Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Make up post, Berlant

I benefited greatly from Berlant’s discussion of the concept of sovereignty in relation to the wearing out of community populations due to the fact that I make a similar statement in my paper about the reasons why people turn against the government of a nation-state. She writes that Achille Mbembe’s definition of sovereignty separates the government’s power over death and their manifestations of power. Berlant writes “Additionally, in casting death as a fact separate from the administration of life processes, this version of sovereignty concept has provided an alibi for normative ways of keeping separate the productive procedures of governmentality and the violence of the state, when, as I argue, the procedures of managing collective life include a variety of inducements for managing life’s wearing out, which sometimes amalgamates death to an act or event” (96). Similarly, Berlant engages Foucault’s definition of sovereignty: “the power to permit any given life to endure, or not” (97). I really found these definitions to be useful in regards to the reasoning behind mass uprising. Anger against the state, or more precisely, anger at the nation-state for not using its sovereignty in the ways it often proclaims it does, leads people, in particular those claiming strong association with the nation-state, to feel personally betrayed. Thus the communal (and by communal, here I think of communities formed by the various social classes of a state) unravelings of the ways to make a living should not be associated with personal responsibility, or lack thereof. They should be associated with the state’s misuse of its sovereignty, which does not always come in the form of mass genocide, concentration camps, or the like. It may be viewed in rising food prices that make it impossible for people to simply maintain a basic standard of living, or to be let to live. Particularly interesting to me was this concept of food management (or resource management in general) as a Foucaltdian form of biopower that literally, viscerally, betrays the body’s ability to abate slow death through the proper consumption of food.

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