Michel Foucault famously traced a shift in the logics of power with regards to life and death from a sovereign right to kill to an imperative of ‘making live and letting die’. Arguing against Foucaut’s notion of biopower and its implicit neglect of death, Achile Mbembe asserted that the production and regulation of death through the creation of ‘death-worlds’ – what he calls, in short, necropolitics – continues to play a decisive role in the field of the political. Departing from a conceptual and ethnographic engagement with bio- and necropolitics, this seminar explores how death and dead bodies are produced, become the object for political projects and are mobilised to circulate within economies of power and affect. Themes and topics include: a) vulnerability and grievability (differential exposure to risk and death); b) the production of death (killing, abandonment, ‘slow death’); c) sovereignty and sacrifice (martyrdom, death penalty, death fasts); c) nationalism and the politics of memory; d) disappearances; e) politics of the dead (mourning, activism); f) ghosts and spectres; g) dead bodies and human remains (liminality, taboo, sacred/profane); h) burials; i) exhumations and forensics (the body as evidence); j) death, commodification, finance.
Literature: Michel Foucault – Biopower; Achille Mbembe – Necropolitics; Judith Butler – Frames of War, Precarious Life; Lauren Berlant – Slow death; René Girard – Sacrifice; Mary Douglas – Purity and Danger, Finn Stepputat – Governing the dead; Avery Gordon – Ghostly Matter; Katherine Verdery – The political lives of dead bodies; Zoe Crossland – Disturbing Bodies, etc.