In the early 20th century the Sweden Rudolf Kjellén introduced the concept of biopolitics. Several decades later, without any reference to the work of Kjellén, Michel Foucault made use of this term to describe one of the fundamental dimensions of modern politics: the government of the biological life of the population. From 1974 to 1979, this problematic occupied the center of his work. Despite this, none of his books published during his lifetime is entirely devoted to it; it is only approached explicitly in the last part of The History of Sexuality Volume 1: The Will to Know. Only until the publication of his courses at the Collège de France, from 1997 onwards, this problematic opened a new perspective for the reading and exegesis of Foucault’s work, and traced new developments that have dominated an important part of political thought and reflection in the last decades in Europe, The United States and Latin America.
In the light of these works, in the years 2008 and 2009 the first and second Latin American Conferences on Biopolitics took place, organized in Chile by a network of Universities. And in 2011, the third Latin American Conference on Biopolitics and the first International Conference on Education and Biopolitics took place, organized by the “Universidad Pedagógica” from Buenos Aires, animated by the purpose of stimulating the work and reflection on this field in the Latin American context, and of convoking the largest possible share of countries and experts from the region.
General thematic clusters of the 2013 Conference
The academic committee of the 4th Latin American Conference on Biopolitics and the 2nd International Conference on Biopolitics and Education, decided to focus the discussion around three thematic clusters: Common goods, technologies of government and counter-conducts.
The first cluster makes reference to the struggle for the common goods that trace the route for what Hardt and Negri have called the “biopolitical agenda of the 21stcentury”. Goods like water, air, forests, land, knowledge, the atmosphere and cyber space, which are the common wealth of the species, are being submitted to capitalist valorization in countries as rich in bio-diversity as those from Latin America. Because they are common goods and not public resources, these elements must be protected from their being captured both by the State-form and by the Enterprise-form, since nothing less than the production and modulation of life itself is at stake here. Thus, it is not about the struggles for the “environment”, administered by the State and by private organizations, but about struggles for the political autonomy of the subjects, insofar as it is through the self-government of communities and the exercise of their distinctive forms of knowledge, that the privatization of these goods can be avoided. In this sense, we emphasize the need of separating conceptually the common –common culture and common knowledge- from the public and institutional techniques that attempt to regulate its use.
The challenges derived from thinking the freedom of the common, that imply both the promotion of the benefits of the common, and the limitation of its destructive forms –privatization, destruction, dispossession-, as well as the possibilities for the expansion of the common productive powers, are central in order to think the future of education in the framework of the 2nd Conference onBiopolitics and Education. Hardt and Negri make reference to a global education initiative that guarantees the open access to the common and favors the deployment of the singular potentiality, so that it can allow us to learn how to work with language, with codes, with ideas and affects, as well as to work with others. Now, is this project compatible with, or does it enter into conflict with the defense of public education that we have witnessed in recent struggles in several countries throughout the world? To what extent is the subjectivity that shows itself today as the basis of economic developmentgoing to be able to escape from the constrictive parametersimposed by the new capitalism, opposing them with creative forms of organization of a solidarity-type production? Is the proposal for the enablement of a new pedagogy of self-government (one that could lead to the emergence of a capacity for autonomously governing the common goods) just a new chimera, or something more?
A second cluster is related to the technologies of government or the set of techniques, procedures and practices for the conduction of the self’s and of others’ conduct. In their deployment, these technologies of government constitute different forms of subjectivation. In this way, for example, the disciplinary techniques produce an obedient and docile subject; the liberal techniques introduce a subject-agent who interacts with the milieu in order to self-regulate his or her conduct; and the neo-liberal techniques promote the creation of a responsible subject, self-sovereign, flexible, an independent agent of his or her own intellectual capital and resources, or to put it simply, the free individual as an entrepreneur of him or herself such as it is shown in education policies, in the management of energy resources, in issues pertaining to nutritional security, health, the war against terrorism, etc.
In order to animate the discussions in the context of the 2nd Conference on Biopolitics and Education, we expect to approach, around this cluster, questions such as the following: What types of new neo-liberal techniques are being nowadays promoted in the fields of education and pedagogy? How are disciplinary, liberal and neo-liberal techniques being articulated in contemporary institutions for education? What kinds of relations is it possible to establish between certain pedagogical discourses or practices and specific technologies of government?
The third cluster focuses on the notion of counter-conducts. Foucault articulated the ethical dimension of historical experience, rethought in terms of practices of freedom through which we are able to constitute ourselves in subjects in different ways, with the political dimension concerning the transformation of a historical field and power relations which are institutionally stabilized and that regulate our practices. How can genealogies of counter-conducts be traced in Latinamerica and what repercussions might they have for rethinking our possibilities of political action today? What role might artistic or corporeal practices play within these genealogies? Lastly, what are the repercussions of Foucault’s emphasis on the ethical dimension of political action with regards to the creation of other modes of being that can transform the field of experience against the global expansion of capital and its modes of subjection today in Latinamerica?
These kinds of questions relate to another set of issues in the field of education which enquire about the counter-conducts that operate in the destabilization of hegemonic forms of government, a destabilization with no apparent end which cannot be understood in terms of educational reforms. Instead, these could be thought in terms of “biopotency” (Pelbart) or “affirmative biopolitics” (Espósito). Thus, we could ask: what are the limits of freedom that pedagogical practices can overcome? What are the effects of subjectivation for teachers and students in contemporary society? What possible experiences within education could constitute potentials for aesthetics of the existence?
Thomas Lemke (Alemania)
Vanessa Lemm (Australia)
Miguel de Beistegui (Inglaterra)
Susanne Lettow (Alemania)
Francisco Vásquez (España)
Edgardo Castro (Argentina)
Sylvio Gadelha (Brasil)
Silvia Grinberg (Argentina)
Nikolas Rose (Inglaterra)
Alfredo Veiga-Neto (Brasil)
Stephen Zepke (Nueva Zelanda)