Home > Uncategorized > An Interview with Elizabeth Grosz: Geopower, Inhumanism and the Biopolitical

An Interview with Elizabeth Grosz: Geopower, Inhumanism and the Biopolitical

Grosz, Elizabeth; Yusoff, Kathryn; Clark, Nigel 2017. An Interview with Elizabeth Grosz: Geopower, Inhumanism and the Biopolitical. Theory, Culture & Society. DOI: 10.1177/0263276417689899

NC and KY: Historically, the inhuman has been posited as a condition that was understood to be against life (Lyotard, 1991) or as a form of bare life rendered through a deadly exercise of biopower. How might the inhuman be rethought as a stratified condition that both supplements and subtends biopolitics? What kind of shift in genealogy does this represent for the conceptualization of the body politic of the human?

EG: If the inhuman is not understood as against the human, its opposite or overcoming, but rather both the preconditions and the excess within the human, if we understand what is creative and inventive in the human as something impersonal, with forces we summon up rather than control, then it is a line that runs through human actions. In fact, it may be part of the explanation for the cultural necessity of biopolitical regulation: there is something in humans (and other living beings) that is beyond conscious control and social regulation. The increasingly microscopic interventions of biopower take as their object smaller and smaller forces and processes of the body as something to be mastered while leaving inadequately addressed the body’s inhuman even quantum forces. Biopower requires as its other precisely the inhuman, which it aims to make an object of regulation. Or put in other words, it is the inhuman in the human that resists biopolitics and perhaps requires some form of it. The inhuman within the human, as resistance, is the creative force that enables (some) humans to transform their conditions of existence, to make, create, invent. Moreover, this inhuman is the gel of a human collectivity that is perhaps best understood through art, which musters both the elements from the earth and from the inhuman effects of the human.

NC and KY: You have suggested that art carves out a relatively safe corner of the earth’s chaos in which to perform experiments. One of the key differences between the spheres of politics and art – at least in a conventional modern framing – is that politics involves justifying our actions or inaction to others (i.e. giving reasons for our decisions), whereas it is presumed that artistic interventions can to some degree speak or act for themselves. So we are wondering what your approach does to complicate or trouble these differences. If a politics worthy of the name calls for trials and experiments whose outcomes cannot be anticipated, is the emphasis on the providing of reasons or giving an account of oneself over-rated? Or alternatively, if art has the capacity to recompose social formations in potentially momentous ways, are we perhaps not being demanding enough of its ethical and political responsibilities?

EG: I think that art and politics do function quite differently, although there is no reason that each mode of practice cannot borrow from or help to develop the other. But the most fundamental difference is that art is very rarely, with the exception of film and performance arts, a collective process (though of course it is capable of collective creation – it more commonly is marketed rather than produced collectively). Art is possible in a relation between a single individual and a small part of the earth. Politics, by contrast, is always collective, always social, completely ineffective if it relies on individuals alone. What both art and politics can share, though this is increasingly difficult in a political order in which the domination of politics occurs through the financial intervention of restabilizing orders (such as the interests of particular industries and the operation of lobby groups), is that at their best, they are fundamentally experimental, open-ended, without a clear-cut goal, but modes of exploration of different possible (or virtual) orders.

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