Computational genealogy: Continuities and discontinuities in the political rhetoric of US presidents


Articulations of discontinuity and moments of dissent have been central to critical historical work. However, such vocabularies and analyses of historical change have received less attention in the emerging field of digital methods. Digital methods based on discerning patterns have focused on continuities, while discontinuities and ruptures have been derivative of trends and patterns. By contrast, genealogical methods attend to the entanglement of continuity and discontinuity, and focus on contingency and singularity. This article proposes to develop methods of computational genealogy to analyze multiple temporalities in historical discourses. We experiment with our proposed computational genealogy using the archive of Inaugural speeches by US presidents. In particular, we show that there is neither a linear advance to Trumptextquoterights rhetoric nor an exceptional rupture. Our analysis shows that Trumptextquoterights speech is much more the struggle of the Republicans with their own past ideas than struggles with Democrats.