So I’m a little stuck, and I like to think out loud here, so here I go. Because it’s here, I’d love to hear what you think about my thinking. I’ve been ruminating on this for a few days now and I’m not quite ready to conclude.

In Homo Sacer, Agamben describes the concentration camp as the most perfect implementation of biopower in human history, which, of course, implies that it is the outcome of any biopolitical environment, whether we are talking about totalitarian dictatorship or a liberal democratic welfare state. If this is what we face when we are facing down biopolitics, it’s clear that we need to break the cycle. The problem is, of course, that Agamben effectively proves that all politics have been biopolitics since the beginning of recorded Western history. In light of that, how do we “solve” the problem of biopolitics?

I’ve been thinking about this a little obsessively because the issue has become deeply personal. I don’t want to offer some kind of sophistic solution. I’d really like to — at least — point in a direction that might be fruitful for further investigation, or gesture at what I think might lead to politics beyond biopolitics. In thinking about the biopolitical situation, I couldn’t help but go back to Donna Haraway’s “A Cyborg Manifesto,” because she writes of biopolitics: “Michel Foucault’s biopolitics is a flaccid premonition of cyborg politics, a very open field.” [Emphasis mine.]

What could this mean? Is the cyborg a product of the concentration camp? Another possibility that has crossed my mind is — the cyborg is both a product of the technology required by the concentration camp, and produced by the concentration camp. Which would mean that the cyborg springs from the same source, and grows alongside, the concentration camp.

Haraway notes that “‘we’ did not originally choose to be cyborgs.” Cyborg is not an identity one may adopt, but rather an identity that is foisted upon the individual. If we are accidental cyborgs, perhaps it is the case that the cyborg is in some ways the product of the concentration camp. We cannot escape from its shadow and therefore are altered by it. The cruel science that comes out of the concentration camp — which Agamben writes about in some detail in Homo Sacer — describes the very dismantling of the coherent self that Haraway describes in “A Cyborg Manifesto.” The cyborg itself is a symbol of this dismantling, of taking the body piecemeal in the name of science and progress.

Even now I feel like I’m going too fast. There are other things that tie these ideas together. The cyborg is a rejection of bare life. Consider that the cyborg is the fusion of animal, man, and technology — none of these are separable into categories useful to define the cyborg without pulling apart the cyborg itself. (Which leads to more questions, like: how is bare life itself a pulling-apart of the individual? Is it fair for me to make this kind of assertion?)

In my defense, something that has always stood out to me in “A Cyborg Manifesto” is the following passage.

Feminisms and Marxisms have run aground on Western epistemological imperatives to construct a revolutionary subject from the perspective of a hierarchy of oppressions and/or a latent position of moral superiority, innocence, and greater closeness to nature. With no available original dream of a common language or original symbiosis promising protection from hostile ‘masculine’ separation, but written into the play of a text that has no finally privileged reading or salvation history, to recognize ‘oneself’ as fully implicated in the world, frees us of the need to root politics in identification, vanguard parties, purity, and mothering.

I think that this is the linchpin — where Haraway herself implicates the left in the practice of biopolitics, and where she gestures towards a rejection of biopolitics on the grounds of cyborg politics. I’m not ready to jump, of course, because I haven’t yet explored the counterarguments. But do you see where I’m going with this?

[This is bigger than I thought it was.]

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