When Michel Foucault, over the course of his oeuvre, turned to the issue of ‘biopolitics’, he paused and appeared to have felt the need to make sense of something else first, namely the changing shape of liberal governance in the twentieth century. Following his lead, this course will engage with neoliberalism as biopolitics. Neoliberalism generally refers to a shift from a Fordist-Keynesian regulatory state with extensive social welfare and employment security to a regime of flexible labour and accumulation, free trade and active individualism. It has re-organised the relation between state, individuals and various (religious, kin, civil society, etc.) communities/collectivities. Central to this re-organisation has been the redistribution of responsibilities, both for care and social reproduction, but also for the the burden of social and existential risks. Market logics have penetrated ever more spheres of life, commoditising the most intimate of human relations and the production of identity and personhood itself. Desires, affects and emotions nowadays play an important role in the production of economic value.
We will start the course with a conceptual and historical exploration of ‘neoliberalism’ and ‘biopolitics’? What is mean by the two terms, how have they been defined? What have they been made to refer to? We will thereby trace the changing logics and increasingly global workings of capitalism in relation to the histories of the welfare state, colonialism, socialism, the third world debt crisis, etc. through to the present moment. The major focus of the course will be on the 21st century. By engaging with the work of anthropologists as well as scholars from other disciplines, we will explore different themes and spheres that bring to the fore the biopolitical dimensions of neoliberal governance, such as, amongst others: the marketisation of citizenship; the politics of crisis, austerity and debt; the particular way the future has become a field of biopolitical intervention and prevention; the (racialised, gendered, class-contingent) precarity of labour and life; mobility, migration and survival; care work, gender and emotional labour; the neoliberalisaiton of love and sexuality (dating apps!); but also struggles towards maintaining or reclaiming the grounds and infrastructures that sustain communal living and other challenges to the neoliberal-biopolitical order.
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