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How Do Public Bathrooms Operate as Sites of 'Biopolitical' and 'Anatomo-Political' Struggle?

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Despite their prominence in subsequent academic writing,1 the concepts of “biopower” and “biopolitics” are perhaps the most elusive, and arguably the most compelling (given the attention they have subsequently received), concepts of Michel Foucault’s oeuvre

Indeed, whether Foucault provides us with a coherent theory or concept of biopolitics is debatable.

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Power, according to Foucault, is frequently characterized in a negative way,meaning a power that forbids rather than a power that tells us what is best. While powerstill operates negatively in society through laws and other juridical mechanisms, theimportance of such mechanisms, Foucault theorized, has been superseded by moreproductive forms of power

In the modern era, Foucault contended, there was a virtual—explosion of numerous and diverse techniques for achieving the subjugation of bodiesand the control of populations,“ thus forcing juridical forms of power.. These productive controls depend primarily upon knowledge:knowledge of populations and the individuals that comprise them. It is such knowledge(and the application of such knowledge) that, for Foucault, essentially constitutes modernpower.Several types of knowledges (savoirs) or disciplines were established inmodernity that placed the body (both the body of individuals and the body ofpopulations) under intense scrutiny. These disciplines comprise what might becollectively called the human sciences; psychology, sociology, medicine, criminology,etc. .

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In this sense from the year 1978 onwards bio-power becomes a certain analyticalperspective from which Foucault approaches relation of power and knowledgethat affect on the practices by which human life is modified (cf. Collier 2009, 80;Deleuze 1988, 6, 118-119). Consequently, I will argue that a topological point ofview sheds light to Foucault’s capillary analysis and micro-perspective fromwhich he approached power and government. Other useful methodological pointswith respect to Foucault’s analysis of power and the state are offered by Golder(2007) and Senellart (2007), the editor of Security, Territory, population

I will argue that Foucault’s analysis ofsubjectivation leads him to pose the question of the mode of subjectivation, that is,how an individual makes himself a subject according to an exterior ethical code.This is where Foucault begins to distance himself from the genealogies of powerand moves towards investigations concerning ethical techniques of the self(Foucault 1990, 1-32; 1997c).

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Ordinarily, grounding this re-politicized reading in the problem of excess freedom that emerges on the horizon of governmental rationality between the political inclusion of the surplus population and their obstructive uselessness, I begin the inquiry by asking how the current order of neoliberal urbanism contains the surplus population when the establishment of the educative trusteeship of development is no longer pertinent.

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Hardt, Michael and Negri, Antonio (2000): Empire. Harvard University Press,Massachusetts

Virtanen, Akseli (2006): Biopoliittisen talouden kritiikki. Tutkijaliitto, Helsinki.Vähämäki, Jussi (2005): “Esipuhe” in Gilles Deleuze: Haastatteluja. Tutkijaliitto,Helsinki.

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