The Politics of Life: Michel Foucault and the Biopolitics of Modernity; CFP deadline

The Politics of Life: Michel Foucault and the Biopolitics of Modernity
Call for papers

Södertörn University College, Stockholm
September 3-5, 2009

Confirmed Speakers:
Thomas Lemke
Maurizio Lazzarato
Julian Reid
Boris Groys
Catherine Mills
Johanna Oksala
Frédéric Gros
Vikki Bell

Ever since the concepts of "biopolitics" and "biopower" appeared in the first volume of Michel Foucault's The History of Sexuality in 1976, they have continued to provoke responses. In 1976 Foucault picks up themes already developed in Discipline and Punish, and describes a shift in the structure of power that takes us from the epoch of sovereignty, in which the right of the ruler is to take life or let live, to the modern conception of power as a way to enhance, render productive, compose, maximize, and administer life. In some respects this is an undeniable progress toward a more "humane" world, but, as Foucault underlines, it also leads to a biological conception of politics. To exterminate the enemy, to expel the degenerate, the enemy of the people or the class from the social body in order to attain purity—all of this will become possible precisely because the body politic comes to be perceived as a living entity that must be attended to, and not just a source of disturbances that must be repressed.
Foucault’s research, which soon came to graft the concept of biopolitics onto the idea of a specifically modern idea of "governmentality", and then to the idea of "apparatus of security" — all of which also constitutes a self-critique with respect to the earlier "disciplinary" model—has been a major source of inspiration for philosophy, political science and gender studies, as well as in bioethics and analyses of security apparatuses and techniques of surveillance. Foucault's ideas have been critically extended in highly diverse ways, often taking them far beyond their initial formulations—all of which indicate the extent to which thinking with, through, beyond and perhaps also against the questions posed by Foucault has proved to be a fertile ground for research.
The conference takes its point of departure in the work of Foucault, but seeks to gather researchers from all relevant fields in assessing the applicability of his thought to the present, which undoubtedly also means to envisage the possibility of different and alternative futures. It offers a limited space for presentations of ongoing research (approximately 20 non-invited papers will be accepted). Sessions will be organized primarily around the following three general topics:

A) Body, gender, individuation
How has the question of biopolitics transformed the conceptualization of subjectivity, desire, and sexuality? How should we understand the processes of subject formation and of "subjectivation" in contemporary societies, in which medical and other technologies have come to increasingly determine our ideas of selfhood? What are the political and ethical issues involved in such an ongoing redefinition of subjectivity?
B) Surveillance, security, control
To what extent are Foucault’s analyses of surveillance and security apparatuses applicable today? Have we entered into a "society of control" (Deleuze), and if so, what are the challenges for current political theory and for the idea of resistance and for insurgent practices? What kind of techniques are today employed to survey, generate security, and control?
C) Architecture, urbanism, and the ordering of space
How should we understand biopolitics in architecture and urban space? Are emancipatory architectures and urbanisms possible, in a situation in which, as Hardt and Negri claim, the Metropolis has replaced the Factory as a spatial paradigm? Can the concept of "heterotopia" be useful for the development of spatial and urban strategies?

Send in your abstract of maximum 200 words, including information of affiliation and degree major to:
jakob.nilsson (at)

Deadline for abstract is May 15.

You will receive notice of acceptance/rejection by June 10.

If you wish to participate and not present a paper, it is also possible to register already now to the address above.
Conference participation is free of charge.

The conference is generously sponsored by the Baltic Sea Foundation and Södertörn University College.

For more information, contact Sven-Olov Wallenstein (sven-olov.wallenstein (at)