The Interdisciplinary Hermeneutic: Reappraising the Socio-cultural episteme
Foucault discovered three major historical epistemai in modern Europe- the renaissance, the classical and the contemporary period. He noticed so many positivities in the exploration of knowledge. “In Foucault’s system, perhaps his most influential early notion was that of the episteme” (Leigh 76). The discursive formation and specific regulations of knowledge outlined during this period. Man has an inquisitive mind and wants to explore the secrets of the universe. He tries to collect knowledge based on reason. The first branch which separates science is the reason. For Foucault, a given period's episteme was presumably present within all fields' language patterns, including literature and theology, although his study concentrated only on three social sciences namely Biology, psychology, and sexuality. “He takes literature very seriously as a cultural phenomenon but treats it as merely another form of discourse until it becomes quasi- autonomous around the time of the Romantics” (Leigh 76). Freud causes this rupture in knowledge. Since then, several scholars study the human body as well as sexuality. The study was equally affected by the socio-cultural conditions of societies. Male researchers draw more attention to the female body and their bio-processes. Labib finds South Africa as a mirror to understand Coetzee’s characters. It is through exploitation of culture and language, one society dominates other. In every society, the production of discourse is controlled, selected, organised, and distributed. In this process, a society frames a certain “rules of exclusion” (The Archaeology of Knowledge 216). Foucault finds that women are excluded in certain days (menstruation) at the biological process. Though the experts called biologists or doctors are not aware of the exact reasons for the practices. They appear the authority over women's body and their opinion in this case or other cases matters a lot. The approach suggested, "The prohibitions, exclusions, limitations, values and freedoms and transgressions of sexuality, all its manifestations, verbal or otherwise linked to a particular discursive practice" (The Archaeology of Knowledge 193). The knowledge is a continuous process, and it does not stop, it keeps moving one or other direction/ directions. Foucault argues that the description of episteme is inexhaustible and can never be closed. "It is a constantly moving set of articulations, shifts, and coincidences that are established, only to give rise to others" (The Archaeology of Knowledge192).
In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth-century, an attempt made to find new values to reconstruct the European culture. The European consciousness has an extrapolation, though socio-economic problems remain the same. Foucault explains the European consciousness in his work The Archaeology of Knowledge and finds term it as,
An archaeology of knowledge a term has several connotations which appeals to Foucault: the notion of depth, of course, of getting below the surface: but also the idea of a science which is not a science and yet is not quite history either, an leans heavy on taxonomy; and again the notion of the past as a succession of layers with little to suggest transition between them (Miel 235-236).
Foucault argues that episteme is positive. It opposes knowledge of ignorance; it makes possible the existence of epistemological figures and sciences. Episteme relates this fact to the process of historical practice. The discursive origin of knowledge has its roots in historical traditions as it mentions earlier that it is a continuous and comprehensive process in the history recorded later when it reaches its zenith. The European nations took initiatives to produce knowledge as they were aware that it would help them lead the world now or in the future. According to Edward Said, “Knowledge gives power, more power requires more knowledge, and so on in an increasingly profitable dialectic of information and control” (Orientalism 36). Leusmann posits that J. M. Coetzee is white Afrikaans and his last name suggests his Boer identity but he speaks English language at home and “who treats language like dangerous snake, with firmness and as well as caution because he distrust its promise to contribute to understand between peoples” (Leusmann, 60). The essay aims to explore the depiction of colonised culture. J. M. Coetzee portrays inferiority of the African culture when he draws the attention of his readers to the beauty and the hygienic conditions of women in the third world countries, and ways of treating diseases the comparison is to establish the superiority of European culture.