Beyond Biopolitics: Theory, Violence, and Horror in World Politics, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Beyond Biopolitics

Theory, Violence, and Horror in World Politics, 1st Edition

By Francois Debrix, Alexander D. Barder


184 pages

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Beyond Biopolitics exposes the conceptual limits of critical biopolitical approaches to violence, war, and terror in the post-9/11-War on Terror era.

This volume shows that such popular international political theories rely upon frames of representation that leave out of focus a series of extreme forms of gruesome violence that have no concern for the preservation of life, a crucial biopolitical theme. Debrix and Barder mobilize different concepts—horror, agonal sovereignty, the pulverization of the flesh, or the notion of an inhumanity-to-come—to shed light on past and present ghastly scenes and events of violence that seek to undo the very idea of humanity. To highlight the capacity of horror to be in excess of both violence and the meaning of humanity, Beyond Biopolitics provides a series of engagements with issues much debated in contemporary critical theoretical circles, in particular war and terror, the production of fear, states and spaces of exception, and alterity as enmity.

This work will be of great interest to scholars of critical international relations theory, critical security studies and international relations.


‘In this fascinating book, Debrix and Barder keep their eyes trained on a kind of violence that is excessive, ‘recreational,’ and if not altogether apolitical then linked to political critiques, projects, or aims by only the thinnest or most obscure of threads…This is a bracing, bold, and serious attempt to inventory such violence while also acknowledging its unspeakability or the impossibility of making full sense of it. An important and timely intervention.’

Jane Bennett, Johns Hopkins University, USA.

Why must we move beyond biopolitics? Debrix and Barder assail the foundations of biopolitical critique, showing how such approaches remain wedded to a liberal model of life-affirmation which blinds them to central aspects of death and destruction. Pushing their analysis beyond the limits of human life, Debrix and Barder show how "agonal sovereignty" mobilizes fear, flesh, and failure to erase those modes of being whose singularity resists the logics of contemporary international politics. Drawing on such diverse sites of terror as Mexican narco killings, the Guantanamo concentration camp, and the transmission of transnational disease, Beyond Biopolitics identifies the complex economies of horror underpinning international relations, while also providing an accessible and critical reading of Arendt, Schmitt, Mbembe, Agamben, and Foucault.

Kennan Ferguson, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, USA

‘Confronting the violence that “pulverizes being” Debrix and Barder invite us to expand our attachment to biopolitics and to take in the “horror” of contemporary violence, understanding that what is at stake is not the end of human life itself but the end of the human condition. Mobilizing a host of philosophers from Butler, Agamben and Mbembe to Esposito and Cavarero, they urge us to reckon with power as something that kills. This is a valuable, provocative and passionate intervention.’

Sherene H. Razack, University of Toronto, Canada

Table of Contents

Introduction: Beyond Biopolitics 1. Agonal Sovereignty: Rethinking War Politics in an Age of Terror 2. Nothing to Feat but Fear Itself: Governmentality and the Reproduction of Terror 3. The Nomos of Exception and the Virtuality of Geopolitical Space 4. The Horror of Enmity: Rethinking Alterity in the Age of Global War Conclusion: Facing Horrific Violence

About the Series


The Series provides a forum for innovative and interdisciplinary work that engages with alternative critical, post-structural, feminist, postcolonial, psychoanalytic and cultural approaches to international relations and global politics. In our first 5 years we have published 60 volumes.

We aim to advance understanding of the key areas in which scholars working within broad critical post-structural traditions have chosen to make their interventions, and to present innovative analyses of important topics. Titles in the series engage with critical thinkers in philosophy, sociology, politics and other disciplines and provide situated historical, empirical and textual studies in international politics.


We are very happy to discuss your ideas at any stage of the project: just contact us for advice or proposal guidelines. Proposals should be submitted directly to the Series Editors:

‘As Michel Foucault has famously stated, "knowledge is not made for understanding; it is made for cutting" In this spirit The Edkins - Vaughan-Williams Interventions series solicits cutting edge, critical works that challenge mainstream understandings in international relations. It is the best place to contribute post disciplinary works that think rather than merely recognize and affirm the world recycled in IR's traditional geopolitical imaginary.’

Michael J. Shapiro, University of Hawai'i at Manoa, USA


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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / City Planning & Urban Development
POLITICAL SCIENCE / History & Theory
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / General