Childhood, Biosocial Power and the “Anthropological Machine”: Life as a Governable Process?

Critical Horizons 15 (3):266-283 (2014)
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Abstract

This article examines how childhood has become a strategy that answers to questions concerning the governability of life. The analysis is organized around the concept of “biosocial power,” which is shown to be a particular zone of intensity within the wider field of biopolitics. To grasp this intensity it is necessary to attend to the place of imagination in staging biosocial strategies, that is the specific ways in which childhood is both an imaginary projection and a technical project, and to this end Agamben’s concept of the “anthropological machine” is used to examine how biosocial power has been assembled and deployed. The paper begins with the question of childhood as it was posed towards the end of the nineteenth century, focusing on how this positioned the figure of the child at the intersection of zoē and bios, animal and human, past and future. It ends with a discussion on how the current global obesity “epidemic” has transformed this one-time vision of mastery into a strategy of survival.

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