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

Organization: NeMLA
Event: NeMLA
Categories: British, Literary Theory, Medieval, Early Modern & Renaissance, Long 18th Century, Romantics, Victorian, 20th & 21st Century
Event Date: 2020-03-05 to 2020-03-08 Abstract Due: 2019-09-30

What is politics’ relationship with the human? Contemporary politics’ reliance on unequal and uneven distribution of power—characterized by an intersectional relationship among capital, racism, migratory constraints, colonialism and violence—is dependent upon an older, systemic hierarchization of humans as a political subject. For Michel Foucault, biopower is fundamentally a modern concept where the modern man’s political presence is no longer an additional capacity for being human but rather, an essence of life itself. Both Foucault and Georgio Agamben trace 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 to rethink some of the earlier literary explorations of race and biopolitics. Through critical engagement with theories of race, postcoloniality, subalternity, gender and sexuality, and post-humanism, 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 re-segregated 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. 



Nazia Manzoor