Against Ecological Sovereignty is a passionate defense of radical ecology that speaks directly to current debates concerning the nature, and dangers, of sovereign power. Engaging the work of Bataille, Arendt, Levinas, Nancy, and Agamben, among others, Mick Smith reconnects the political critique of sovereign power with ecological considerations, arguing that ethical and political responsibilities for the consequences of our actions do not end with those defined as human.
Against Ecological Sovereignty is the first book to turn Agamben’s analysis of sovereignty and biopolitics toward an investigation of ecological concerns. In doing so it exposes limits to that thought, maintaining that the increasingly widespread biopolitical management of human populations has an unrecognized ecological analogue—reducing nature to a “resource” for human projects. Smith contends that a radical ecological politics must resist both the depoliticizing exercise of sovereign power and the pervasive spread of biopolitics in order to reveal new possibilities for creating healthy human and nonhuman communities.
Presenting a stinging critique of human claims to sovereignty over the natural world, Smith proposes an alternative way to conceive of posthumanist ecological communities—one that recognizes the utter singularity of the beings in them.
In the years since the end of apartheid, South Africans have enjoyed a progressive constitution, considerable access to social services for the poor and sick, and a booming economy that has made their nation into one of the wealthiest on the continent. At the same time, South Africa experiences extremely unequal income distribution, and its citizens suffer the highest prevalence of HIV in the world. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu has noted, “AIDS is South Africa’s new apartheid.”
In Ancestors and Antiretrovirals, Claire Laurier Decoteau backs up Tutu’s assertion with powerful arguments about how this came to pass. Decoteau traces the historical shifts in health policy after apartheid and describes their effects, detailing, in particular, the changing relationship between biomedical and indigenous health care, both at the national and the local level. Decoteau tells this story from the perspective of those living with and dying from AIDS in Johannesburg’s squatter camps. At the same time, she exposes the complex and often contradictory ways that the South African government has failed to balance the demands of neoliberal capital with the considerable health needs of its population.
In Animacies, Mel Y. Chen draws on recent debates about sexuality, race, and affect to examine how matter that is considered insensate, immobile, or deathly animates cultural lives. Toward that end, Chen investigates the blurry division between the living and the dead, or that which is beyond the human or animal. Within the field of linguistics, animacy has been described variously as a quality of agency, awareness, mobility, sentience, or liveness. Chen turns to cognitive linguistics to stress how language habitually differentiates the animate and the inanimate. Expanding this construct, Chen argues that animacy undergirds much that is pressing and indeed volatile in contemporary culture, from animal rights debates to biosecurity concerns.
Chen's book is the first to bring the concept of animacy together with queer of color scholarship, critical animal studies, and disability theory. Through analyses of dehumanizing insults, the meanings of queerness, animal protagonists in recent Asian/American art and film, the lead in toys panic in 2007, and the social lives of environmental illness, Animacies illuminates a hierarchical politics infused by race, sexuality, and ability. In this groundbreaking book, Chen rethinks the criteria governing agency and receptivity, health and toxicity, productivity and stillness—and demonstrates how attention to the affective charge of matter challenges commonsense orderings of the world.
In Between Gaia and Ground Elizabeth A. Povinelli theorizes the climatic, environmental, viral, and social catastrophe present as an ancestral catastrophe through which that Indigenous and colonized peoples have been suffering for centuries. In this way, the violence and philosophies the West relies on now threaten the West itself. Engaging with the work of Glissant, Deleuze and Guattari, Césaire, and Arendt, Povinelli highlights four axioms of existence—the entanglement of existence, the unequal distribution of power, the collapse of the event as essential to political thought, and the legacies of racial and colonial histories. She traces these axioms' inspiration in anticolonial struggles against the dispossession and extraction that have ruined the lived conditions for many on the planet. By examining the dynamic and unfolding forms of late liberal violence, Povinelli attends to a vital set of questions about changing environmental conditions, the legacies of violence, and the limits of inherited Western social theory. Between Gaia and Ground also includes a glossary of the keywords and concepts that Povinelli has developed throughout her work.
Under the auspices of neoliberalism, technical systems of compliance and efficiency have come to underwrite the relations among the state, the economy, and a biopolitics of war, terror, and surveillance. In Beyond Biopolitics, prominent theorists seek to account for and critically engage the tendencies that have informed neoliberal governance in the past and are expressed in its reformulation today. As studies of military occupation, the policing of migration, blood trades, financial markets, the war on terror, media ecologies, and consumer branding, the essays explore the governance of life and death in a near-future, a present emptied of future potentialities. The contributors delve into political and theoretical matters central to projects of neoliberal governance, including states of exception that are not exceptional but foundational; risk analysis applied to the adjudication of “ethical” forms of war, terror, and occupation; racism and the management of the life capacities of populations; the production and circulation of death as political and economic currency; and the potential for critical and aesthetic response. Together, the essays offer ways to conceptualize biopolitics as the ground for today’s reformulation of governance.
Contributors. Ann Anagnost, Una Chung, Patricia Ticineto Clough, Steve Goodman, Sora Y. Han, Stefano Harney, May Joseph, Randy Martin, Brian Massumi, Luciana Parisi, Jasbir Puar, Amit S. Rai, Eugene Thacker, Çağatay Topal, Craig Willse
In Bioinsecurities Neel Ahuja argues that U.S. imperial expansion has been shaped by the attempts of health and military officials to control the interactions of humans, animals, viruses, and bacteria at the borders of U.S. influence, a phenomenon called the government of species. The book explores efforts to control the spread of Hansen's disease, venereal disease, polio, smallpox, and HIV through interventions linking the continental United States to Hawai'i, Panamá, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Congo, Iraq, and India in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Ahuja argues that racial fears of contagion helped to produce public optimism concerning state uses of pharmaceuticals, medical experimentation, military intervention, and incarceration to regulate the immune capacities of the body. In the process, the security state made the biological structures of human and animal populations into sites of struggle in the politics of empire, unleashing new patient activisms and forms of resistance to medical and military authority across the increasingly global sphere of U.S. influence.
Biopolitics: A Reader
Timothy Campbell and Adam Sitze, eds. Duke University Press, 2013 Library of Congress JA80.B547 2013 | Dewey Decimal 320.01
This anthology collects the texts that defined the concept of biopolitics, which has become so significant throughout the humanities and social sciences today. The far-reaching influence of the biopolitical—the relation of politics to life, or the state to the body—is not surprising given its centrality to matters such as healthcare, abortion, immigration, and the global distribution of essential medicines and medical technologies.
Michel Foucault gave new and unprecedented meaning to the term "biopolitics" in his 1976 essay "Right of Death and Power over Life." In this anthology, that touchstone piece is followed by essays in which biopolitics is implicitly anticipated as a problem by Hannah Arendt and later altered, critiqued, deconstructed, and refined by major political and social theorists who explicitly engaged with Foucault's ideas. By focusing on the concept of biopolitics, rather than applying it to specific events and phenomena, this Reader provides an enduring framework for assessing the central problematics of modern political thought.
Contributors. Giorgio Agamben, Hannah Arendt, Alain Badiou, Timothy Campbell, Gilles Deleuze, Roberto Esposito, Michel Foucault, Donna Haraway, Michael Hardt, Achille Mbembe, Warren Montag, Antonio Negri, Jacques Rancière, Adam Sitze, Peter Sloterdijk, Paolo Virno, Slavoj Žižek
The contributors to Biopolitics, Geopolitics, Life investigate biopolitics and geopolitics as two distinct yet entangled techniques of settler-colonial states across the globe, from the Americas and Hawai‘i to Australia and Aotearoa/New Zealand. Drawing on literary and cultural studies, social sciences, political theory, visual culture, and film studies, they show how biopolitics and geopolitics produce norms of social life and land use that delegitimize and target Indigenous bodies, lives, lands, and political formations. Among other topics, the contributors explore the representations of sexual violence against Native women in literature, Indigenous critiques of the carceral state in North America, Indigenous elders’ refusal of dominant formulations of aging, the governance of Indigenous peoples in Guyana, the displacement of Guaraní in Brazil, and the 2016 rule to formally acknowledge a government-to-government relationship between the US federal government and the Native Hawaiian community. Throughout, the contributors contend that Indigenous life and practices cannot be contained and defined by the racialization and dispossession of settler colonialism, thereby pointing to the transformative potential of an Indigenous-centered decolonization.
Contributors René Dietrich, Jacqueline Fear-Segal, Mishuana Goeman, Alyosha Goldstein, Sandy Grande, Michael R. Griffiths, Shona N. Jackson, Kerstin Knopf, Sabine N. Meyer, Robert Nichols, Mark Rifkin, David Uahikeaikaleiʻohu Maile
For nearly forty years, feminists and patient activists have argued that medicine is a deeply individualizing and depoliticizing institution. According to this view, medical practices are incidental to people’s transformation from patients to patient activists. The Biopolitics of Breast Cancer turns this understanding upside down.
Maren Klawiter analyzes the evolution of the breast cancer movement to show the broad social impact of how diseases come to be medically managed and publicly administered. Examining surgical procedures, adjuvant therapies, early detection campaigns, and the rise in discourses of risk, Klawiter demonstrates that these practices created a change in the social relations-if not the mortality rate-of breast cancer that initially inhibited, but later enabled, collective action. Her research focuses on the emergence and development of new forms of activism that range from grassroots patient empowerment to environmental activism and corporate-funded breast cancer awareness.
The Biopolitics of Breast Cancer opens a window onto a larger set of changes currently transforming medically advanced societies and ultimately challenges our understanding of the origins, politics, and future of the breast cancer movement.
Maren Klawiter holds a PhD in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley. She is currently pursuing a law degree at Yale University.
In the neoliberal era, when human worth is measured by its relative utility within global consumer culture, selected disabled people have been able to gain entrance into late capitalist culture. The Biopolitics of Disability terms this phenomenon “ablenationalism” and asserts that “inclusion” becomes meaningful only if disability is recognized as providing modes of living that are alternatives to governing norms of productivity and independence. Thus, the book pushes beyond questions of impairment to explore how disability subjectivities create new forms of embodied knowledge and collective consciousness. The focus is on the emergence of new crip/queer subjectivities at work in disability arts, disability studies pedagogy, independent and mainstream disability cinema (e.g., Midnight Cowboy), internet-based medical user groups, anti-normative novels of embodiment (e.g., Richard Powers’s The Echo-Maker) and, finally, the labor of living in “non-productive” bodies within late capitalism.
In The Biopolitics of Feeling Kyla Schuller unearths the forgotten, multiethnic sciences of impressibility—the capacity to be transformed by one's environment and experiences—to uncover how biopower developed in the United States. Schuller challenges prevalent interpretations of biopower and literary cultures to reveal how biopower emerged within the discourses and practices of sentimentalism. Through analyses of evolutionary theories, gynecological sciences, abolitionist poetry and other literary texts, feminist tracts, child welfare reforms, and black uplift movements, Schuller excavates a vast apparatus that regulated the capacity of sensory and emotional feeling in an attempt to shape the evolution of the national population. Her historical and theoretical work exposes the overlooked role of sex difference in population management and the optimization of life, illuminating how models of binary sex function as one of the key mechanisms of racializing power. Schuller thereby overturns long-accepted frameworks of the nature of race and sex difference, offers key corrective insights to modern debates surrounding the equation of racism with determinism and the liberatory potential of ideas about the plasticity of the body, and reframes contemporary notions of sentiment, affect, sexuality, evolution, and heredity.
This volume marks a new chapter in the long-standing debate between Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault regarding argumentative methods and their political implications. The essays chart the undertheorized dialogue between the two philosophers on questions of life, death, punishment, and power—an untapped point of departure from which we might continue to read the convergence and divergence of their work. What possibilities for political resistance might this dialogue uncover? And how might they relate to contemporary political crises?
With the resurgence of fascism and authoritarianism across the globe, the rise of white supremacist and xenophobic violence, and the continued brutality of state-sanctioned and extrajudicial killings by police, border patrols, and ordinary citizens, there is a pressing need to critically analyze our political present. These essays bring to bear the critical force of Derrida’s and Foucault’s biopolitical thought to practices of mass incarceration, the death penalty, life without parole, immigration and detention, racism and police violence, transphobia, human and animal relations, and the legacies of colonization. At the heart of their biopolitics, the volume shows, lies the desire to deconstruct and resist in the name of a future that is more just and less policed. It is this impulse that makes reading their work together, at this moment, both crucial and worthwhile.
In Biopolitics of the More-Than-Human Joseph Pugliese examines the concept of the biopolitical through a nonanthropocentric lens, arguing that more-than-human entities—from soil and orchards to animals and water—are actors and agents in their own right with legitimate claims to justice. Examining occupied Palestine, Guantánamo, and sites of US drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, Pugliese challenges notions of human exceptionalism by arguing that more-than-human victims of war and colonialism are entangled with and subject to the same violent biopolitical regimes as humans. He also draws on Indigenous epistemologies that invest more-than-human entities with judicial standing to argue for an ethico-legal framework that will enable the realization of ecological justice. Bringing the more-than-human world into the purview of justice, Pugliese makes visible the ecological effects of human war that would otherwise remain outside the domains of biopolitics and law.
Biopower: Foucault and Beyond
Edited by Vernon W. Cisney and Nicolae Morar University of Chicago Press, 2015 Library of Congress B2430.F724B483 2015 | Dewey Decimal 194
Michel Foucault’s notion of “biopower” has been a highly fertile concept in recent theory, influencing thinkers worldwide across a variety of disciplines and concerns. In The History of Sexuality: An Introduction, Foucault famously employed the term to describe “a power bent on generating forces, making them grow, and ordering them, rather than one dedicated to impeding them, making them submit, or destroying them.” With this volume, Vernon W. Cisney and Nicolae Morar bring together leading contemporary scholars to explore the many theoretical possibilities that the concept of biopower has enabled while at the same time pinpointing their most important shared resonances.
Situating biopower as a radical alternative to traditional conceptions of power—what Foucault called “sovereign power”—the contributors examine a host of matters centered on life, the body, and the subject as a living citizen. Altogether, they pay testament to the lasting relevance of biopower in some of our most important contemporary debates on issues ranging from health care rights to immigration laws, HIV prevention discourse, genomics medicine, and many other topics.
Biological immunity as we know it does not exist until the late nineteenth century. Nor does the premise that organisms defend themselves at the cellular or molecular levels. For nearly two thousand years “immunity,” a legal concept invented in ancient Rome, serves almost exclusively political and juridical ends. “Self-defense” also originates in a juridico-political context; it emerges in the mid-seventeenth century, during the English Civil War, when Thomas Hobbes defines it as the first “natural right.” In the 1880s and 1890s, biomedicine fuses these two political precepts into one, creating a new vital function, “immunity-as-defense.” In A Body Worth Defending, Ed Cohen reveals the unacknowledged political, economic, and philosophical assumptions about the human body that biomedicine incorporates when it recruits immunity to safeguard the vulnerable living organism.
Inspired by Michel Foucault’s writings about biopolitics and biopower, Cohen traces the migration of immunity from politics and law into the domains of medicine and science. Offering a genealogy of the concept, he illuminates a complex of thinking about modern bodies that percolates through European political, legal, philosophical, economic, governmental, scientific, and medical discourses from the mid-seventeenth century through the twentieth. He shows that by the late nineteenth century, “the body” literally incarnates modern notions of personhood. In this lively cultural rumination, Cohen argues that by embracing the idea of immunity-as-defense so exclusively, biomedicine naturalizes the individual as the privileged focus for identifying and treating illness, thereby devaluing or obscuring approaches to healing situated within communities or collectives.
What happens when the body becomes art in the age of biotechnological reproduction? In Chinese Surplus Ari Larissa Heinrich examines transnational Chinese aesthetic production to demonstrate how representations of the medically commodified body can illuminate the effects of biopolitical violence and postcolonialism in contemporary life. From the earliest appearance of Frankenstein in China to the more recent phenomenon of "cadaver art," he shows how vivid images of a blood transfusion as performance art or a plastinated corpse without its skin—however upsetting to witness—constitute the new "realism" of our times. Adapting Foucauldian biopolitics to better account for race, Heinrich provides a means to theorize the relationship between the development of new medical technologies and the representation of the human body as a site of annexation, extraction, art, and meaning-making.
Darwinian Politics is the first book to examine political behavior from a modern evolutionary perspective. Here, Paul H. Rubin discusses group or social behavior, including ethnic and racial conflict; altruism and cooperation; envy; political power; and the role of religion in politics ¾ issues that have formed the hallmark of human social behavior.
Adopting a Darwinian perspective, Rubin demonstrates why certain political-moral philosophies succeed or fail in modern Western culture. He begins by showing relationships between biology and natural selection and the history of political philosophy and explains why desirable policies must treat each person as an individual. He considers the notion of group identity and conflict, observing a human propensity to form in-groups, a behavior that does not necessitate but often leads to deviancies such as racism. In discussing altruism, Rubin shows that people are willing to aid the poor if they are convinced that the recipients are not shirkers or free loaders. This explains why recent welfare reforms are widely viewed as successful. Envy, a trait that is often counterproductive in today’s world, is also addressed. In comparing major moral philosophical systems, Rubin contends that utilitarianism is broadly consistent with our evolved preferences. He illustrates evolutionary premises for religious belief and for desires to regulate the behavior of others, and how in today’s world such regulation may not serve any useful purpose.
Ultimately, Rubin argues that humans naturally seek political freedom, and modern Western society provides more freedom than any previous one. In light of his analysis, the author extrapolates that, while there are still areas for improvements, humans have done a remarkably good job of satisfying their evolved political preferences.
Winner, 2021 Cultural Studies Association First Book Prize
In Diagnosing Desire: Biopolitics and Femininity into the Twenty-First Century, Alyson K. Spurgas examines the “new science of female sexuality” from a critical, sociological perspective, considering how today’s feminist-identified sex researchers study and manage women with low desire. Diagnosing Desire investigates experimental sex research that measures the disconnect between subjective and genital female arousal, contemporary psychiatric diagnoses for low female desire, new models for understanding women’s sexual response, and cutting-edge treatments for low desire in women—including from the realms of mindfulness and alternative healing.
Spurgas makes the case that, together, all of these technologies create a “feminized responsive desire framework” for understanding women’s sexuality, and that this, in fact, produces women’s sexuality as a complex problem to be solved. The biggest problem, Spurgas argues, is that gendered and sexualized trauma—including as it is produced within technoscientific medicine itself—is too often ignored in contemporary renderings. Through incisive textual analysis and in-depth qualitative research based on interviews with women with low desire, Spurgas argues for a more radical and communal form of care for feminized—and traumatized—populations, in opposition to biopolitical mandates to individualize and neoliberalize forms of self-care. Ultimately, this is a book not just about a specific diagnosis or dysfunction but about the material-discursive regimes that produce and regulate femininity.
As technological innovation and cultural exchange challenge conventional borders, national identities, and notions of the nation-state, scholars have increasingly argued that the traditional concepts of “area” are ideological and political constructs tied to a schema of the world that no longer exists. This special issue of positions: asia critique posits that this “end of area” does not necessarily mean the end of area studies as a discipline. Rather, contributors suggest that “area” has detached itself from the realm of geopolitics and entered into the realm of biopolitics and biopower, which provides an opportunity to reevaluate and remap the goals of area studies. To address that change, this issue centers translation and the biopolitical as new theoretical mechanisms for area studies to order, combine, separate, and classify life. Topics include the concept of “area” itself; the philosophy of translation; reflections on Jean-François Lyotard, Jacques Derrida, and Edward Said; governmentality and biopower in the time of global capital; and biopolitical management of geocultural areas.
Contributors: Étienne Balibar, Ken C. Kawashima, Sandro Mezzadra, Tessa Morris-Suzuki, Naoki Sakai, Shu-Mei Shih, Jon Solomon, Tazaki Hideaki, Gavin Walker
In this lesson-packed book, Mark Nichter, one of the world’s leading medical anthropologists, summarizes what more than a quarter-century of health social science research has contributed to international health and elucidates what social science research can contribute to global health and the study of biopolitics in the future. Nichter focuses on our cultural understanding of infectious and vector-borne diseases, how they are understood locally, and how various populations respond to public health interventions. The book examines the perceptions of three groups whose points of view on illness, health care, and the politics of responsibility often differ and frequently conflict: local populations living in developing countries, public health practitioners working in international health, and health planners/policy makers. The book is written for both health social scientists working in the fields of international health and development and public health practitioners interested in learning practical lessons they can put to good use when engaging communities in participatory problem solving. Global Health critically examines representations that frame international health discourse. It also addresses the politics of what is possible in a world compelled to work together to face emerging and re-emerging diseases, the control of health threats associated with political ecology and defective modernization, and the rise of new assemblages of people who share a sense of biosociality. The book proposes research priorities for a new program of health social science research. Nichter calls for greater involvement by social scientists in studies of global health and emphasizes how medical anthropologists in particular can better involve themselves as scholar activists.
Habeas Viscus focuses attention on the centrality of race to notions of the human. Alexander G. Weheliye develops a theory of "racializing assemblages," taking race as a set of sociopolitical processes that discipline humanity into full humans, not-quite-humans, and nonhumans. This disciplining, while not biological per se, frequently depends on anchoring political hierarchies in human flesh. The work of the black feminist scholars Hortense Spillers and Sylvia Wynter is vital to Weheliye's argument. Particularly significant are their contributions to the intellectual project of black studies vis-à-vis racialization and the category of the human in western modernity. Wynter and Spillers configure black studies as an endeavor to disrupt the governing conception of humanity as synonymous with white, western man. Weheliye posits black feminist theories of modern humanity as useful correctives to the "bare life and biopolitics discourse" exemplified by the works of Giorgio Agamben and Michel Foucault, which, Weheliye contends, vastly underestimate the conceptual and political significance of race in constructions of the human. Habeas Viscus reveals the pressing need to make the insights of black studies and black feminism foundational to the study of modern humanity.
In How Do We Look? Fatimah Tobing Rony draws on transnational images of Indonesian women as a way to theorize what she calls visual biopolitics—the ways visual representation determines which lives are made to matter more than others. Rony outlines the mechanisms of visual biopolitics by examining Paul Gauguin’s 1893 portrait of Annah la Javanaise—a trafficked thirteen-year-old girl found wandering the streets of Paris—as well as US ethnographic and documentary films. In each instance, the figure of the Indonesian woman is inextricably tied to discourses of primitivism, savagery, colonialism, exoticism, and genocide. Rony also focuses on acts of resistance to visual biopolitics in film, writing, and photography. These works, such as Rachmi Diyah Larasati’s The Dance that Makes You Vanish, Vincent Monnikendam’s Mother Dao (1995), and the collaborative films of Nia Dinata, challenge the naturalized methods of seeing that justify exploitation, dehumanization, and early death of people of color. By theorizing the mechanisms of visual biopolitics, Rony elucidates both its violence and its vulnerability.
Has biopolitics actually become thanatopolitics, a field of study obsessed with death? Is there something about the nature of biopolitical thought today that makes it impossible to deploy affirmatively? If this is true, what can life-minded thinkers put forward as the merits of biopolitical reflection? These questions drive Improper Life, Timothy C. Campbell’s dexterous inquiry-as-intervention.
Campbell argues that a “crypto-thanatopolitics” can be teased out of Heidegger’s critique of technology and that some of the leading scholars of biopolitics—including Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben, and Peter Sloterdijk—have been substantively influenced by Heidegger’s thought, particularly his reading of proper and improper writing. In fact, Campbell shows how all of these philosophers have pointed toward a tragic, thanatopolitical destination as somehow an inevitable result of technology. But in Improper Life he articulates a corrective biopolitics that can begin with rereadings of Foucault (especially his late work regarding the care and technologies of the self), Freud (notably his writings on the drives and negation), and Gilles Deleuze (particularly in the relation of attention to aesthetics).
Throughout Improper Life, Campbell insists that biopolitics can become more positive and productively asserts an affirmative technē not thought through thanatos but rather practiced through bíos.
In Search of an Alternative Biopolitics: Anti-Bullfighting, Animality, and the Environment in Contemporary Spain by Katarzyna Olga Beilin takes readers on a journey through the history of alternative thought that challenges mainstream understandings of the relations between the human and nonhuman realms. Weaving through the works of Mariano José de Larra, Eugenio Noel, Luis Buñuel, Luis Martín-Santos, Pedro Almodóvar, Pablo Bérguer, Juan Mayorga, and Rosa Montero, Beilin convincingly demonstrates that “the question of the animal” has long been of particular significance for Spanish culture.
Analyses of the synergy of press debates on bullfighting and the War on Terror, as well as media debates on King Juan Carlos’s hunt in Botswana and his resignation, reveal how the concepts structuring human/animal relations condition national biopolitics. Beilin traces a main principle, where sacrifice of some lives is deemed necessary for the sake of others, from bullfighting, through environmental destruction and immigration policies, to bioeconomy. Ultimately, In Search of an Alternative Biopolitics argues that to address ever-increasing threats of global warming and future catastrophes, we urgently need to redefine concepts structuring the human and the nonhuman realms.
Winner, Humanities Book Prize, Mexico Section of the Latin American Studies Association, 2018
Many scholars believe that the modern concentration camp was born during the Cuban war for independence when Spanish authorities ordered civilians living in rural areas to report to the nearest city with a garrison of Spanish troops. But the practice of spatial concentration—gathering people and things in specific ways, at specific places, and for specific purposes—has a history in Latin America that reaches back to the conquest. In this paradigm-setting book, Daniel Nemser argues that concentration projects, often tied to urbanization, laid an enduring, material groundwork, or infrastructure, for the emergence and consolidation of new forms of racial identity and theories of race.
Infrastructures of Race traces the use of concentration as a technique for colonial governance by examining four case studies from Mexico under Spanish rule: centralized towns, disciplinary institutions, segregated neighborhoods, and general collections. Nemser shows how the colonial state used concentration in its attempts to build a new spatial and social order, and he explains why the technique flourished in the colonies. Although the designs for concentration were sometimes contested and short-lived, Nemser demonstrates that they provided a material foundation for ongoing processes of racialization. This finding, which challenges conventional histories of race and mestizaje (racial mixing), promises to deepen our understanding of the way race emerges from spatial politics and techniques of population management.
In Man Is by Nature a Political Animal, Peter K. Hatemi and Rose McDermott bring together a diverse group of contributors to examine the ways in which evolutionary theory and biological research are increasingly informing analyses of political behavior. Focusing on the theoretical, methodological, and empirical frameworks of a variety of biological approaches to political attitudes and preferences, the authors consider a wide range of topics, including the comparative basis of political behavior, the utility of formal modeling informed by evolutionary theory, the genetic bases of attitudes and behaviors, psychophysiological methods and research, and the wealth of insight generated by recent research on the human brain. Through this approach, the book reveals the biological bases of many previously unexplained variances within the extant models of political behavior.
The diversity of methods discussed and variety of issues examined here will make this book of great interest to students and scholars seeking a comprehensive overview of this emerging approach to the study of politics and behavior.
Across Africa, mature women have for decades mobilized the power of their nakedness in political protest to shame and punish male adversaries. This insurrectionary nakedness, often called genital cursing, owes its cultural potency to the religious belief that spirits residing in women's bodies can be unleashed to cause misfortune in their targets, including impotence, disease, and death. In Naked Agency, Naminata Diabate analyzes these collective female naked protests in Africa and beyond to broaden understandings of agency and vulnerability. Drawing on myriad cultural texts from social media and film to journalism and fiction, Diabate uncovers how women create spaces of resistance during socio-political duress, including such events as the 2011 protests by Ivoirian women in Côte d’Ivoire and Paris as well as women's disrobing in Soweto to prevent the destruction of their homes. Through the concept of naked agency, Diabate explores fluctuating narratives of power and victimhood to challenge simplistic accounts of African women's helplessness and to show how they exercise political power in the biopolitical era.
More than twenty-five years after the end of apartheid, water access remains a striking reminder of racial inequality in South Africa. This book compellingly argues that in the post-apartheid period inequality has not only been continuously reproduced but also legitimized.
Michela Marcatelli unravels this inequality paradox through an ethnography of water in a rural region of the country. The Waterberg Plateau is a space where agriculture, conservation, and extraction coexist and intersect. Marcatelli examines the connections between neoliberalism, race, and the environment by showing that racialized property relations around water and land are still recognized and protected by the post-apartheid state to sustain green growth. She argues that the government depicts growth as the best, if not only, solution to inequality. While white landowners maintain access to water, however, black ex-farmworkers are dispossessed once again of this essential-to-life resource.
If the promise of growth serves to normalize inequality, the call to save nature has the effect of naturalizing it even further.
In his provocative book The Next Social Contract, Wayne Gabardi rigorously considers the fate of animals in the twenty-first century. He claims that if we are to address the challenges raised by the Anthropocene—the period where nonhuman beings tend to be mere extras, often subsumed under the umbrella notion of “nature”—we need to radically rethink our basic ethical outlook and develop a new, “more-than-human” social contract.
Gabardi’s wide-ranging and multidisciplinary analysis focuses on four principal battlegrounds of animal biopolitics in the twenty first century: the extinction of wild animals, the crisis of oceanic animals, industrialized farm animals and the future of industrial agribusiness, and the situation of contact-zone animals moving into human-occupied habitats.
In his recasting of the social contract, Gabardi envisions a culture shift in human-animal relations toward posthumanism that features the ethical and political prioritization of animal life so it is on par with that of human well-being.
The Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben is having an increasingly significant impact on Anglo-American political theory. His most prominent intervention to date is the powerful reassessment of sovereignty and the politics of life and death laid out in his multivolume Homo Sacer project. Agamben argues that in both the modern world and the ancient, politics inevitably involves a sovereign decision that bans some individuals from the political and human communities. For Agamben, the Nazi concentration camps—in which some inmates are reduced to a form of living death—are not a political aberration but instead the place where this essential political decision about life most clearly reveals itself. Engaging specifically with Homo Sacer, the essays in this collection draw out and contend with the wide-ranging implications of Agamben’s radical and controversial interpretation of modern political life.
The contributors analyze Agamben’s thought from the perspectives of political theory, philosophy, jurisprudence, and the history of law. They consider his work not only in relation to that of his major interlocutors—Hannah Arendt, Michel Foucault, Carl Schmitt, Walter Benjamin, and Martin Heidegger—but also in relation to the thought of Plato, Pindar, Heraclitus, Descartes, Kafka, Bataille, and Derrida. The essayists’ approaches are varied, as are their ultimate evaluations of the cogency and accuracy of Agamben’s arguments. This volume also includes an original essay by Agamben in which he considers the relation of Benjamin’s “Critique of Violence” to Schmitt’s Political Theology. Politics, Metaphysics, and Death is a necessary, multifaceted exposition and evaluation of the thought of one of today’s most important political theorists.
Contributors: Giorgio Agamben, Andrew Benjamin, Peter Fitzpatrick, Anselm Haverkamp, Paul Hegarty, Andreas Kalyvas, Rainer Maria Kiesow , Catherine Mills, Andrew Norris, Adam Thurschwell, Erik Vogt, Thomas Carl Wall
If medieval literary studies is, like so many fields, currently conditioned by an ecological turn that dislodges the human from its central place in materialist analysis, then why now focus on the law? Is not the law the most human, if not indeed the human, institution? In proposing that all life in medieval Britain, whether animal or vegetable, was subject to the same legal machine that enabled claims on land, are we not ignoring the ecocritical demand that we counteract human exceptionalism and reframe the past with inhuman eyes?
This volume, edited by Randy P. Schiff and Joseph Taylor, presents a diverse and stimulating group of interconnected essays that respond to these questions by infusing biopolitical material and theory into ecocentric studies of medieval life. The Politics of Ecology: Land, Life, and Law in Medieval Britain pursues the political power of sovereign law as it disciplines and manages various forms of natural life, and discloses the literary biopolitics played out in texts that work out the fraught interactions of life and law, in all its forms. Contributors to this volume explore such issues as legal networks and death, Arthurian bare life, Chaucerian medical biopolitics, the biopolitics of fur, ecologies of sainthood, arboreal political theology, conservation and political ecology, and geographical melancholy.
Bringing together both established and rising critical voices, The Politics of Ecology creates a place for cutting-edge medievalist ecocriticism focused on the intersections of land, life, and law in medieval English, French, and Latin literature.
Revolutionary Medicine is a richly textured examination of the ways that Cuba's public health care system has changed during the past two decades and of the meaning of those changes for ordinary Cubans. Until the Soviet bloc collapsed in 1989, socialist Cuba encouraged citizens to view access to health care as a human right and the state's responsibility to provide it as a moral imperative. Since the loss of Soviet subsidies and the tightening of the U.S. economic embargo, Cuba's government has found it hard to provide the high-quality universal medical care that was so central to the revolutionary socialist project. In Revolutionary Medicine, P. Sean Brotherton deftly integrates theory and history with ethnographic research in Havana, including interviews with family physicians, public health officials, research scientists, and citizens seeking medical care. He describes how the deterioration of health and social welfare programs has led Cubans to seek health care through informal arrangements, as well as state-sponsored programs. Their creative, resourceful pursuit of health and well-being provides insight into how they navigate, adapt to, and pragmatically cope with the rapid social, economic, and political changes in post-Soviet Cuba.
In The Right to Maim Jasbir K. Puar brings her pathbreaking work on the liberal state, sexuality, and biopolitics to bear on our understanding of disability. Drawing on a stunning array of theoretical and methodological frameworks, Puar uses the concept of “debility”—bodily injury and social exclusion brought on by economic and political factors—to disrupt the category of disability. She shows how debility, disability, and capacity together constitute an assemblage that states use to control populations. Puar's analysis culminates in an interrogation of Israel's policies toward Palestine, in which she outlines how Israel brings Palestinians into biopolitical being by designating them available for injury. Supplementing its right to kill with what Puar calls the right to maim, the Israeli state relies on liberal frameworks of disability to obscure and enable the mass debilitation of Palestinian bodies. Tracing disability's interaction with debility and capacity, Puar offers a brilliant rethinking of Foucauldian biopolitics while showing how disability functions at the intersection of imperialism and racialized capital.
In The Sonic Episteme Robin James examines how twenty-first-century conceptions of sound as acoustic resonance shape notions of the social world, personhood, and materiality in ways that support white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Drawing on fields ranging from philosophy and sound studies to black feminist studies and musicology, James shows how what she calls the sonic episteme—a set of sound-based rules that qualitatively structure social practices in much the same way that neoliberalism uses statistics—employs a politics of exception to maintain hegemonic neoliberal and biopolitical projects. Where James sees the normcore averageness of Taylor Swift and Spandau Ballet as contributing to the sonic episteme's marginalization of nonnormative conceptions of gender, race, and personhood, the black feminist political ontologies she identifies in Beyoncé's and Rihanna's music challenge such marginalization. In using sound to theorize political ontology, subjectivity, and power, James argues for the further articulation of sonic practices that avoid contributing to the systemic relations of domination that biopolitical neoliberalism creates and polices.
Featuring essays by some of the most prominent names in contemporary political and cultural theory, Sovereignty in Ruins presents a form of critique grounded in the conviction that political thought is itself an agent of crisis. Aiming to develop a political vocabulary capable of critiquing and transforming contemporary political frameworks, the contributors advance a politics of crisis that collapses the false dichotomies between sovereignty and governmentality and between critique and crisis. Their essays address a wide range of topics, such as the role history plays in the development of a politics of crisis; Arendt's controversial judgment of Adolf Eichmann; Strauss's and Badiou's readings of Plato's Laws; the acceptance of the unacceptable; the human and nonhuman; and flesh as a biopolitical category representative of the ongoing crisis of modernity. Altering the terms through which political action may take place, the contributors think through new notions of the political that advance countermodels of biopolitics, radical democracy, and humanity.
Contributors. Judith Butler, George Edmondson, Roberto Esposito, Carlo Galli, Klaus Mladek, Alberto Moreiras, Andrew Norris, Eric L. Santner, Adam Sitze, Carsten Strathausen, Rei Terada, Cary Wolfe
In 2014 Barbados introduced a vaccine to prevent certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) and reduce the risk of cervical cancer in young women. Despite the disproportionate burden of cervical cancer in the Caribbean, many Afro-Barbadians chose not to immunize their daughters. In Suspicion, Nicole Charles reframes Afro-Barbadian vaccine refusal from a question of hesitancy to one of suspicion. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, black feminist theory, transnational feminist studies and science and technology studies, Charles foregrounds Afro-Barbadians' gut feelings and emotions and the lingering trauma of colonial and biopolitical violence. She shows that suspicion, far from being irrational, is a fraught and generative affective orientation grounded in concrete histories of mistrust of government and coercive medical practices foisted on colonized peoples. By contextualizing suspicion within these longer cultural and political histories, Charles troubles traditional narratives of vaccine hesitancy while offering new entry points into discussions on racialized biopolitics, neocolonialism, care, affect, and biomedicine across the Black diaspora.
Duke University Press Scholars of Color First Book Award recipient
Vitality Politics focuses on a slow racial violence against African Americans through everyday, accumulative, contagious, and toxic attritions on health. The book engages with recent critical disability studies scholarship to recognize that debility, or the targeted maiming and distressing of Black populations, is a largely unacknowledged strategy of the U.S. liberal multicultural capitalist state. This politicization of biological health serves as an instrument for insisting on a racial state of exception in which African Americans’ own unhealthy habits and disease susceptibility justifies their legitimate suspension from full rights to social justice, economic opportunity, and political freedom and equality. The book brings together disability studies, Black Studies, and African American literary history as it highlights the urgent need and gives weight to a biopolitics of debilitation and medicalization to better understand how Black lives are made not to matter in our supposedly race-neutral multicultural democracy.
Winner, 2021 Association for the Rhetoric of Science, Technology, and Medicine Book Award
Honorable Mention, 2021 Rhetoric Society of America Book Award
Honorable Mention, 2021 Marie Hochmuth Nichols Award for Outstanding Published Scholarship in Public Address
The way we talk about living beings can raise or lower their perceived value. Consider the pro-life strategy of calling a fetus a child, thereby effectively promoting the value of fetal life. In the opposite direction, calling a Pakistani child killed by a US drone strike collateral damage can implicitly demote the value of that child’s life. Allison L. Rowland’s Zoetropes and the Politics of Humanhood looks at such discursive practices—providing the first systematic account of how transvaluations like these operate in public discourse and lurk at the edges of all language.
Building on the necropolitical concept that we are constantly parsing populations into worthy lives, subhuman lives, and lives sentenced to death, Rowland’s study focuses specifically at zoetropes—the rhetorical devices and figures that result in such transvaluations. Through a series of case studies, including microbial life (at the American Gut Project), fetal life (at the National Memorial for the Unborn), and vital human life (at two of the nation’s premier fitness centers)—and in conversation with cutting-edge theories of race, gender, sexuality, and disability—this book brings to light the discursive practices that set the terms for inclusion into humanhood and make us who we are.