Becoming Precarious in the age of neoliberal bio-politics

The enforcement of a regulation on the transmission of infectious diseases, and especially HIV, among the “priority groups” of sex workers, intravenous drug users, homeless people and undocumented immigrants that occurred on the spring of 2012 is an example of this kind. The most disturbing application of this regulation was the enforced detainment and HIV testing of several foreign sex workers (with the final imprisonment of 27), and the publication of their identities and HIV status on the TV news. This regulation was repealed shortly after its application due to incongruity with international guidelines on HIV testing and protection of human rights.

We focused on this fundamental condition of neoliberal governmentality, which has to do with the production of not only economically indebted but also socially precarious and abjected subjects.  The norms of self-sufficient individuality, supposedly fortified through its detachment from society and formed according to the idealized image of the efficient and competitive privileged entrepreneur, is thus projected upon those lives deemed dangerous and dangerously vulnerable, those lives that don’t match the normative requirements of neoliberal life and livability.

We drew from the early 80s, when the emergence and consolidation of a “middle class” was one of the defining moments and simultaneously the fundamental condition of the then concluded “social contract”. The processes of racist discriminations produced and demarcated the dominant nationalist, patriarchal, and heteronormative social body by displacing those subjects that fell short of its normative requirements, led to the consolidation of the idealized figure of the petty bourgeois Greek national subject. This critical account of current greek history, led us to the conclusion that in two characteristic historic restructurings of the state’s structures, the biopolitical regulation of subjects and populations was of critical importance for the change of the logic of governing.

These public enterprises of marginalization and exclusion by physical, social, mental and psychical extermination of subjects and groups reveals us what it means to be excluded from the dominant aesthetic national-patriarchic standards of belonging through, as Susan Sontag (1975) has shown, a desire to dissolute alienation in ecstatic feelings of community. This “protection” of belonging through limitation and sacrifice suggests the fantasy of the all regained competence of the State to protect identity and effectively preserve the community from the misfortunes of crisis (see Taussig 1997). Thus, the psychic derision and physical extinction of the HIV positives pertains to the over-signification of the threats of (all lost) orderly life and the strategic redefinition and certification of the inappropriate figure as a state’s performance to its anticipated paternalistic role. The grid of these governmental techniques is a fierce example of the biopolitical regulation of populations, which comes, as Athena Athanasiou (2012) has state it, as an apparatus of power, object and purpose so to deal with the side effects of crisis. That means that the tattered face of the inappropriate Other is made more so to regulate the processes of (normal) human life in the (abnormal) state of emergency.

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