Political Research Exchange


Political Economy
Political Theory
Political Violence
Critical Theory
Section Number
Section Chair
Sergei Prozorov
University of Jyväskylä
Section Co-Chair
Mika Ojakangas
University of Jyväskylä

The problematic of biopolitics has become increasingly important in the study of political science. Inspired by the pioneering research of Michel Foucault and the subsequent development of this problematic in a variety of theoretical schools, political scientists have started addressing the rationalities of power that go beyond traditional sovereign-territorial logics and rather take the vital processes of the population as their object.

One of the main puzzles of the studies of biopolitics has been the relation between the positive and productive orientation of biopower and the negative power of exclusion and annihilation, which Foucault associated with sovereign power. The conversion of biopolitics into ‘thanatopolitics’ that annihilates the very life it was intended to protect was already noted in Foucault’s History of Sexuality I, but its full implications have been elaborated in the more recent works of Giorgio Agamben, Roberto Esposito and other authors who emphasise the inextricable link between biopolitics and its apparent opposite. This paradox makes biopolitics the site where the fundamental questions of political theory pertaining e.g. to power, legitimacy and community, intersect with empirical inquiries into the governance of reproduction, health promotion, pandemics, torture, euthanasia and other issues.

This Section follows two Sections on biopolitics that I organised at the 8th EISA Conference in Warsaw in 2013 and the 9th EISA conference in Giardini Naxos in 2015. These Sections contributed to the formation of a pan-European multidisciplinary network of biopolitics researchers and many of the presented Papers were eventually published in the Ashgate Research Companion to Biopolitics (2016), co-edited by Sergei Prozorov and Simona Rentea. This Section seeks to further develop this network, this time focusing more on the domestic rather than the international context. The Section will bring together scholars with diverse disciplinary backgrounds in order to address the relationship between biopolitics and thanatopolitics both theoretically and empirically.

Section Chairs’ Bios

Sergei Prozorov is Senior Lecturer in Political Science at the Department of Political and Economic Studies, University of Helsinki.
He is the author of seven monographs, the most recent being The Biopolitics of Stalinism: Ideology and Life in Soviet Socialism (Edinburgh University Press, 2016). He has also published numerous articles on political theory and global politics in Political Theory, Political Studies, Theory, Culture and Society, Philosophy and Social Criticism, Political Geography and other international journals.

Mika Ojakangas is Professor of Political Thought at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. He is the author of six books and over 80 articles. His latest book, The Voice of Conscience (Bloomsbury, 2013) is a genealogy of the Western ethical experience. His new book on biopolitics in classical Greece is forthcoming with Routledge in 2016.

Panel List

P023Biopolitics, Security and Violence View Panel Details
P024Biopolitics, Sexuality and Reproduction View Panel Details
P151From Critical to Affirmative Biopolitics View Panel Details
P257New Directions in the Theory of Biopolitics View Panel Details
P262New Perspectives on Foucault's Theory of Biopolitics View Panel Details
P266New Sites of Biopolitics View Panel Details
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