Bioviolence : How the Powers That Be Make Us Do What They Want book cover
1st Edition

How the Powers That Be Make Us Do What They Want

ISBN 9780367438180
Published July 19, 2021 by Routledge
254 Pages

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Book Description

Aylan, Isis, Begum, Grenfell, Trump. Harambe, Guantanamo, Syria, Brexit, Johnson. COVID, migrants, trolling, George Floyd, Trump!

Gazing over the fractured, contested territories of the current global situation, Watkin finds that all these diverse happenings have one element in common. They occur when biopolitical states, in trying to manage and protect the life rights of their citizens, habitually end up committing acts of coercion or disregard against the very people they have promised to protect. When states tasked with making us live find themselves letting us die, then they are practitioners of a particular kind of force that Watkin calls bioviolence.

This book explores and exposes the many aspects of contemporary biopower and bioviolence: neglect, exclusion, surveillance, regulation, encampment, trolling, fake news, terrorism and war. As it does so, it demonstrates that the very term ‘violence’ is a discursive construct, an effect of language, made real by our behaviours, embodied by our institutions and disseminated by our technologies. In short, bioviolence is how the contemporary powers that be make us do what they want.

Resolutely interdisciplinary, this book is suitable for all scholars, students and general readers in the fields of IR, political theory, philosophy, the humanities, sociology and journalism.

Table of Contents


Introduction: Michel Foucault, Biopolitics and the Abolition of Violence

Part One: Regulatory Bioviolence

Chapter 1 – Aylan Kurdi and the Index of Responsibility

Chapter 2 – The Construction of Life: Specie-fication, Race War and Immunitas

Chapter 3 – Rise of the Paedophobes! Or the Coercive Power of Norms, Regulation, Population and Massification in the Case of Migrant Children

Chapter 4 – Death on the Beaches: Bioviolence Defined

Part Two: Humanimals and Bare life

Chapter 5 – #Harambe and the Construction of Life

Chapter 6 – Humanimals and the Abolition of Life

Part Three: Decapitation and the Digital Caliphate

Chapter 7 – ISIS and the Art of Decapitation

Chapter 8 – Biohistory: The Human, The Head, The Tool, The Cut and The Tribe

Part Four: The Global Camp

Chapter 9 – Days of Raqqa and the Bethnal Green Girls

Chapter 10 – Shamima Begum, our Femina Sacra

Chapter 11 – Reading Guantanamo or Camp as Coercion

Part Five: 2020, I can’t breathe

Chapter 12 – George Floyd and #BlackLivesMatter: Thoughts

Chapter 13 – Herd Immunity: COVID and Coercion

Conclusion: Apologia for a Theory of Political Acéphalism

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William Watkin is Professor of Contemporary Philosophy and Literature at Brunel University, London. He is the author of numerous books including In the Process of Poetry: The New York School and the Avant-Garde, On Mourning, The Literary Agamben and Agamben and Indifference. His most recent work Badiou and Indifferent Being is the first of two volumes looking at Badiou’s Being and Event project. The second, Badiou and Communicable Worlds, came out in 2020. He is currently working on a study of a philosophy of indifference called, simply, Indifference, and a follow-up to Bioviolence called Anti-Social Media: How Big Tech Makes Us Do What It Wants.


"A gripping read that kept me enthralled with its jaw-dropping details about the realities of our contemporary society. This is an essential book made enjoyable with its wide range of references and its persistent wit!"

Daljit Nagra, Award-winning poet and Chair of the Royal Society of Literature.

"This is the book the planet needs. Intelligent, opinionated, but crafted in a way that does not ignore the common sense of the reader. It’s serious stuff, but it has humour, depth, and compassion. Watkin writes with rhythm and precision. His watchful eyes observe subjects with a focused, logical gaze, and his passion is genuine. I get it, and now that I’ve got it, the way I see the world has changed forever."  

Benjamin Zephaniah