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AMST 700 01 (20564)  
Introduction to Biopolitics
Greta LaFleur
Th 9.25-11.15 WLH 204
Spring 2015 
 
This course offers a broad survey of the development of biopower and biopolitics, as historically specific strategies of governance as well as areas of theoretical inquiry. Organized around the arm of biopolitical inquiry that has developed in part out of the writings of Michel Foucault, this course focuses on the literary, historical, juridical, and scientific writings that influenced and reflected the ways that bodies and populations were conceptualized and administered in the United States from the early national period through the present. Beginning with late-eighteenth-century texts and the development of populational theories by such philosophers as Thomas Malthus and William Godwin, course readings include a wide array of writings from the eighteenth, nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries to historicize, contextualize, and theorize the role of biopower and deployment of biopolitics in the emergence of the security state. Each week is organized around a "focus formation" (e.g., eugenics, health, the prison industrial complex, etc.) in order to ground the theory in historical, social, and geopolitical realities, and we consider topics as far-reaching as sovereignty, state racism, war, demography, urban planning, social architecture, reproduction, birth, life, death, health, incarceration, criminalization, sex, addiction, and the optimization of labor, among others. The aim of this course is to allow students to develop a familiarity with some of the central theoretical and philosophical texts at the heart of biopolitical inquiry, and with the historical emergence of biopolitics more generally. No prior work in biopolitics required. Readings include Lemke's Biopolitics; Foucault's Society Must Be Defended, The History of Sexuality (vol. 1), Security, Territory, Population, and The Birth of Biopolitics; Giorgio Agamben's Homo Sacer and State of Exception; selections from the works of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri; Baucom's Specters of the Atlantic; and Harney and Moten's The Undercommons.