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Thomas Lemke: Governing the Milieu. Exploring a More-Than-Human Biopolitics

The talk puts forward an understanding of biopolitics that no longer exclusively addresses human individuals and populations but attends to the complex associations of humans and nonhumans captured by Michel Foucault’s concept of the milieu. It starts by reviewing the notion of the milieu in Foucault’s work. After reconstructing the brief genealogy of the term in Foucault’s lectures on governmentality at the Collège de France, it argues that the milieu occupies a central role in liberal governmentality as it seeks to control and canalize “free” circulations across the human-nonhuman divide. Since it attends to the co-constitution of humans and nonhumans, the milieu also allows for a non-anthropocentric framing of biopolitics that no longer exclusively addresses human individuals and populations. Finally, the talk briefly presents Foucault’s concept of environmentality as a way of capturing a new constellation of power in which modes of government seek to modulate and control the social, ecological, and technological conditions of life.

Dr. Thomas Lemke is professor of sociology at the faculty of social sciences at Goethe University Frankfurt. He is the author of several books, including Foucault's Analysis of Modern Governmentality: A Critique of Political Reason (2019), and Biopolitics: An Advanced Introduction (2011).

The lecture will be held in English and will be moderated by Jernej Meden, a member of the ILS programme committee. It will be streamed on YouTube.

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