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Counting Species: Biopower and the Global Biodiversity Census

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Biopolitical analyses of census-taking usually focus on human censuses and consider how human experience is shaped by the practice. Instead, this article looks at the proposed global biodiversity census, which aims to take inventory of every species on earth as a response to anthropogenic species extinction. I suggest that it is possible to extend and modify Foucault's concept of biopower to consider contemporary human-nonhuman interactions. Specifically, I argue that an ecologically-extended version of biopower offers a useful way to conceptualise how power circulates in the practices that surround the biodiversity census, and that it points us towards thinking about how analyses of power, authority, and community can consider ecological, rather than purely human, locations and networks.

Keywords: biodiversity; biopower; environmental governance; nonhuman agency

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: August 1, 2008

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  • Environmental Values is an international peer-reviewed journal that brings together contributions from philosophy, economics, politics, sociology, geography, anthropology, ecology and other disciplines, which relate to the present and future environment of human beings and other species. In doing so we aim to clarify the relationship between practical policy issues and more fundamental underlying principles or assumptions.

    Environmental Values has an impact factor (2014) of 1.056.
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