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Biopolitics in Latin America


Subject Imperial, Colonial, and Postcolonial History » Postcolonial History

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781444334982.2016.x


Biopolitics is a key category for analyzing the mechanisms and techniques of governance in postcolonial Latin America, especially as they relate to race, nation, and ongoing forms of colonialism. Michel Foucault first laid out the concept in 1976, the year that The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1 was first published in French and he delivered the lectures of S ociety Must Be Defended at the Collège de France. According to Foucault's historical analysis, political modernity is characterized by the emergence of a new form of power, distinct from the sovereign power that had been dominant up to that point: “The right of sovereignty was the right to take life or let live. And then this new right is established: the right to make live and to let die” (2003, 241). Sovereign power, “the right to take life or let live,” is exercised strictly by the sword. Faced with a given transgression of his law, the sovereign can decide to kill or not kill, that is, to spare the life of the perpetrator. This is the full extent of the sovereign's power – a negative power not over life but strictly over death. Beginning in the sixteenth century, at the “threshold of modernity” ( Foucault 1978 , 143), however, a new form of power begins to operate in conjunction with the emergence of modern capitalism. It does so first at the level of the individual, in the form of an “anatomo-politics of the human body” ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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