As the name suggests, “biopolitics” is concerned with the connections and mutual influences between politics and life. A bit more precisely, cultural studies have been using the term in the sense given to it by Michel Foucault to refer to the means and strategies through which power—“biopower”, in this case—operates on society in order to administer, manipulate, control, and optimize human life. Biopower acts upon health, hygiene, sexuality, fertility and birth rates as well as death rates and all other aspects relevant to the populations’ biological processes and well-being. For Foucault, biopower “intervenes through disciplinary technologies in order to control and manage individual bodies while it also intervenes at the level of the population conceived of as a social or biological corpus defined by its own characteristics and processes (i.e., birth rates, death rates, measures of health, and so on)” (Laurence). According to Foucault, “[t]his bio-power was without question an indispensable element in the development of capitalism” which made possible “the controlled insertion of bodies into the machinery of production and the adjustment of the phenomena of population to economic processes” (qtd. by Adams).
For Foucault, biopower intervenes on individual lives through what he calls dispositifs or “apparati”. In very practical terms, Timothy Campbell understands an apparatus to be “whatever it is that makes something or someone visible.” According to Campbell, “there are as many [apparati] as there are ways of making visible subjects, forms, objects, and sites … We could speak about the patent as an apparatus, certain technologies (cinema, social media), the person of course, and language itself: techniques, patterns, legal practices whose effect is to make us visible” (Campbell).
Today, as Campbell observes, biopower very much relies on data collection and surveillance. Therefore, it matters to consider how it might be possible to resist and to seek liberation from such type of control: “If biopolitics fundamentally involves the appropriation, ownership, and the mastery of data, but also of ourselves and our bodies, then anything that subverts mastery deserves serious consideration as a response.” For Campbell, understanding how apparati work and the roles they play may help us confront them; at the same time, Campbell admits that “it’s hard not to be skeptical. Apparatuses, for as much as they make us visible, don’t like the light.” One form of resistance, according to Campbell, may be through art and fantasy. For him, biopolitically subversive art “would encompass works that subvert biological identification and identity at the level of species and genus. … This would be art in which precariousness is foregrounded: the precariousness of play across political and biological forms, where the political and biological rock back and forth between the subjective and the objective.”
In recent decades, the rise of environmental cultural studies has given new impetus to the concept of biopolitics and has broadened its relevance to the realm of plant and animal studies as well as science and technology studies, where it has become useful to the exploration of industrial agriculture, GMOs, waste, pollution, climate change, and other areas. As far as Iberian environmental cultural studies, the works of Katarzyna Olga Beilin and of John Trevathan are particularly intriguing.
FUENTES / SOURCES Adams, Rachel. "Michel Foucault: Biopolitics and Biopower" http://criticallegalthinking.com/2017/05/10/michel-foucault-biopolitics-biopower/ Biopolitics: An Interview With Timothy Campbell http://biononymous.me/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/full_interview.pdf Laurence, Michael. "Biopolitics and State Regulation of Human Life". In obo in Political Science. 29 May. 2019. https://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199756223/obo-9780199756223-0170.xml BIBILOGRAFÍA SELECTA / SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY Adams, Rachel. "Michel Foucault: Biopolitics and Biopower" http://criticallegalthinking.com/2017/05/10/michel-foucault-biopolitics-biopower/ Beilin, Katarzyna and William Viestenz, eds. Ethics of Life: Contemporary Iberian Debates. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt UP, 2016 Beilin, Katarzyna and William Viestenz, eds. A Polemical Companion to Ethics of Life: Contemporary Iberian Debates. Hispanic Issues On Line Debates 7 (2016) https://cla.umn.edu/hispanic-issues/debates/polemical-companion-ethics-life Beilin, Katarzyna. In Search of an Alternative Biopolitics: Anti-Bullfighting, Animality, and the Environment in Contemporary Spain. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 2015. Biopolitics: An Interview With Timothy Campbell http://biononymous.me/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/full_interview.pdf Campbell, Timothy and Adam Sitze, eds. Biopolitics: A Reader. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013. Cisney, Vernon and Nicolae Morar, eds. Biopower: Foucault and Beyond. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2015. Clough, Patricia and Craig Willse, eds. Beyond Biopolitics: Essays on the Governance of Life and Death. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011. Cooper, Melinda. Life as Surplus: Biotechnology and Capitalism in the Neoliberal Era. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 2015. Foucault, Michel. "Society Must Be Defended": Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975-1976. David Macey, translator. New York: Picador, 2003. Laurence, Michael. "Biopolitics and State Regulation of Human Life". In obo in Political Science. 29 May. 2019. https://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199756223/obo-9780199756223-0170.xml Lemke, Thomas, Monica Casper and Lisa Jean Moore, eds. Biopolitics: An Advanced Introduction. New York: NYU Press, 2011. Liesen, Laurette and Mary Walsh. “The competing meanings of "biopolitics" in political science: Biological and postmodern approaches to politics.” Politics and the Life Sciences 31, 1/2 (2012): 2-15 By Jorge (Jordi) Mari