Author Archives: nlclarkson

Esposito, Ch 1, “The Enigma of Biopolitics”

In this introduction to biopolitics, Esposito first traces three deployments of biopolitical techniques upon which Foucault draws to elaborate his analysis of the centrality of biopolitical mechanisms to governmentality. Continue reading

Lock, “The Alienation of Body Tissue and the Biopolitics of Immortalized Cell Lines”

Based on Lock’s citations of her own work among her References, it seems as though she does work on race and gender in health and biomedical processes (for example, “organ transplants and the reinvention of death,” which is the subtitle of one of her books).  She is a cultural anthropologist at McGill University in Montreal.

Though Lock surprisingly doesn’t cite Foucault in any of her discussion of the “biopolitics” of cell lines, her discussion nevertheless seems to offer many connections to other authors we’ve read this semester.

Like many of the other authors this week, Lock is also concerned with the patenting of human “biologicals” through intellectual property laws.  In this article, she focuses on the colonialist relations activated in “bioprospecting” genes from indigenous populations (note: whereas Hayden is concerned with “bioprospecting” local knowledge of medicinal plants, Lock is concerned with the capture of “exotic” tissue samples and genetic information; 64).

My primary question about this piece is: Does this seeking out and patenting biological material from indigenous populations require that we rethink Agamben’s discussion of encampment and homo sacer, or Mbembe’s necropolitics?

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Deleuze & Guattari, “Micropolitics and Segmentarity”

D&G begin by discussing multiple types of segmentarity: binary, circular and linear; supple (associated primarily with “the primitive”) and rigid (associated mostly with modern life; 210).  Supple, binary segmentarity is the result of “machines and assemblages that are not themselves binary” whereas rigid binary segmentarity, in “State societies,… bring into their own duality machines that function as such, and proceed simultaneously by biunivocal relationships and successively by binarized choices” (210).  Supple, circular segmentarity is characterized by many “knots, eyes, or black holes [that] do not all resonate together.”  Under rigid (again, characterized by State societies), circular segmentarity, all centers “resonate in… a single point of accumulation that is like a point of intersection somewhere behind the eyes.”  State societies “behave as apparatuses of resonance” (211).  However, it is important to note that these modes overlap (213).

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Puar, “The Turban is not a Hat.”

Puar’s “The Turban is not a Hat” is the fourth chapter in Terrorist Assemblages. I thought I would start with a gloss of the book to help situate the chapter we read for today.

Terrorists Assemblages (2007)

Terrorist Assemblages draws heavily on Foucault’s biopolitics (in frequent conjunction with Achille Mbembe’s “necropolitics”) and Deleuze and Guattari’s “assemblages” to propose a way to think about concatenations of “identity” (race, nation, class, gender, sexuality) outside of the frame of intersectionality.  Puar lays out three important frames for the book: sexual exceptionalism, regulatory queerness, and the ascendancy of whiteness (xxiv).  Puar importantly details the ways these three frames work together to produce a legitimately “homonational” white, gay subject, shunting queerness onto the body of the “terrorist,” and rendering illegible a gay-identified South Asian subject.  Sexual exceptionalism (3-11) does this by holding up the inclusion of white, gay subjects as a sign of “modernity,” simultaneously requiring the performance of “patriotic” homosexuality (for example, the gay rugby player who took down one of the planes on Sept 11, 2001).  “Queer as regulatory” (11-24) works by thinking queerness in a fiercely secular frame (rendering “Muslim queer” unthinkable; 13) and more importantly, names the process by which white gay men (such as Pim Fortuyn, for example, in the Netherlands) can “enact forms of national, racial, or other belongings by contributing to the collective vilification of Muslims” (21).  Finally, “the ascendancy of whiteness” (24-32; which Puar borrows from Rey Chow) describes the process whereby the state and the market offer some forms of national belonging (or love, borrowing from Ahmed) to multicultural heteronormative subjects, while remaining committed to exclusionary/homophobic/xenophobic practices (26).  The ascendancy of whiteness also relies on a belief that people of color are more homophobic than queers are racist (29).

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Read, “The Real Subsumption of Subjectivity by Capital”

Here are my notes for Jason Read from last week, just for the sake of having everything available on the blog.

Read, “The Real Subsumption of Subjectivity by Capital.”

Read is assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Southern Maine.  This book, The Micropolitics of Capital, is his only book, but he has published numerous articles reading Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari, and Althusser.  The chapter we read is the final chapter from The Micropolitics of Capital.

In this chapter, Read is addressing a “limit” in Marx’s thought: “The simultaneous recognition of subjectivity as pure ‘subjection’ and subjectivity as collective power, combined with the fact that all of this is developed in an abandoned draft, would seem to suggest that we are at a, if not the, ‘limit’ of Karl Marx’s thought” (104).  Read discusses the different formations of “the social” in transitions between forms of capitalism (112).

For those of us less familiar with Marxism (including myself), it may be helpful to clarify some terms:

I understood formal subsumption to designate the shift between “pre-capitalist” and capitalist modes of production (112).

Real subsumption seemed to entail a critical shift to direct production of subjectivity.  It is the “subsumption of society by capital, and thus the transformation of social relationships” (113).  It is “the transformation of the technical and social conditions of the labor process: A transformation in which what is originally outside of capital, the social and technical conditions of labor, becomes internalized” (114).

Notes/Potential quotes for discussion

115—the production of objects is always a production of the one producing.

116-117—transition to machinery reorganizes the collectivity of workers, expands it beyond the factory to include scientists, etc.

118-119—“What is perhaps more useful for out purpose here is the light the fragment sheds on a different contradiction: the contradiction of real subsumption, which is a contradiction between the total subjection of sociality and subjectivity to capital and the concomitant development of a subjective and social power irreducible to abstract labor.”

123—“Here this process of self-transformation and experimentation is presented not as the epochal difference between capitalism and what came before but as constitutive of a new form of fixed capital: subjectivity as fixed capital.  Knowledge and social relations are incorporated not only into fixed capital as machinery but also as human subjectivity.  This new subject is produced during ‘free time,’ outside of the time of wage labor—it is produced in and through consumption.”

125—“It is a model of labor in which the effect on social relations, on subjectivity, is not a byproduct of a more primary transformation of things as in the schema of the labor process but is directly produced by labor itself—labor becomes autopoetic.”

130—the city or social space as fixed capital; 131—archive of immaterial labor, cartographies of value

132-133—subjectivity as fixed capital

136—“The capitalist mode of production must fetter this abstract subjective potential by tying it to particular modes of subjection, particular ways of living.”

139—biopolitics of capitalism

143—“Paradoxically, the production of subjectivity, of a specific individualized subject, is thus leveled against the productive power of collective subjectivity.”

147—Hardt and Negri’s use of “biopolitical” to include “everything that constitutes a ‘form of life’” including “styles, desires, communities, and ways of communicating.”