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 kick off the discussions by looking at our own context: higher education, before exploring the concepts and histories of 'biopolitics' and 'neoliberalism'. 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: disposession and the politics of debt, crisis and austerity; the (racialised, gendered, class-contingent) precarity of labour and life; issues of care work, family and subjectivity; the particular way the future has become a field of biopolitical intervention and prevention; and the neoliberalisaiton of love and sexuality (dating apps!).