Becoming Precarious in the age of neoliberal bio-politics

by Leandros Kyriakopoulos, Theodosia Marinoudi, and Erasmia Samikou

A research paper developed in the Summer School “Teaching the crisis – Geographies, Methodologies, Perspectives”
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Conducting our research project in Greece in these times of “crisis” gave us the all-depressing advantage of working with a vast array of thematic issues and fieldwork occurrences. Despite the abundance of research questions one could raise concerning the current actualization of “debt crisis” in Greece, there was something very specific we wanted to share as a thematic focus in this (dystopian) landscape of “crisis” to the Teaching the Crisis summer school: A formation of affect as an horizon of bodily perceptions and expressions that determine what is sensible and insensible. We argue that, by permeating a thick assemblage of discourses, political decisions, legislatures, embodiments and common sense reasoning, this formation produces and determines the lives that need and deserve protection from the pernicious effects of “debt crisis”. In other words, what we focused on was a question concerning regimes of truth, political injunctions, and forces of subjugation that determine whose life is livable and, more precisely, whose is not.

This question deals with the ongoing dispossessions that have occurred in the context of “crisis”, on a subjective as well as inter-subjective and collective level. We attempt to illustrate the ways in which such dispossessions result from a neo-liberal governance wherein the apparatus of security plays a prominent role. The production of unlivable lives, insecure and dangerous becomes a strategic vehicle, and, in fact, an affective formation itself, through which neo-liberal politics of “crisis-management” seek to gain some extra legitimacy and efficacy. In this context, “crisis-management” is, above all, a production of a certain order of intelligibility, one which constitutively involves the regulation of human vulnerability and precarity. It is in this concept we examined the current “debt crisis” as a primary neo-liberal tool for social and economic redistribution; that is, as an opportunity for strengthening the privatization processes and state reforms with all the “inevitable” by-products of inequality, exclusion and marginality. In that sense, to focus on vulnerability in the years of “crisis” means to draw primarily and deeply on the problematics of biopolitics/necropolitics, neo-liberal governmentality, medical anthropology and anthropology of social suffering.

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