Trapped in our own Discursive Formations: Toward an Archaeology of Library and Information Science

by Elizabeth Lieutenant

Radford, G. P. (2003). Trapped in our own discursive formations: Toward an archaeology of library and information science. The Library Quarterly, 73(1), 1–18.

Interestingly, this article didn’t make me want to read Foucault (Olsson’s chapter¹ on him was a much better approach). What struck me the most was his inclusion of John Shotter’s piece on the fear and anxiety constraining academic discourse (pp. 6-7). How contradictory, that the ideals of academic freedom still manage to stifle voice and constrain thought. What is it about academia that makes it the most freeing and constraining environment? Why is it that such an interdisciplinary discipline has such trouble breaking out of it silos? How is it that these tensions of not been resolved? It is not our professions inability to articulate our role in society or our educational programs’ inculcation of isolationist tendencies that is to blame for the profession’s constraints on its discourse. If we approach these relationships in the same manner as Foucault’s approach to the archaeological interrogation of statements, we can see that it is the relations and interplay between the two that reinforce each other.

Personally, I’m most interested in seeing how some of the statements I’ve helped develop will have the ripple effect Foucault discusses. All of these documents and statements are codified in someway, they contextualize statements that have come before them and have an impact on statements that will come after. I’m struck by the statement “the importance of a document/statement lies not in what it says, but in the fact that it has materially appeared and what is subsequently done with it” (p. 13) I could write so much more about this idea and how I’ve observed it, but I can’t do that, for I too am a participant in a culture of fear and anxiety. If I were to even acknowledge that these documents, these statements, exist, I would experience the same tangible risks that Radford and Raber² discuss. To think what others could learn from these statements and the impact that they would have, if only one could see what I’ve seen. Instead, I need to be content operating within the margins, erased from their texts, lest I invoke the discipline others.


1. Olsson, M. R. (2010). Michel Foucault: Discourse, power/knowledge, and the battle for truth. In Buschman, J., Given, L. M., & Leckie, G. J. (Eds.), Critical theory for library and information science: Exploring the social from across the disciplines. (63 – 74). Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.
2. Raber, D. (2003). Librarians as organic intellectuals: A Gramscian approach to blind spots and tunnel vision. The Library Quarterly, 73(1), 33–53.