Student Conference: Biopower In Contemporary Anglophone Literature

30 Oct 2015
University of Oldenburg
Student conference held at the University of Oldenburg, based on FMS themes.

In his History of Sexuality, Michel Foucault describes what, in his opinion, is a transition from an archaic form of sovereignty to a new form of sovereignty, which he named “biopower”. This change is best described as a shift away from the power structure of the Roman Pater familias as in “the power to let live and make die” to the biopower power structure of “make live and let die” (Foucault, 1990, 135 ff.). According to Foucault, this shift in sovereignty occurred during the 17th century and is best described as the management of states and their citizens as a biological body. General improvement of that body is the focal point of biopower regimes, be it through medical, institutional or any other kind of state managed form of intervention (Foucault, 1990, 139, ff.).

While not greatly discussed at first, biopower and its derivative concept biopolitics have sparked numerous works over the last fifteen years as researchers from various fields of studies start to incorporate these concepts into their works.

As with all fields of human sciences, literature has also taken a hold of the biopower concept and has produced various pieces of fiction, which deal with the concept in itself as well as with the problems that may arise from implementing it the wrong way.

This conference plans to focus on the relationship that literature has with biopower, be it advocating its use, criticizing the concept in general or simply implying that the way biopower is performed by states has yet to reach its ultimate, and therefore beneficiary, form.