Towards a biopolitics of the victimised body: Creating assault as a crime against health and life, c. 1945–1965
(2020) Scandinavian Journal of History, 45 (1), pp. 1-24.
This article discusses the creation of assault as a crime against health and life as this discursive process is expressed through Swedish laws, legislative discussions, and legal practice from 1945 to 1965. Inspired by Michel Foucault’s theoretical reflections on biopolitics and sociologist Thomas Lemke’s outline to a analytics of biopolitics, the article argues that a most central component in the genealogy of assault as a crime against health and life was a shift in the first post-war decades, from a predominant legal idealistic paradigm within Swedish jurisprudence, by which assault was defined as a crime against bodily integrity, to a legal realistic epistemology, imbued with the scientific knowledge and empirical ‘truth’-producing practices of modern medicine. As an effect, new discourses around the victimized body emerged, through which prevailing knowledges and ‘truths’ around violent crime and its effects were challenged and marginalized. In this discursive process, the 19th-century legal-moral category of violent crimes finally collapsed into the overarching legal category prescribed by Brottsbalken (1965) as ‘crimes against health and life’. Consequently, the victimized body was deprived of all meaning but ‘life’ and thus created as a biopolitical space, available to series of life-governing interventions and regulatory practices. © 2019, © 2019 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
biopolitics; body; victims of violence