In this essay, I argue that Giorgio Agamben's revision of biopolitics poses the pressing political question of whether bare life itself can be mobilized by emancipatory movements. Yet, in order to develop the possibilities of resistance, we need to reconsider first of all the way bare life is implicated in the gendered, class, colonial, and racist configurations of the political and, because of this implication, suffers different forms of violence. The central paradox bare life presents for political analysis is not only the erasure of political distinctions but also the negative differentiation, or privation, such erasure produces with respect to differences that used to characterize a form of life that was destroyed. In order to show how this paradox opens up new possibilities of resistance, I supplement Agamben's genealogies of bare life with two different political cases—the first one represented by Orlando Patterson's discussion of premodern and modern forms of slavery, and the second case being the hunger strikes of militant British suffragettes at the beginning of the twentieth century. At stake is not just a diversification of the genealogy of bare life but a new feminist reflection on the possibilities of political praxis in the age of biopolitics.
Ewa Płonowska Ziarek; Bare Life on Strike: Notes on the Biopolitics of Race and Gender. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 January 2008; 107 (1): 89–105. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-2007-057
Download citation file: