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Body and politics : Foucault and Agamben Volume 85, issue 1, Janvier 2009

Author
Centre Henri-Duchêne, 17, rue Charles-Tillon, 93300 Aubervilliers

Foucault’s objective was the 18 th century technologies of power as applied to individuals’ bodies. These technologies, until then based on sovereignty, are transformed and first instruct the discipline – by which the body is supervised and made to behave – and then the biopower of the body as applied to groups of people. Agamben broadens the theorisation of Foucault by reintroducing the sovereign power that continues to be practised on “naked life”, normally excluded from the area of politics, as opposed to natural life, included in the competency of the State’s arena. To support his theory, he refers to the experience of concentration camps where the individual dispossessed of his naked life loses all humanity to become what we would call a “Muslim”. Based on body analysis, we are confronted with Agamben’s basic concern : questions on human boundaries, whether broached from the issue of animality or through the concentration camp experience. Agamben comes close to our questions.