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Life and Death Decisions in our Posthuman(ist) Times

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Geography, like much of social science, is witnessing a resurgence of interest in Michel Foucault's formation of biopower—the power to make live and foster life. This paper seeks to engage with this interest by staging a dialogue between the work of Nikolas Rose and Paul Rabinow on the one hand and that of Giorgio Agamben on the other. I propose that, while Rose and Rabinow provide a diagnostic for our emerging geographies of “life itself” and outline allied forms of political citizenship known as “biosociality” or “biological citizenship”, it is Agamben who enables us to consider the limit figures to this form of political inclusion. To draw out these limit figures I focus on recent debates surrounding end-of-life decisions and provide examples from the Dignity in Dying campaign and the Not Dead Yet movement. Throughout, I situate this paper within recent debates on posthumanism and the posthuman in geography. In doing so I effectively ask: why, in our seemingly posthuman(ist) times, does much of Western politics seek to decide on the form, the right and, inevitably, the limit of human beings?

Keywords: Agamben; Foucault; biopower; death; politics; posthuman(ism)

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK;, Email:

Publication date: January 1, 2009


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