Skip to main content

Giorgio Agamben and the new biopolitical nomos

Buy Article:

$48.00 plus tax (Refund Policy)



In this paper I reflect on the progressive normalization of a series of geographies of exception within Western democracies and, in particular, the relation of these to the new biopolitical power that is progressively affirming itself in our everyday lives — and that appears to be imposing itself as the new, secret, ontology of the political.

I do so by engaging with the work of Giorgio Agamben and, specifically, interrogating the spatial architecture that underpins his theory of sovereign power.

Starting from Agamben's spatial conceptualizations, I explore his attempt to trace the contours and the secret coordinates of the contemporary biopolitical nomos, a nomos rooted firmly in the crisis and progressive demolition of that which Carl Schmitt described as the ius publicum Europaeum. I note, moreover, how the definitive dissolution of the geographical nomos that had dominated the two centuries preceding the First World War, and the lack of a new, alternative, geographical nomos in the century which followed, can also be grasped by critically rereading some key episodes in the history of European geography; in particular, the contested legacy of the work of Friedrich Ratzel's grand geographical project and the Geopolitik experiment.

What I suggest is that to understand the deep nature of the geographies of exception that arm the global war on terror, it is vital that we think in terms of a theory of space in order to try to unveil the Arcanum, the secret enigma of the empty centre around which turn the wheels of a new, macabre, geo-biopolitical machine.

Keywords: Agamben; Nomos; biopolitics; camp; history of geography

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey, UK

Publication date: December 1, 2006


Access Key

Free Content
Free content
New Content
New content
Open Access Content
Open access content
Subscribed Content
Subscribed content
Free Trial Content
Free trial content
Cookie Policy
Cookie Policy
ingentaconnect website makes use of cookies so as to keep track of data that you have filled in. I am Happy with this Find out more