The Biopolitics of Development: A Symposium at September 9--10 at Kolkata, India

Keynote Speakers

- Michael Dillon (Sehir University, Turkey)
- Manas Ray (CSSSC, India)
- Julian Reid (University of Lapland, Finland)
- Ranabir Samaddar (Calcutta Research Group, India)

Organized by the University of Lapland and the Calcutta Research Group. Funded by the Finnish Academy

How can we understand the historical and contemporary function of development doctrine in the propagation and expansion of liberal regimes of governance? How has the strategic function of development changed in the transition from liberal to neoliberal rationalities of governance? And what is the relevance of the shift from development to sustainable development for the increasingly global hegemony of neoliberalism? Answering these questions requires examining the fundamental and complex correlations of economy, politics and security with life in liberal doctrine. For it is the reification of life which has permitted liberalism to proliferate, like a poison species, taking over entire states and societies in the wake of their disasters, utilizing their suffering, as conditions for its spread, installing markets, commodifying anything it can lay its hands on, monetizing the value of everything, driving peoples from countryside into cities, generating displacement, homelessness, and deprivation.

Neoliberalism is widely understood as a theory of political economic practices proposing that human well-being can best be advanced by the maximization of entrepreneurial freedoms within an institutional framework characterized by private property rights, individual liberty, unencumbered markets, and free trade. Less understood, however, is how its claims to be able to increase wealth and freedom became correlated with claims to increase the prosperity and security of life itself. For life was triangulated with capital and labour within liberal regimes of governance from the very earliest emergence of liberal political economy’s competition and conflict with the Cameralism and Mercantilism of Polizeiwissenschaft. Life, in the form of species existence, rather than nature, specifically the political and economic nature in particular of rational Man whose dual nature derived much more from European scholasticism than many of its early modern proponents conceded, has progressively emerged as a singularly important a priori for liberal political economy.

Neoliberalism breaks from earlier liberalisms and traditions of political economy in so far as its legitimacy rests on its capacities to correlate practices for the increase of economic profitability and prosperity not just with practices for the securing of the human species, but with the life of the biosphere. These correlations of economy, well-being, freedom, security and biospheric life in and among neoliberal regimes of practice and representation comprise some of the foundations of its biopolitics. As this symposium will explore, we cannot understand how liberalism functions, most especially how it has gained the global hegemony that it has, without addressing how systematically the category of life has organized the correlation of its various practices of governance, as well as how important the shift in the very understanding of life, from the human to the biospheric, has been for changes in those practices. Today it is not simply living species and habitats that are threatened with extinction, and for which we must mobilize our care, but the words and gestures of human solidarity on which resistance to biopolitical regimes of governance depends. A sense of responsibility for the survival of the life of the biosphere is not a sufficient condition for the development of a political subject capable of speaking back to neoliberalism; nor a mere humanistic sense of responsibility for the life of human amongst other beings. What is required is a subject responsible for securing incorporeal species, chiefly that of the political, currently threatened with extinction, on account of the overwrought fascination with life that has colonized the developmental as well as every other biopoliticized imaginary of the modern age.

This symposium seeks to explore a range of responses to this problematic. It invites papers from across the disciplines and from a variety of theoretical perspectives that address any aspect of the biopolitics of development. This will be a two-day symposium with about 20-25 participants marked by presentation of views, papers, roundtable discussions, and question-answer sessions. Paper proposals aiming to respond to this problematic should be submitted to Julian Reid ( and Ranabir Samaddar (

Deadline: July 31, 2010.