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“… we are being left to burn because we do not count” : Biopolitics, Abandonment, and Resistance

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Starting from the puzzle posed by the ultimate aim of modern governmental rationality to nurture the population and its tendencies to exclude large parts of the same population from the spectrum of its care, this article argues that abandonment is always already inscribed into this rationality. In contradiction to Agamben, abandonment here is not attributed to the sovereign exception but is traced back to modern processes transforming the political—as problematised by Hannah Arendt and Michel Foucault. Complementing their observations with the empirical and the anti-political implications of “the count” based on Ian Hacking's and Jacques Ranciere's thought, first a conceptual framework for understanding biopolitical abandonment is outlined, then the materialisation of abandonment is assessed. Arriving finally at the possibility of thinking resistance to the power that disallows life through conceiving of politics as disruption, the final section discusses the South African shack-dwellers' struggle that, on occasions, is able to disturb the dynamics of abandonment and so potentially furthers the conceptualisation of resistance to biopolitics.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2009

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