Monsters of biopower: Terror(ism) and horror in the era of affect
(2016) Philosophy Today, 60 (1), pp. 193-205.
This paper argues that today the true source of terror in the economico-bio-politically advanced countries of global capitalism lies in biopower’s own constitution as a normative field (the protection of life) that presupposes its exception (the superfluity of life) as its own precondition. At the two extreme poles of this exception we find “terrorism,” and particularly suicide bombing, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones), as the pair revealing the core of biopower. However, of the two only “terrorism” is discursively constructed in the “West” as a monstrous act that should incite horror. Linking horror to the psychoanalytic concepts of repression and foreclosure, I argue that the biopolitical function of horror lies in rendering unreadable the message of such “monstrous” acts. Furthermore, insofar as horror’s experience is an affective state of being that can, nevertheless, be incited discursively, affect shifts to the center of the political domain. The affect of horror in particular becomes instrumental to politics as it can provide the criterion for determining the bio-racial break between, in Foucault’s words, “what must live and what must die “. © 2016. Philosophy Today.
Affect; Biopolitics; Psychoanalysis; Racism; Terrorism