47: 713–33.
Mukerji, Chandra (forthcoming) ‘Women Engineers and the Culture of the Pyrenees’, in Pamela Smith and Benjamin Smith (eds) Knowledge and Its Making in Europe, 1500–1800. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Neraudau, J.P. (1986) L’Olympe du Roi Soleil. Paris: Société des Belles-Lettres. Nietzsche, Friedrich (1956) Birth of Tragedy and the Genealogy of Morals (Francis
Golffing, trans.). Garden City, NJ: Doubleday. Orwell, George (1950) 1984. New York: Signet Classics. Patterson, Orlando (1998) Rituals of Blood: Slavery in Two American Centuries.
New York: Basic Books. Rich, Motoko (2006) ‘“Opal Mehta” Won’t Get a Life After All’, The New York
Times, 3 May. Rolt, L.T.C. (1973) From Sea to Sea: The Canal du Midi. London: Penguin &
Indiana University Press. Rosental, Claude (2005) ‘Making Science and Technology Results Public. A
Sociology of Demos’, in B. Latour and P. Weibel (eds) Making Things Public.
Atmospheres of Democracy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Sahlins, Peter (1994) Forest Rites: The War of the Demoiselles in Nineteenth-
Century France. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Schudson, Michael (1992) Watergate in American Memory. New York: Basic Books. Schudson, Michael (1998) The Good Citizen: A History of American Public Life.
Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Schwaller, Martine (1994) Ensérune: Carrefour des Civilizations Protohistoriques
(2nd Edition). Paris: Imprimerie Nationale. Schwartz, Barry (2000) Abraham Lincoln and the Forge of National Memory.
Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Smith, Pamela (2004) The Body of the Artisan. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago
Press. Smith, Pamela and Findlen, Paula (eds) (2002) Merchants and Marvels: Commerce,
Science and Art in Early Modern Europe. New York: Routledge. Steinmetz, George (2005) The Politics of Methods in the Human Sciences: Positivism
and its Epistemological Others. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Soulet, Jean-Francois (2004) Les Pyrenees au XIXe siècle. Bourdeaux: Sud Ouest. Swidler, Ann (1986) ‘Culture in Action: Symbols and Strategies’, American
Sociological Review 51: 273–86. Treichler, Paula (1999) How to Have Theory in an Epidemic. Raleigh, NC: Duke
University Press. Vallancey, Charles (1763) A Treatise on Inland Navigation or the Art of Making
Rivers Navigable: Of Making Canals in all Sorts of Soils, and of Constructing
Locks and Sluices. Dublin: Printed for George and Alexander Ewing. Wagner-Pacifici, Robin (2005) The Art of Surrender: Decomposing Sovereignty at
Conflict’s End. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Wuthnow, Robert (2003) All in Sync: How Music and Art are Revitalizing American
Religion. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press. Wuthnow, Robert and Evans, John (2002) The Quiet Hand of God: Faith-Based Activism and the Public Role of Mainline Protestantism. Berkeley, CA:
University of California Press. Zerubavel, E. (1985) The Seven Day Circle. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.