Section 09 – Biopolitics
The problem of biopolitics has become increasingly important in the study of political science. Inspired by the pioneering research of Michel Foucault and subsequent studies in a variety of theoretical schools since the 1970s, political scientists have started addressing the rationalities of power that go beyond traditional sovereign-territorial logics and rather take the vital processes of the population as their object.
One of the main puzzles of the studies of biopolitics has been the relation between the positive and productive orientation of biopower and the negative power of exclusion and annihilation, which Foucault associated with sovereign power. The conversion of biopolitics into ‘thanatopolitics’ that annihilates the very life it was intended to protect was noted already in Foucault’s History of Sexuality I, but its full implications have been elaborated in the more recent works of Giorgio Agamben, Roberto Esposito and other authors who emphasize the inextricable link between biopolitics and its apparent opposite. This paradox makes biopolitics the site where the fundamental questions of political theory pertaining e.g. to power, legitimacy and community, intersect with empirical inquiries into the governance of reproduction, health promotion, pandemics, torture, euthanasia and other issues.
The Section follows the Sections on biopolitics that we convened at the 10th ECPR General Conference in Prague in September 2016 and the 11th ECPR General Conference in Oslo in September 2017. Both Sections were well-attended and made possible the formation of new research contacts and networks. Prozorov also previously organized two Sections on biopolitics at the 8th EISA Conference in Warsaw in 2013 and the 9th EISA conference in Giardini Naxos in 2015. These Sections contributed to the formation of a pan-European multidisciplinary network of biopolitics researchers and many of the presented papers were eventually published in the Routledge Handbook of Biopolitics (2016), co-edited by Prozorov and Simona Rentea. The Section at the 12th ECPR conference in Hamburg seeks to further develop this network, this time focusing more on the domestic-political rather than the international context. The Section will bring together scholars with diverse disciplinary backgrounds in order to address various aspects of biopolitics both theoretically and empirically in a variety of contexts.
The Section will comprise five Panels with five Papers each. The outline of the Panels below indicates the overall logic of the Section, yet the Section convenors are open to additional Panel proposals that may complement or replace the ones listed below. Two Panels are reserved for theoretically oriented Papers, dealing with the new perspectives on Foucault’s political thought and post-Foucauldian theories of biopolitics, particularly in contemporary Italian political theory. The remaining Panels address the same relation in three key contexts of biopolitical governance: political economy, particularly the forms of life promoted by neoliberal governmental rationalities; gender politics, particularly the deployment of gender as an instrument of governance, and, finally, the relation between biopolitical governmental rationality and the politics of internal and external security.
1. New Perspectives on Foucault’s Theory of Biopolitics
2. Biopolitics after Foucault: Contemporary Theoretical Developments
3. Biopolitics and Economy
4. Biopower and Gender
5. Biopolitics and Security
To propose a paper, visit the ECPR Website
Dr. Sergei Prozorov
Senior Lecturer in Political Science
Department of Political and Economic Studies
00014 University of Helsinki, Finland
Prof. Mika Ojakangas
Professor of Political Thought
Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy
40014 University of Jyväskylä