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‘Homo Sacer’ out of left field: communist “slime” as bare life in 1930s and Second World War Sweden

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This article maps ways in which radical left-wing politics in 1930s and Second World War Sweden were conceived in medico-biological and eugenic terms that expressed strong dehumanizing sentiments. The article engages Agamben's and Foucault's thinking on ‘biopolitics’ and ‘biopower’, and extensively exemplifies dehumanizing discourse as deployed by leading Social Democratic politicians, leading figures of government within the police and military, as well as by editors of both right-wing and Social Democratic press. Ways in which individuals labelled ‘Communists’ were spatially managed in terms of extensive surveillance, registration, detainment planning and forms of incarceration are addressed. I further discuss state measures that may be seen as elements of a state of exception, some measures implemented against ‘Communists’, and others against individuals deemed to have undesirable characteristics seen to be hereditary. In employing Agamben's notion of ‘inoperosity’ in a discussion of a state paradigm of social productivity, eugenic measures in the building of the Swedish welfare state are then related to the dehumanizing framing of ‘Communists’. In conclusion, conditions for regaining a place in the body politic are briefly addressed. The article's focus on ways in which the ethnic and racial same was dehumanized within a democracy on political grounds results from a conscious effort to complement studies of dehumanization as related to colonialism, dictatorial regimes as well as identity politics.
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Keywords: Agamben; Foucault; Sweden; anti-communism; biopolitics; biopower; dehumanization

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Göteborg University, Department of Conservation, Sweden

Publication date: 2006-12-01

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