Biopolitics & Utopia: An Interdisciplinary Reader

It’s finally here! I’m very excited to announce that my most recent edited collection, Biopolitics and Utopia: An Interdisciplinary Reader, is now out from Palgrave Macmillan. Andrew Byers, a visiting assistant professor in History at Duke University, and I worked hard on bringing together an excellent group of contributors from the US, Canada, Malaysia, and Australia.

The project grew out of a panel Andrew and I put together for the Society for Utopian Studies Conference in 2013. The focus of the panel was “Biopolitics and Utopian/Dystopian Politics”. For readers looking to understand what we mean by “biopolitics”, we think of the concept as the strategies pursued and the actions taken by the state to control its citizens at the “level of life” – particularly in the context of bodily autonomy. Paul Rabinow and Nikolas Rose provide insight into Michel Foucault’s concept. Thomas Lemke also examines Foucault’s lecture on “The Birth of Biopolitics”. These are great starting points, in addition to Foucault’s lectures themselves.

Our volume, Biopolitics and Utopia, addresses its conceptual foundation in the Introduction, so newcomers to utopian studies and biopolitics will have no trouble diving right in! The rest of the book is structured into four main sections: Actions, Speculations, Reactions, and Reflections. The chapters in Actions examine the practices of direct, medical intervention to “normalize” citizens’ bodies. Speculations approaches the intersection of utopia and biopolitics through a literary lens, reviewing science fiction texts as expressions of cultural and social fears about scientific progress. Reactions outlines potential acts of resistance in the face of biopower. Finally, Reflections offers a more philosophical essay, which engages the reader in the potential for creating an ethics for scientific standards.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions regarding the text. And keep an eye out for our next project on Biopolitics and American Public Policy!