Race, Biopolitics, and the Genres of the Human  (Seminar)


Nazia Manzoor (SUNY University at Albany)

What is politics’ relationship with the human? Contemporary politics’ reliance on unequal and uneven distributions of power characterized by the intersections of capital, racism, migratory constraints, colonialism and violence is dependent upon an older, systemic hierarchization of humans as a political subject. For Foucault, biopower is fundamentally a modern concept where the modern man’s political presence is no longer an additional capacity for humans but an essence of life and that life itself is an object of politics. Both Foucault and Agamben are thus interested in tracing a trajectory of repeated conditions and situations in Western history through a self-reflexive project that identifies the human as ‘just’ political subject—a trend that demands further investigation. With Alexander Weheliye’s inclusion of race as the constituent category of the human and black feminist theory’s critique of the exclusion of nonwhite subjects into the category of human dominating current scholarship on race and biopolitics, this panel seeks to look back on classic literature from the eighteenth-century that has race at the center of it. Through an intersectional reading of of critical race theory, post-colonial study, subaltern studies, gender and sexual studies, and animal studies, the papers presented in the panel wish to engage with the current crisis of the shifting configurations of the non-human racial other. As displaced peoples, migrants and refugees grapple with the ability to lay claim to full-human status, as they are resegregated and re-excluded from the juridical realm and as newer forms of institutionalized, militarized ideas of the human become the norm, this panel proposes that turning towards the past could be a way through which we can stay within the trouble of the present.
Panel discussion on the history and future of biopolitics in relation to 18th-century English fiction and nonfiction. In addition to the 18th-century self-making of the black human as a political subject, this panel invites critical intervention into the emerging trends in the theory of biopolitics vis-à-vis capitalocene, anthropocene, and chuthulucene, and establishes linkages between the two historical junctures. Through an engagement with critical theories about race, animal studies, and gender and sexuality, the panel initiates a conversation that investigates the permeability and porousness of borders and boundaries between spaces, identities, and peoples, leading to new and profitable conversations about the future of biopolitics.