Death and the Contemporary (Special double issue of New Formations journal)

Colby, G. 2016. Death and the Contemporary (Special double issue of New Formations journal). New Formations. 89/90, pp. 5-278. https://doi.org/10.3898/NEWF:89/90.INTRODUCTION.2016

TitleDeath and the Contemporary (Special double issue of New Formations journal)
TypeEdited issue
AuthorsColby, G.
Abstract

Since Michel Foucault aligned the ‘power of sovereignty’ with the ‘disqualification of death’ in his 1975 essay ‘Society Must be Defended’, death has been at the forefront of biopolitical and geopolitical debates. Through a contemporary lens Achille Mbembe, writing in 2003, stated that the expression of sovereignty ultimately resides ‘in the capacity to dictate who may live and who may die.’ Yet Mbembe’s necropolitics also questions the sufficiency of biopower to account for the question of death and sovereignty in the twenty-first century. This themed issue in many ways extends Mbembe’s challenge by taking up the complex, often contentious subject of death in present-day culture as it is thought, and as it operates, within and beyond biopolitics. In bringing together articles from scholars across the fields of politics, biomedicine, law, philosophy, and literature, this issue interrogates the conceptual status of death in biopolitical discourse by considering emerging post-biopolitical and post-human contexts. Foucault understood the status of death in 1975 as ‘something to be hidden away.’ With twenty-first century global conditions, death as a subject has become more visible, imbricated with, and paramount to ideas of the postcolony, necro-economics, the necropolitical, and ethical and legal debates surrounding the right-to-die. At the same time, new technologies of warfare in the ‘War on Terror’ have meant that death has acquired new forms, through modes of violence that often annihilate the body. Such forms of death challenge traditional ritualizations of death and render death increasingly invisible. The issue intervenes at the intersection of biopolitical and post-biopolitical fields of knowledge, entering current debates on critical social and political issues such as euthanasia, the death penalty, and contemporary geopolitics. A number of the essays collected in the volume examine new forms of geopolitical violence, reveal unacknowledged bioethical states of exception, and engage with new liminal states of death created by medical advances. These articles are brought into a transdisciplinary dialogue with studies that explore the way in which contemporary visual art and literature offer new ways of representing death and emerging biomedical phenomena. In doing so, the scholarship of this issue offers theoretical means to navigate contemporary conceptions of death at the juncture of biopolitical and post-biopolitical discourses.

KeywordsDeath
biopolitics
contemporary literature
contemporary culture
JournalNew Formations
Journal citation89/90, pp. 5-278
ISSN0950-2378
Year2016
PublisherLawrence & Wishart
Publisher's version
License
CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
File Access Level
Open (open metadata and files)
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.3898/NEWF:89/90.INTRODUCTION.2016
Web address (URL)https://www.lwbooks.co.uk/new-formations/89-90
Publication dates
PublishedDec 2016

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