Research Seminar May 2nd - Maurizio Meloni (Deakin University): Pandemics and the Politics of People's Health: A Long-Term View

Monday, May 2nd, 18:00, Gilman 449.

28 April 2022


Maurizio Meloni - Deakin University


Pandemics and the Politics of People's Health: A Long-Term View



Debates over the pandemic have produced an explosion of reference to the Foucauldian paradigm of biopolitics. Michel Foucault famously defined biopolitics (or biopower) as a shift in the nature of political power after the eighteenth century. While traditional concepts like sovereignty remained important, the real focus of government shifted to the control of the biological features of populations, their health and vitality. This analysis is often repeated and apparently vindicated by the “exceptionality” of measures taken by governments to respond to the COVID 19 pandemic. Foucault’s argument has two main problems. Firstly, it does not do justice to a much longer history of public concern toward the health of populations across the globe. Although implemented following different thought-styles than nineteenth century statistics or epidemiology, these measures evince that a deep concern for the health of populations is not a social invention of modern Europe. Secondly, his view does not allow to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate use of biopower, erasing important distinctions between surveillance and access to health rights for everyone and especially the more vulnerable. I will discuss both areas through historical and present-case examples.

Gathering begins at 17:45 near room 449

Chair: Shaul Katzir

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