A Note on What I’m Reading and Some Loosely Connected Thoughts

Hello Dear Reader,

I thought I’d check in with you and just let you know what I’m reading and thinking about, if any of you out there are so inclined, please feel free to suggest related books are open a dialog with me in the comments/irl.

I’ve been writing my first dissertation chapter about Wyndham Lewis, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, and Who Goes There in relation to the rise of biopolitics in the early twentieth century. I’m trying — as those of you who read this blog regularly already know — to think through the politics of the relation between infection and immunity, terror and security. Specifically, I’m interested in analyzing their representational employment — whether consciously or not — in relation to the justification of problematic biopolitical logics. 

I’ve been reading around a bit these days… (made my way through the first chapter of Eric Cazdyn’s The Already Dead, reread some Agamben, reread Achille Mbembe’s “Necropolitics”)

I still seemed to be missing something, though, and it recently clicked. If I really want to understand biopolitics, and the relation of modernisms to biopolitics, what I really need to understand is the relation of both of those to eugenics. 

I’ve just started reading up on this — turning to a 1931 edition by 3 German scientists on Human Heredity, as well as a couple essays from Foucault in the Age of Terror, and Donald J. Childs’ Modernism and Eugenics. 

What has really caught my interest, though — I’ve only made it through the series and volume introductions but I’m intrigued — is Marius Turda’s Modernism and Eugenics, from Palgrave Macmillan’s Modernism and series of books. 

What I’ve learned in this long day of researching (I had no idea it was so late!) is that the artistic movement of modernism, in its drive for revitalization and rejuvenation, is really, philosophically, not that unlike the driving force behind eugenic thought. In the past 3 or 4 months, I’ve also learned that historically, the term biopolitics comes out of the evolution of a eugenic discourse about the health of the state (as if it were a biological organism). So the obsessive connecting of biopolitics to the holocaust seems to be a double gesture, looking at a supremely bio/thanatopolitical moment, but it is also an uncanny doubling back on the term’s own history, a citation of the darkly obscured lineage of biopolitics itself.

This realization troubles me a bit, though, because so many biopolitical explorations eschew this troubled and important history altogether.

This also led me, somewhat nebulously, to a set of questions I don’t yet have the answers to, maybe you do?

What does a positive biopolitics, like the one Roberto Esposito aspires to, really look like? 

Would a positive biopolitics still be too entrenched in a certain privileged relation between science, medicine, war, and bodies to be TRULY positive? 

What would the relation of a positive biopolitics be to positive eugenics? How would a positive biopolitics acknowledge and negotiate that relationship?

These thoughts are admittedly extremely nascent, and I still have several texts to read on the subject (sitting right in front of my face! Immunitas has been taunting me for some time, Modernism and Eugenics is up for now, but I also need to read and reread some Nikolas Rose).

My apologies for how ill-formed this is, the spark of curiosity shocked me into action, and I was just hoping I might be able to spread it to you.

Thanks for reading, keep thinking, farewell dear reader!

PS: Oh, and yes, this amounts to another blog entry begging that people historicize.


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