Biopolitics: A Foucauldian Reading

Arup Kumar Sen

The French thinker, Michel Foucault, did not produce a single, comprehensive work on epidemics. He commented briefly on leprosy, plague and smallpox. His argument was that each type of epidemic can be correlated to a different political response. Following the publication of his now-famous book, Discipline and Punish, Foucault began to enquire into the incorporation of life and the living into state concerns, a process he often called biopolitical. (See Eugene Thacker, “The Shadows of Atheology: Epidemics, Power and Life after Foucault”, Theory, Culture &Society, Vol. 26, No.6, 2009)

After highlighting Foucault’s reading of epidemics, Eugene Thacker observed: “We are, perhaps, witnessing a transformation in the biopolitics of  epidemics, one in which the new criteria for security will be those of networks, flows and circulations…But not everything must flow, for the network circulations themselves must be secured- a security of circulations...Indeed, it becomes difficult to conceive of a network for the people without at least a minimal consideration of that same network operating in non-human ways against the people.(ibid.)

The recent state atrocities on the floating population, particularly the migrants, being reported from different parts of India in the wake of spread of the coronavirus, show the coercive dimensions of Biopolitics in India.

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Apr 6, 2020

Arup Sen

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