International Symposium
Department of Political and Economic Studies
University of Helsinki
Lecture Hall 1
Unioninkatu 37
Friday, 23 October 2015
The symposium is funded by the Academy of Finland

Since Michel Foucault’s introduction of the concept of biopolitics in History of Sexuality I, this problematic has remained entangled with its evil twin, thanatopolitics or the politics of death. While biopower is positive and productive, insofar as it makes one live, i.e. augments, amplifies or secures the vital processes of the population, it is never too far from the negative and even lethal use of power. In fact, its sole difference from sovereign power consists in the move from the active infliction of death on the enemy or offender to the more passive abandonment of entire populations to death in order to secure the life of one’s own population, group or race. In later works of such authors as Giorgio Agamben and Roberto Esposito this entanglement is intensified even further, as biopolitics ends up either practically indistinct from thanatopolitics or subject to relapsing into it at any moment. This entanglement raises the question of the possibility of an affirmative biopolitics, which can be defined in the simplest terms as a politics of life that is spared from this thanatopolitical conversion. This symposium brings together an international group of scholars with diverse disciplinary backgrounds to discuss the thanatopolitical conversion of biopolitics in a variety of spatial, temporal and ideological contexts, from Ancient Greece through Stalinist Russia to contemporary Africa, and chart possible pathways towards the reappropriation of biopolitics in an affirmative fashion.

Keynote speaker: Professor Davide Tarizzo (University of Salerno).
Professor Tarizzo has published extensively on biopolitics, psychoanalysis and political theory. His books include: Introduzione a Lacan (2003), Il pensiero libero. La filosofia francese dopo lo strutturalismo (2003), Giochi di potere. Sulla paranoia politica (2007) La vita, un’invenzione recente (2010; forthcoming in English translation as Life, a Recent Invention with Minnesota University Press). Professor Tarizzo has also edited the Italian translation of contemporary philosophers such as Hannah Arendt, Gilles Deleuze, Stanley Cavell, Jean-Luc Nancy, Alain Badiou and Ernesto Laclau.


Session 1: 9.15-10.45
Mika Ojakangas (University of Jyväskylä), ‘On the Greek Origins of Biopolitics’
Sergei Prozorov (University of Helsinki), ‘The Biopolitics of Stalinism: Exterminist and Affirmative Biopolitics’

Coffee Break

Session 2: 11.00-12.30
Cai Weaver (University of Helsinki), ‘The Russian History of Sexuality – Biopolitics and Governance’
Simona Rentea (St Louis University, Madrid), ‘Becoming Common: Anguish and Imagination in Contemporary Struggles against Austerity in Spain’

Lunch break

Session 3: 14.00-15.30
Keynote Lecture: Davide Tarizzo (University of Salerno), ‘True Fictions. Biopolitics, Critical Theory, and Clinical Materialism’​

Session 4: 15.45-17.15
Jaakko Ailio (University of Helsinki), ‘Biopolitics of the Global Governance of HIV/AIDS’
Marco Piesantier (Centre of Critical Thought, University of Kent), ‘Foucault and the Two Approaches to Biopolitics’

For any queries please contact Sergei Prozorov, University Lecturer in World Politics, Department of Political and Economic Studies, University of Helsinki:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *