Marina Gržinić: From Biopolitics to Necropolitics

One of the many highlights of this year’s CAA 2014 Conference in Chicago was a lecture by Marina Gržinić. Her talk, focusing on the shift from biopolitics to necropolitics, was quite simply –  spot on.

I appreciated the fact that the talk panned out to larger issues and asked more systemic and fundamental questions. She described the biopolitical as “make live and let die” and the necropolitical as ““let live and make die”. The latter meaning you can live if you have the means, and all those who cannot, are made to die through the “war machine”, which in her use is not necessarily military.

She held up New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina as an American example and in Europe she pointed to Lampedusa where countless migrants die along its coast. She went further by referencing the fact that when the large disaster happened at Lampedusa, those whose bodies were found, were made Italian citizens (who were made citizens only through death) to save on funeral costs and those who did not perish were prosecuted.

Gržinić borrows the term necropolitical from Achille Mbembe – who situates this in an African context. In many respects various scholars have been thinking through these issues from different perspectives – Judith Butler talks about what lives merit mourning in Precarious Life, and Henry Giroux talks about the politics of disposability when it comes to the marginalized in his book, Stormy Weather: Katrina and the Politics of Disposability.

Marina Gržinić and Šefik Tatlić have a forthcoming book coming out entitled: Necropolitics, Racialization, and Global Capitalism: Historicization of Biopolitics and Forensics of Politics, Art and Life.