The Time of Biopolitical Vulnerability
Penelope Deutscher will be working on “The Time of Biopolitical Vulnerability”, a study addressing modern categories of human exposure, disposability, and inequality. Post-Foucauldian concepts of power have provided alternatives to the idealized sovereign subject assumed to possess autonomy and agency, while also providing redefinitions of forms of power associated with political sovereignty. The biopolitical has come to be widely redefined as an indirect distribution of powers of death, leading to the emergence of new concepts of so-called “necropolitical”, and “thanatopolitical” forms of power in diverse disciplines including vulnerability studies, disability studies, queer theory, queer of color criticism, critical geography, and critical race studies. She will interrogate the concepts of temporality important to this field and consider its concepts of “prior” exposure, retroactive, nostalgic and phantasmic sovereignty, anteriorities of bare life, the conditions of possibility of disposability, slow death, precarious forms of life, the bodily and collective inheritance of histories of violence, the repudiation of cruel optimism and of reproductive futurism and moves to replace archaeology by the temporally flatter, differential analyses of assemblages, and of forms of life.
Penelope Deutscher is Professor of Philosophy and a member of the Comparative Literary Studies faculty at Northwestern University, where she also co-directs its Critical Theory Cluster.
Deutscher has authored a number of books in the areas of gender and sexuality studies and twentieth-century and contemporary French philosophy. Her next projects are “Foucault’s Children: The Death of Reproduction and the Future of Biopolitics”, and “Foucault/Derrida: Fifty Years On” (co-edited with Olivia Custer and Samir Haddad), both with Columbia University Press.
Penelope Deutscher’s lecture considers the role played by time in modern analyses of differentially disposable life: its complex priors, presents, and futures. She explores a related preference for understanding political violence not just at the level of the catastrophic, sudden, and spectacular, but as enfolded in the everyday of ordinary life.Her analysis then probes how such claims can reconfigure the modern understanding of the sexual contract.