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This article examines the soldiering body in relation to the increasing prevalence of genitourinary injuries in military personnel. Feminist scholars have demonstrated that the idealised masculine soldiering body are central to the workings of international politics. The article shows that US militarised masculinity operates through the selective distribution of bodily capacities. The article draws upon critical disability studies, particularly Jasbir Puar's work on capacity and debility, to argue that treatments for genitourinary injuries revolve around the production of seminal capacity. Queer and trans bodies are debilitated in these arrangements through the denial of heterosexual and cisgender capabilities to them. To unpack this argument the article analyses treatments for genitourinary injuries. The article shows that genitourinary injuries destabilise the gender identity of US service members. Through an exploration of surgical treatments, including penis transplants and reconstructive surgeries, and fertility treatments, the article shows how masculine capacitation is achieved for some US service members through the debilitation of others; in particular, queer and trans bodies, and the bodies of Iraqi and Afghan civilians.
This chapter explores narratives of ‘nature’ in the context of climate change and the attendant creation of global and local subjectivities, both resilient and resistant. It first examines dominant renderings of nature and the biopolitics of climate governance before turning to consider counter-narratives of rights, the recuperation of ‘vernacular landscapes’ and their affective maps, and literary interventions into global climate imaginaries. This analysis reveals apparently competing, yet ultimately mutually constitutive, narratives: the increasingly prevalent discourses of resilience and adaptation in global climate change governance, and modes of resistance and reimagination. Given contemporary critiques of the neoliberal and neocolonial biases of international rights regimes, this chapter considers the capacity for local communities to articulate resistance to global climate governance within the language of rights and within the literary imagination. Such resistances reveal a constitutive relation between the global and the local, and the human and the nonhuman, providing a methodology for reimagining nature in international law.
Chapter 1 compares two contemporary Argentine novels that deal with Nazism in allegorical ways. Patricio Pron’s El comienzo de la primavera establishes a dialogue between the German and Argentine post-dictatorship contexts. In doing so, Pron highlights the inevitable insufficiency of justice in relation to dictatorship crimes, or that which Brett Levinson calls ‘radical injustice’. The novel’s melancholic register and parallels between two distinct historical moments lend themselves to an examination with reference to Walter Benjamin’s theory of allegory. In Wakolda, Lucía Puenzo examines the activities of Josef Mengele in Argentina but, contrary to Pron, rejects parallels with events related to the dictatorship or post-dictatorship. Instead, she foregrounds the foundational reliance of the Argentine nation on forms of ‘immunization’ (Esposito) and ‘necropolitics’ (Mbembe): the exploitative labour of a racialized mass that are rhetorically and materially excluded from the benefits of being ‘Argentine’ in both the past and the present.
This paper explores China's mode of medical intervention in South Sudan and compares it with the medical humanitarianism and global health imaginaries and modes of intervention that characterize the activities of the wider international community, especially NGOs and faith-based organizations. In their provision of medical aid to South Sudan, organizations of the international community largely draw on a discourse of suffering and a framework of emergency response to humanitarian crises in post-conflict settings, which often translates into vertical programmes which involve direct governance of the South Sudanese population. In contrast, China's contemporary medical interventions in South Sudan are a mixture of health diplomacy, health infrastructure and development aid, an assemblage which can be understood as a “non-suffering” model of care and a loosely defined apparatus of biopolitics. However, the obvious gap between national goals and the daily experiences of individual Chinese doctors suggests that this will be an uneven process of “becoming.”
We explore the inherently racialized premises of colonial–national modernity and of imperial and national archaeologies, juxtaposing them with the contradictions and fluidity inherent in “Greek” and “Israeli” identities. This is followed by a brief critique of the reductionist, and often self-serving, roll-out of ancient DNA studies and of their political co-optation.
Our time seems to be trapped in a paradox. On the one hand, the capacity to master information has tremendously increased, but on the other hand the capacity to use the knowledge humanity produces seems at stake. There is a gap between our capacity to know and our capacity to act. We attempt to better understand that situation by considering the evolution of knowledge processing along human history, in particular the relation between the development of information technologies and the complexity of societies, the balance between the known and the unknown, and the current emergence of autonomous machines allowing intelligent processes.
Information-processing capacities developed historically in conjunction with the complexity of human societies. Positive feedback loops contributed to the co-evolution of knowledge, social organization, environmental transformation, and information technologies. Very powerful loops now drive the rapid emergence of global digital platforms, disrupting legacy organizations and economic equilibria. The simultaneous emergence of the awareness of the sustainability conundrum and the digital revolution is striking. Both are extremely disruptive and contribute to a surge in complexity, but how do they relate to each other? Paradoxically, as the capacity to master information increases, the capacity to use the knowledge humanity produces seems to lag. The objective of this paper is to analyze the current divergence between knowledge and action, from the angle of the co-evolution of information processing and societal transformation. We show how the interplay between perception and action, between the known and the unknown, between information processing and ontological uncertainty, has evolved toward a sense of control, a hubris, which abolishes the unknown and hinders action. A possible outcome of this interplay might lead to a society controlled to stay in its safe operating space, involving a strong delegation of information processing to autonomous machines, as well as extensive forms of biopolitics.
Social media summary
The sustainability conundrum and the digital revolution are entangled phenomena leading to complexity and disruption.
Along with industrial modernity’s obsession with planning came the idea that the state should take an active role in planning its population: in Foucauldian terms, the rise of biopower, or the idea that population was a political, social, and biological problem. Francis Galton’s ideology of eugenics, developed in the 1880s and at peak popularity in the early twentieth century, suggested that the state should encourage certain people to reproduce while discouraging others in order to address the problem of the differential birth rate, or the overbreeding of the ‘unfit’ poor, which, it was feared, would lead to the degeneration of the British race. A reformist agenda committed to rational reproduction and national efficiency became central to radical feminist and socialist politics. This chapter explores how literary writing from 1900 to 1920 reflects, circulates, and challenges this constellation of ideologies about gender, reproduction, and sexuality. In particular, it considers how and why early twentieth-century writers frequently turned to the Bildungsroman, a form whose generic conventions depend on and encode both the experience and the epistemology of transition.
The ancients believed that emotions were an obstacle to rational thought and good governance. Plato argued for government run by an enlightened king who could resist the influence of personal desires and emotions and employ only reason in pursuit of the common good. Fast forward a couple of thousand years, and an interesting set of ideas about the role of emotion has emerged from the fields of cognitive and neuropsychology. The most exciting, and perhaps surprising, discovery is that Plato, and many other since, might have been all wrong about emotion. Emotions are not biases to be repressed in order to make good decisions. Instead, they are often essential for making rational decisions. The chapter reviews a variety of perspectives on this interesting new idea, including affective intelligence theory, hot cognition, valence theory, cognitive appraisal theory, and the role of biology and evolution in emotion.
The Introduction explains how and why our contemporary context prompts the reinvention of life as conceptualized by Western metaphysics. It theorizes why biopolitical governance should be understood as the real subsumption of life by capital and argues for the importance of speculative fiction as a cultural mode that reflects upon and responds to how biotechnology is remaking life, conceptually and materially. The Introduction argues that we need a new dispositif of personhood that must necessarily be attentive to issues of colonialism and race. Taking up work by Sylvia Wynter, the chapter connects it to Foucault’s discussions of Homo economicus. It concludes by suggesting that the contemporary world can be characterized as a condition of epivitality, the prefix signifying “over, around, and outside of” and thus signaling the blurring of living beings with objectified things in biotechnology and practices of dehumanizing labor.
The COVID-19 pandemic witnessed extreme forms of biopolitics, as well as the urgency to reconsider our relationship with the planet. Although biopolitics draws attention to the technologies of domination by public authorities, we cast the concepts of bios and politics in the wider framework of nonviolence. In this framework, bios is the set of practices (praxis) of ordinary citizens. And politics is power created by harm reduction, or actions in daily life that testimony the desire not to harm others or the planet. We leverage nonviolence at three levels, scaling up from the individual to social behaviour and to the planet. The first level concerns nonviolence as self-sufferance and as praxis to claim back the sovereignty of the body. In the second level, nonviolence is collective mobilization – building social capital, self-governance, and solidarity. The third level provides the vision of a diverse ecological citizenship with a sustainable relationship between human beings and the planet.
Despite the critical role of plants in enabling all life on Earth, many people fail to recognize the importance of vegetal life ("plant blindness"). Further, most modern Eurowestern knowledges of plants tend to instrumentalize them, focusing on how plants are useful rather than on how they live their lives. The field of Critical Plant Studies (CPS) has recently emerged in the Humanities to challenge this situation; this chapter explores some of the central preoccupations of this body of work. Broadly speaking, CPS considers the histories and power dynamics involved in Eurowestern utilitarian relations with the vegetal world. In addition, borrowing from insights in the Natural Sciences and also from much older forms of plant knowledge, it considers plants as living organisms with their own forms of agency, being, and desire. These two threads are woven throughout the chapter, with the aim to demonstrate that plants are sophisticated and influential agents caught up in historical and ongoing forms of biopolitics, and that overcoming plant blindness means noticing not only what the plants are doing for us, but also how we are implicated in their unfolding lifeworlds.
This chapter examines some of the more powerful encounters between feminism and environmentalism to offer the reader an understanding of both historic points of tension and opportunities for rich collaboration. Reading the environmental humanities broadly, the chapter highlights diverse lines of feminist research that drive toward more just, inclusive, and ecologically vibrant futures. It focuses on critical feminist work that challenges hegemonic conceptions of gender and nature, the body and place, and dominant understandings of knowledge production. The reader will become acquainted with key concepts such as essentialism, intersectionality, the nature/culture dualism, environmental justice, and the anthropocene, and with key subfields including ecofeminism, feminist science studies, corporeal feminism, and biopolitics.
historicizes the concept of public health in the context of the fourteenth- and fifteenth-century urban Low Countries. It begins by outlining how then-prevalent Galenic or humoural theories defined health, and how such ideas were employed by various Netherlandish governing bodies through a focus on spatial interventions. Analyses of street paving, water regimes, fire prevention, and military safety demonstrate how health interests involved mitigating communal risks through adaptations in the built environment. Preventative measures thus shaped cities’ morphology from the outset of urbanisation. Town governments were willing to invest major sums to improve safety and well-being and realized a program aimed at preserving flow. The creation and adaptation of complex infrastructures also stimulated further sanitary and maintenance routines. These required coordination concerning the division of responsibilities and tasks, and the policing of such arrangements.
Surrealist practice of the early twentieth century anticipates the biopolitics of contemporary animal philosophy. Modern surrealists welcomed Charles Darwin's paradigm shift, moving beyond any bright line that distinguished humans as a species from the rest of the animal kingdom. Surrealism's investment in evolutionary biology – promoted in journals such as Minotaure, Documents, and View – buttressed its political critique of humanist exceptionalism, sovereign individualism, and any ideal telos that defined the origins and destiny of humankind. Although surrealist animal representations frequently lapse into anthropocentric fantasy, surrealist manifestoes, art, poetry, fiction, and drama remain undeniably revolutionary in depicting human/animal hybridity and assailing the oppressive discursive linkages among classism, colonialism, and speciesism. In particular, the later careers of surrealists such as Leonora Carrington look ahead to recent ecofeminist and environmental debates concerning an “ethic of care,” defining kinship and companion networks in a decidedly posthuman community of human and nonhuman animals.
Morality can be adaptive or maladaptive. From this fact come polarizing disputes on the meta-ethical status of moral adaptation. The realist tracking account of morality claims that it is possible to track objective moral truths and that these truths correspond to moral rules that are adaptive. In contrast, evolutionary anti-realism rejects the existence of moral objectivity and thus asserts that adaptive moral rules cannot represent objective moral truths, since those truths do not exist. This article develops a novel evolutionary view of natural law to defend the realist tracking account. It argues that we can identify objective moral truths through cultural group selection and that adaptive moral rules are likely to reflect such truths.
In 1851, Frederick Douglass publicly challenged the position of William Lloyd Garrison and the American Anti-Slavery Society that the U.S. Constitution was a proslavery document. As an enslaved child, the self-taught Douglass had identified literacy as “the pathway from slavery to freedom.” The same insight prompted the mature author and editor to part ways with Garrisonian moral suasionists in order to join “legal suasionists” like antislavery constitutionalist lawyers Lysander Spooner and William Goodell. From the 1840s through the 1890s, Douglass promoted the legal literacy of everyday African Americans (free and enslaved) while developing his own legal-critical analysis of American racism. Committed to wielding the “forms of law and . . . rules of hermeneutics” on behalf of freedom and equality, Douglass tirelessly challenged the increasingly biopolitical orientation of post-Reconstruction legislation and jurisprudence. From slavery to mass incarceration, Douglass insisted, racism is incompatible with the rule of law.
The Joint Distribution Committee failed to coordinate effectively among the reactive, incoherent international health campaigns undertaken to prevent the spread of typhus. Reactions to this failure to make public health more sensitive to Jewish needs resulted in the establishment of autonomous Jewish health programs. Jewish social medicine thus flourished, with American Jews, including Hadassah, acting as the bridge from the prewar years. Gradually, Jewish American workers left Europe and turned over work to European Jewish organizations and local Jews. These public health programs allowed Jews to reconstruct and even seek to improve their local status through incremental change, without state sanction. Furthermore, medicine was uncontroversial within Jewish communities and Jewish health professionals were relatively abundant. Unlike battling disease, which required governmental collaboration that was difficult to achieve, social medicine could work as a form of apolitical resistance to oppression.
Natural history and moral-sense philosophy bound American independence to domestic affections in Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia. By surfacing the racial and spatial architecture of family feeling as the text’s cut-off locus of attachment and traumatic loss, we can locate the centrality of gender and sexuality to the book’s racial project and to the lonely pose of mourning performed by its author. This affective architecture then reveals the relationship among very different forms of collective trauma – plantation slavery, frontier warfare, sexual violence – registered in Jefferson’s text as a failure to recognize or remember.
This article is an examination and extension of concepts that Achille Mbembe presented in his 2016 African Studies Association Abiola Lecture. In particular, “cognitive assemblages” are elaborated upon to consider how a shifting understanding of media has become part of a neoliberal digital media platform promoted by the Ghanaian state in association with Malaysia. Mbembe’s invocation of the “injunction to decolonize” is also discussed through information capture and data mining to consider the extent to which the promise of a digital future is a form of neo-colonialism or an opportunity for an expanded digital commons.