Mini-course on Biopolitics
In week 45, 7-12 November 2011, the Institute for Philosophy will host a mini-course by visiting professor Vanessa Lemm, Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Institute of Humanities at the Diego Portales University, Santiago de Chile.
Vanessa Lemm is a leading expert in the biopolitics, an area of political thought first opened up by Foucault in the 70's and developed by philosophers like Roberto Esposito, Giorgio Agamben and Antonio Negri. Biopolitics is a rapidly expanding field and Vanessa Lemm has been instrumental in its development across Latin America.
The mini-course will introduce the concept of biopolitics from Foucault's lectures and end with an exposition of its development after Foucault. There will be an informal workshop on the Saturday to which we hope to invite a few Dutch scholars involved in biopolitics.
The course is open to all interested BA3 and MA students within or outside the Institute for Philosophy, and participants will be able to get 5 EC for the work they do.
Interested students should contact Herman Siemens: email@example.com. Numbers are limited and places will be allocated on a first come basis.
This seminar will introduce biopolitics as a new paradigm of political power. In Foucault, we can distinguish between three different senses of the term biopolitics. In The History of Sexuality, he uses the term "biopolitics" primarily to define a turning point in the history of Western political thought which manifests itself as a radical transformation of the traditional concept of sovereign power starting in the seventeenth century. In his lectures on One Must Defend Society, he uses the term biopolitics to speak of technologies and discourses that play a central role in the emergence of modern racism. Lastly, in his lectures on The Birth of Biopolitics and on Security, Territory, Population, he uses the term to describe the kind of political rationality at stake in the liberal mode of governmentality.
These different uses of the term biopolitics overlap insofar as they all describe the historical discontinuity through which, as Foucault says, "for the first time in history, no doubt, biological existence was reflected in political existence; the fact of living was no longer an inaccessible substrate that only emerged from time to time, amid the randomness of death and its fatality; part of it passed into knowledge’s field of control and power’s sphere of intervention" (Foucault 1990: 142). The extreme example of a modern biopolitics which places the human being’s existence as a living being in question is the use made by Nazi ideologies of race and ethnic distinctions, as if these denoted superior and inferior species of men. A less extreme example of such a biopolitics is visible in the way one now speaks about a "higher" or "lower" quality of life, suggesting the way in which health care, environment, amount of "human capital" accumulated, etc. determines the quality of our biological life.
This seminar will offer both an overview of the different uses of the term biopolitics in Foucault, as well as of the current debates in biopolitics, in particular through the works of Roberto Esposito, Giorgio Agamben and Toni Negri.
Monday, 7 November, 18:00-21:00
Introduction to Biopolitics
- Thomas Lemke, Introduction to Biopolitics (chapter 1, 2, and 3)
- Roberto Esposito, Bios (Introduction, chapter 1)
Wednesday, 9 November, 18:00-21:00
Biopolitcs, Population and Racism
- Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality (last chapter)
- Michel Foucault, Omnes et Singulatim
- Michel Foucault, "Il faut défendre la société" (cours du 17 mars 1976)
- Agamben, Homo Sacer (Introduction)
Thursday, 10 November, 15:00-17:00
Paper by Vanessa Lemm on Esposito’s notion of community followed by seminar discussion at UvA. Details to be announced.
Friday, 11 November, 18:00-21:00
From totalitarian to affirmative Biopolitics
- Roberto Esposito, Bios (chapter 4 and 5)
- Negri, Toni/Hardt, Michael. Multitude (chapter 2.1) (Penguin Books, 2004)
- Marx, Karl. Philosophische und ökonomische Schriften (Reclam 2008) (Teil 3) (to be confirmed).
- Final paper (8-10 pages)
- Oral presentation
Lipsius, room 308 (third floor, down the corridor from 307).
Route description (Dutch)
Route description (English)
Arendt, Hannah. The Origins of Totalitarianism. New York: Harcourt Brace and Company, 1973.
Esposito, Roberto. Bios. Biopolitica e Filosofia. Turin: Biblioteca Einaudi, 2004.
———. Communitas: Ursprung und Wege der Gemeinschaft. Berlin: Diaphanes, 2004.
———. Immunitas: Schutz und Negation des Lebens. Berlin: Diaphanes, 2004.
Foucault, Michel. Ethics, Subjectivity and Truth: The Essential Works of Foucault, 1954-1984.Vol. volume 1. New York: The New Press, 1994.
———. "If Faut Défendre La Société" Cours au Collège de France. 1976. Paris: Gallimard, Seuil, 1997.
———. "Nietzsche, la généalogie, l'histoire." In Hommage À Jean Hyppolite, 145-72. Paris: PUF, 1971.
———. "Omnes Et Singulatim: Toward a Crtitique of Political Reason." In Power: The Essential Writings of Foucault, 1954-1984. New York: The New Press, 2000.
———. Power, Essential Works of Foucault 1954-1984. Edited by Paul Rabinow. Vol. 3. New York: The New Press, 2000.
———. Sécurité, Territoire, Population. Cours au Collège de France 1977-1978. Paris: Gallimard, Seuil, 2004.
Lemke, Thomas. Biopolitik zur Einführung. Hamburg: Junius Verlag, 2007.(chapter one and two are also available in English at www.biopolitica.cl )
Negri, Toni/Hardt, Michael.Multitude (chapter 2.1) (Penguin Books, 2004).
Marx, Karl. Philosophische und ökonomische Schriften (Reclam 2008) (Teil 3) (to be confirmed).