Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Alan Ingram, Viral geopolitics: biosecurity and global health governance, In Biosecurity: The Socio-Politics of Invasive Species and Infectious Diseases, Edited ByAndrew Dobson, Kezia Barker, Sarah L. Taylor, Routledge, 2013

This chapter examines tensions surrounding the development and reworking of global health governance in response to concerns about emerging infectious diseases since the 1980s. It focuses in particular on how tensions have emerged at the intersections between technologies of government – what, following Michel Foucault, may be termed apparatuses of security – that have been created in response to newly formed infectious disease epidemics and struggles over the international political economy. The widespread adoption of the term ‘global health governance’ can be understood as a result of a convergence between struggles over globalisation and growing unease about emerging infectious diseases. The intensification and expansion of international trade and travel, combined with environmental change, population growth, urbanisation and shifts in farming practices, is generally understood to have transformed the ecological matrix within which humans, animals, plants and microbes co-exist and co-evolve. The intensified interactions and transactions associated with globalisation are commonly understood to have heightened the risk of disease emergence into human populations and its subsequent spread. In response to these quantitative and qualitative shifts in epidemiological space and time, materialised through a series of infectious disease outbreaks and epidemics. Health bureaucrats, scientists, politicians, activists, and corporate and military entities have collaborated and struggled over the creation of new organisations, networks and strategies, fostering the emergence of the field of global health (Lakoff and Collier, 2008).

In a lecture course given at the Collège de France in the late 1970s, Michel Foucault (Foucault, 2007) described the consolidation of such clusters of institutions, rationalities, tactics and technologies in response to crisis or emergency situations as the formation of apparatuses or mechanisms (words that provide an approximation to the word dispositif that Foucault used) of security. In an interview given around the same time, Foucault elaborated further on what he meant by this term: What I’m trying to pick out with this term is, firstly, a thoroughly heterogeneous ensemble consisting of discourses, institutions, architectural forms, regulatory decisions, laws, administrative measures, scientific statements, philosophical, moral and philanthropic propositions – in short, the said as much as the unsaid. Such are the elements of the apparatus. The apparatus itself is the system of relations that can be established between these elements.

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