HIST 080B. Biopower vs Necropolitics: Empires of Life and Death, 1622-2003


"Biopower" and "necropolitics" - two of the major buzz-words of our time - are often used interchangeably even though Achille Mbembe, who coined the term "necropolitics" (the politics of death) in a seminal article from 2003, was critiquing the idea of "biopower" (the politics of life) as it had been developed for decades in the work of Michel Foucault. This course locates these two concepts in the work of these two scholars. We will study the periods they reference - from the Jamestown Massacre in 1622 to the "War on Terror" in the early 2000s - and look as well at the work they have inspired. In the first two weeks of the class, we will use these concepts and historical readings to create an alternative timeline of imperial history. The final projects will explore how this alternate timeline can help us write better, deeper, and more convincing histories of the present.
Prerequisite: A history, HU, political science, sociology, or anthropology course at Swarthmore or permission of the instructor.
Social Sciences.
1 credit.
Eligible for GLBL-Core
Catalog chapter: History  
Department website: https://www.swarthmore.edu/history


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