Matthew G. Hannah, Jan Simon Hutta and Christoph Schemann, Thinking Through Covid-19 Responses With Foucault – An Initial Overview, Antipode online, 5 May 2020 (Department of Geography, University of Bayreuth)
This intervention originally appeared as the second half of a longer essay intended as a basis for discussion in a Masters seminar at our university (original essay available here). It has been revised and updated for publication on AntipodeOnline.org The first part of the longer essay is an extended overview of Foucault’s analyses of power relations. As this background is not included in what follows, readers lacking a basic familiarity with the concepts of “sovereignty”, “discipline”, “biopower”, “biopolitics” and “governmentality” as these have been understood in the literature building on Foucault’s work are encouraged to consult Part I of the original version (or any of the numerous excellent book-length overviews of Foucault’s thoughts on power relations such as Dean 1999; Deleuze 2006; Elden 2017; Lemke 2019).
Over the last months, there has been a true explosion of critical scholarly contributions aimed at making sense of the political responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. Not only is the multiplicity of interventions and contributions that have been made at a global scale increasingly hard to track, writing during a pandemic also risks illuminating pre-established theoretical frameworks more than the unfolding events themselves. This is especially true where theorists use the pandemic as “raw material for metaphysical speculation”, as Warwick Anderson (2020) has pointed out with respect to authors such as Giorgio Agamben and Slavoj Žižek. It is our conviction that some of the ideas of Michel Foucault, whose methodology has always been oriented towards differentiated empirical and historical analysis rather than abstract theorization, can avoid this danger while illustrating possibilities for making detailed sense of ongoing events.