Biopolitics, Necropolitics, Cosmopolitics: Feminist and Queer Interventions

Deadline: 15/03/2018

Special Issue of Journal of Gender Studies

As Michel Foucault (2003, 2008) outlined in his seminal work on biopolitics, the late eighteenth-century saw the birth of biopower in the West, a new governing strategy focused on the regulation of populations and the management of ‘life itself’. This notion of ‘making live and letting die’ marked a significant shift from a medieval system wherein the sovereign could exercise the power to ‘let live and make die’. Now several decades after Foucault’s intervention, we find ourselves in a postcolonial, neo-imperial, neoliberal era in which technologies of destruction are not only more ubiquitous but are also more tactile and sensorial (Mbembe 2003). Thus, biopolitics must be looked at alongside what Achille Mbembe has named necropolitics in order to allow us to analyze sharply contemporary power relations and examine the inextricable politics of life and death at work on a planetary scale today (see also Braidotti 2013). In working with these theoretical paradigms it is important to ask who gets to live and who must die, thereby uncovering how certain bodies are cultivated for life and (re)production while others are marked for death, constructing a constantly shifting boundary between legitimate subjects and illegitimate non-subjects (Spade 2010, Chen 2012, Haritaworn, Kuntsman & Posocco 2014).

This special issue aims to both address these urgent issues and open them up onto new ways of imagining vital politics, resistance strategies, and other-than-merely-human agencies. In this way, we envision feminist and queer interventions that rethink categories such as ‘human’ and ‘subjectivity’ based on the classical modern premises. We offer ‘cosmopolitics’ (Stengers 2005, Haraway 2008, Gilroy 2010), which is not to be mixed up with traditional ‘cosmopolitanism’, as a fruitful critical posthuman(ist) and post-/decolonial approach to thinking through biopolitical and necropolitical networks and assemblages that assign life- and death-giving force. This special issue hopes therefore to produce resilient visions of transformation of the matrix of in-/exclusion into feminist/queer cosmopolitical futures that contribute to a new discourse of planetary social justice.

At the center of this special issue lie a number of compelling and timely questions that contributions are asked to take into account and that have provoked our interest in the overarching theme:


             Which lives are deemed worthy of recognition and inclusion in contemporary regimes of power, and which lives are considered disposable? How might we envision a different politics of difference(s) that un-works established (anthropocentric) hierarchies and enriches inter-human and inter-species relationality?


             How might we queer both theoretical registers and lived realities of biopolitics and necropolitics that foster life and mark for death? That is, how could 'queerness' destabilise existing biopolitical and necropolitical networks, which are often bolstered by sexualised, gendered, and racialised mechanisms and structures?


             How can the concepts of biopolitics, necropolitics, and cosmopolitics help make sense of radical processes of not only expulsion and exclusion but also of 'progressive' moves like human rights discourses and anti-discrimination legislation?


             What difference does it make if one broadens the spectrum of politics to more than human agents and allows for more than human spheres attached to the theme of politics? And how does this change of register also transform our understanding and engagement with questions of bio- and necropolitics?


This call for papers seeks submissions related to the broad themes of bio-, necro-, and cosmopolitics, particularly as they relate to gender, sexuality, race, and ethnicity. We are interested in contributions from a wide range of feminist and queer perspectives, and possible topics could include (but are not limited to):



             Postcolonial/Decolonial Studies

             Theories of social difference

             Questioning race and phenotype

             Vulnerability and precarity

             Queering the necropolitical

             Posthuman warfare

             Migration and border crossings

             Critical security studies and securitization

             Gendered and racialized aspects of the refugee crisis

             Human trafficking


             Law and legal engagements

             Planetary co-existence and co-habitation


We hope for engagements with art, literature, philosophy, media, and cultural artifacts, and both humanities- and social sciences-informed approaches are welcomed.

For consideration, please email abstracts (300-500 words) by March 15, 2018 to Christine Quinan ( and Kathrin Thiele ( Authors will be notified if their abstract has been invited for full paper consideration by April 15, 2018. Full-length submissions (6000-8000 words, including notes and references) will be due by August 1, 2018. Please note that all copyrighted material owned by parties other than authors must be cleared for use in advance of the paper being uploaded to the submission portal.

Made by Rekall Design