Politics for the Living: A Genealogy of Romantic Biopolitics
Supervisors: Dr. Steve Crocker, Sociology; Dr. James Connor, History; Dr. Sean McGrath, Philosophy; Dr. Markus Enders, Philosophy and Theology (University of Freiburg).
Program Milestones: Awarded Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship (CGS).
Research: Biopolitics, the political management of life at the level of the population, is beset by a tragic paradox: the ability to regulate the vitality of 'the body politic' has been historically linked to an increasingly sophisticated and systematic administration of death. Is it possible to disentangle 'biopolitics' from the death-bearing aspects of its contemporary expression? In my doctoral thesis, I will outline the alternative politics of life that emerge from German Romanticism in order to challenge the seeming inevitability of biopolitics' reversal into an instrument of death.
I recognize, in the German Romantics' treatment of life, an overlooked alternative to the 'biopolitics' that Michel Foucault identifies with modernity and that has since been conflated with the administration of death. The 'administration of death' refers to not only murder as such, but also every form of indirect murder: the act of exposing someone to death. By tracing a new genealogy of biopolitics, I will highlight the historical contingency of both 'modern biopolitics' and, more critically, its progression into thanatopolitics (the politics of death). In response to the many current theses that attempt to identify the origins of biopolitics, I emphasize that there are multiple technologies, that is, multiple exertions of power, that take life as their object. The problems at the heart of biopolitics must be approached in view of the latter's complex origins: instead of affirming the inextricable relationship between a politics of life and a politics of death, I challenge it.
Discipline: Sociology, History of Medicine, Philosophy