Animals and disabled people are rarely the center pieces of political and philosophical thought about oppression, exploitation, or capitalism. At best, they appear as passing remarks or afterthoughts in the marginalia of such discourses—when they are not otherwise engaged as counterexamples or marginal cases to prop up the paradigm cases featuring non-disabled humans. They also frequently haunt such texts as metaphors and symbols which serve to illuminate non-disabled or human concerns. Animals and disabled people are, thus, tasked with lot of theoretical and symbolic work whereas very little theoretical work is done for and about them. While this state of affairs has been changing, it has given way to a problematic mediation of animals and disabled people: whenever theoretical work is done in the service of one, the other is evoked as a principle of intelligibility for the former. One of the ways my dissertation project addresses this phenomenon is to suggest that systems of oppression such as anthropocentrism, ableism, and capitalism historically, materially, and discursively interact, co-evolve, and inform one another such that at the intersections certain beings become “mutually addressable” (Boisseron, 2018) even when they are not ontologically analogizable. My project effects a combination of Foucaultian and Marxist analyses of power with the two-fold aim of 1) putting Foucault and Marx in a conversation which centrally thematizes the relationship between animality and disability and 2) building a new paradigm of domination informed by the intersections of anthropocentrism and ableism under late capitalism.
For the purposes of this talk, I limit the discussion to a preliminary fleshing out of the convergence points of Foucault and Marx. The methodological convergence point of Foucault and Marx is genealogy. I will suggest that both Marx and Foucault are genealogists of capitalism. I will then briefly sketch how the genealogy of capitalism may at the same time be the genealogy of animality and disability. The theoretical convergence between Foucault and Marx will revolve around the operative terms biopolitics, production, and relation. With regards to biopolitics, I flesh out a biopolitical Foucault and a biopolitical Marx to address both disability and animality as apparatuses. As “beasts of burden” (Taylor, 2017) disabled are construed as the non-exploited burden to society, and animals as the exploited carriers of burden, both managed through the biopolitics of superfluity and enclosure. With regards to production, I suggest that both Foucault and Marx are thinkers of a productive power. From this perspective, I construe capitalism as a system that disables and animalizes, that is, it produces certain bodies and subjectivities, both human and non-human through discourses and practices of speciation and capacitation. With regards to relation, I suggest that the method of intelligibility that enables liminality and discourse in Foucault and Marx is relation. Whether it is power-relation, class-relation, or production-relation, this term presupposes a kind of contradictory freedom and possibility of resistance both for Foucault and Marx.
Balam Nedim Kenter is a PhD Candidate in the CISSC Humanities Program and a graduate fellow at the Social Justice Center.
The talk will be followed by a commentary by Jesse Arseneault (Department of English, Concordia University)
The talk will be hybrid, both in person and on zoom.