Tactical Biopolitics

Sarah Freeman at Feminist Review has blogged about Kavita Philip and Beatriz da Costa’s newly released volume Tactical Biopolitics. She focuses in particular on subRosa’s art:

Biopower, for Foucault, moves beyond the local disciplinary and containment of an individual and instead takes entire groups or populations as its central focus. So what subRosa has successfully depicted in their artwork are the various methods by which the capitalized and medicalized state apparatus has attempted to control women’s bodies and sexualities.

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4 Responses
  1. TacPants says:

    Ah, good post – gave me something decent to read while I am bored at work. I’ll have to check your site out more often :) Thanks!

  2. Lilly says:

    I wonder if there are alternate ways of engaging in this sort of knowledge production that take into account and are amenable to different sorts of temporalities (that seem to track certain genders in certain places). Concretely, when I work with people who have children or lots of interruptions as they interleave obligations, would co-authoring interviews be equally effective as asking them to write articles? Would having more cycles of editing and authoring thought sketches be more doable in a fragmented time-space than the “you have two months to get me a chapter draft” mode?

    Just trying to think practical and think temporal.

    Are there non-temporal dynamics at work here too, like genres of contributions being evaluated differently in gendered ways?

  3. Kavita says:

    Caveat: I don’t mean that the brilliant and generous men who are currently at the helm of the book were in any way second choices. I have enormous respect for their work – and they were always slated as participants in some form. It’s just that the way things settled, I can see the critical outsiders’ perspective, and that’s what I’m trying to respond to. (well, you can see the self-edits and the caveats and the anti-essentialism that we have to go through in all these discussions. no insult meant to any man here, i hope it is obvious.)

  4. Kavita says:

    So, I considered posting to Feminist Review’s blog, but I decided I needed a friendly but critical group for this thorny issue. Here it is:
    I thought Sarah Freeman’s review was really nice. If I had been writing a not-so-nice critical feminist review, I would’ve slammed on the book for a number of sterotypical flaws: No women in the opening scientist’s section: just 2 old white famous guy biologists ! Gender is assigned to one section, this ghettoizes gender ! No-one takes up cutting edge Foucauldian, transnational feminism, they’re all old fashioned empiricists ! and so on… in feminist classrooms we learn how to be so astute and critical. So to this imaginary critical review, I would say, first, mea culpa; I have made these very critiques of other such endeavors. But second (and this is the difficult part): I suddenly am in the position of having been backstage for 3 years, and watching the daily practice of gendered dynamics in the construction of a volume (that seeks to represent a field in formation). What an onerous responsibiity, and one in the hands of feminists – how great, right? Right. I was staggered by the coming alive of the oldest feminist critique in the book. We approached several women to be in the section with the male biologists, and to write the Foreword – in other words, take positions at the helm of the book. No luck. Where the men seemed to have time to take on this extra task, women were unavailable, overworked, distracted, stressed. More than one prominent woman agreed to contribute a chapter but pulled out at the last minute, even jeopardising the existence of the one remaining section that addressed gender. Of those women who did come through, several almost didn’t. One pleaded off several deadlines (almost getting dropped) because house-guests were taking up all her time, she had to cook and clean and entertain. Some prominent women we approached couldn’t even respond to email because of the tension of that task, the toll that years of nastiness have taken, perhaps. (Yeah there were famous guys who didn’t respond to email, but invariably there were secretaries, supporters, friends, who would carry message to and from them, who would facilitate their chapter writing.) No kidding – folks, the dual-work critique of households and women’s labor is alive and well. We live the 1950s even in the 21st century. This is a system that one book cannot change. I despair when I see the state of brilliant academic women who still have primary care of the household, who still have to put others needs ahead of their work, who bear the stresses and strains of the institutional histories of women’s work.
    So – this is hastily written, I haven’t edited or proof-read. But that’s what a blog is for, right? It would be so helpful to think through this across generations and in a group. There is much written about feminist household dynamics, but I come up against a wall when I think about how to manage this problem in reality.