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Giorgio Agamben and the new biopolitical nomos

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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.
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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: 2006-12-01

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