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EGENIS seminar series: "Public Health, Biopolitics, Security", Ariane Hanemaayer (Brandon University, Canada)

Egenis seminar series

An Egenis, the Centre for the Study of Life Sciences seminar
Date17 June 2019
Time15:30 to 17:00
PlaceByrne House

Biopolitics is a force relation that deploys security mechanisms to regularize general biological processes within a population according to the norm. These mechanisms are institutionalized around those uncertain or random elements within a population of living beings with the objective of optimizing the state of life. This presentation analyzes a case study of the preparation of the Caring for People public health policy for the National Health Service in the 1990s.

I argue that the power-knowledge of public health and the policies installed to organize and inform the rates of mortality within the NHS have congealed within a dispositif of security. I operationalize Foucault’s conceptualization of security apparatus following three indices: the insertion of population health “key targets” within a series of probable events drawing on epidemiological knowledge; the governability of these elements within an economic calculation of cost; and the establishment of an average or norm that must not be exceeded (cf. Foucault 2007:6). These processes aim to establish a definition of risk for particular cases, such as family planning and smoking, to identify what is dangerous, and then deploy technologies of power to predict, modify, and correct those health crises that deviate from the norm. Security tends to intervene through natural rather than artificial mechanisms. My analysis offers the sociology of medicine and the sociology of public health a new analytic for understanding the assemblage of different elements in the maintenance of contemporary health care. Understanding health care policy as an intersection between security apparatus and biopolitics allows us to understand the nature of programs that aim to intervene in the mortality of the population, the effects and failures of these institutions, and why they perpetuate in spite their impossibilities. 

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