“Plasticization as Necrophilia:
Death, Decomposition and the Inorganic in Foucault”
Thursday, April 12, 2012
CUNY Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue, Room 5409
New York, NY
Open to the public.
Suggested donation: $5
Wine and light dessert will be served.
RSVPs are appreciated. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For abstract and speaker bio, see below or go to our website: www.foucaultsociety.org
Throughout his work, Foucault wrestles with the notion of biopolitics, which can be defined broadly as the politics of and over life. This essay investigates the politics of death within life, specifically concerning the concept of plasticization, in order to illuminate contemporary society’s desire for an inorganic “body.” I root the discussion within The Birth of the Clinic and Foucault’s analysis of the development of a new concept of “death.” Just as we understand life as permeable by death, I propose that the dying or decomposing body, a remnant of the living body, is death permeated by life. I expand Susan Bordo’s discussion of plasticization to include not only forms of body modification like plastic surgery, but also the broader societal pressure to “look young.” I propose that plasticity–an obsession with the non-decomposing, un-aging body–is, by definition, necrophilia. In the paper’s final section, I turn to the implications of my argument for biopolitics. Should we view plasticization as part of a technology of governing bodies? Connecting Foucault and Bordo, I argue that it is through plasticization as necrophilia that the sovereign regains a “right” to life and death. As a consequence, we see that death is not the last remaining region of freedom from the sovereign. Plasticization entails new techniques of power and makes already established techniques more prominent and invasive. Following Bordo, who addresses claims that the feminine body is not of political concern, I show the extent to which plasticization is political by illuminating how our obsession with the “dead” body has given the sovereign a new “right” over life.
Kelsey Borrowman is a Master of Arts candidate in the Philosophy & Arts program at Stony Brook University. She has presented versions of her paper, “Plasticization as Necrophilia,” at the Foucault Circle annual conference in Buffalo, NY; the NY Society for Women in Philosophy workshop (SWIPshop) in NYC; and the Radical Foucault conference at University of East London.