UPDATE: [Theory] "Discourse:" Transvaluating the Concept "Life" (journal)

full name / name of organization: 
David Harvey
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There is a call for submissions for a special issue of the journal
"Discourse," which is to be guest edited by Louis-Georges Schwartz (Dept.
of Cinema and Comparative Literature, University of Iowa). Essays included
will explore how the concept of "life" has been constructed and challenged
as an object of/for discourse throughout the humanities.

Please fine a more detailed account of the project below:

In 1960, Siegfried Kracauer writes that the concept "life" in the strong
sense was invented recently. He also imagines the possibility of producing
a genealogy of the concept, adding that, "it would be tempting to try to
follow the evolution of the concept" of life "from the time of the
Romantics via Nietzche and Bergson up to our days." During the five
subsequent decades, scholars in the humanities and social sciences have
developed such genealogies of "life," and recently begun to transvalue the
concept. This special issue of Discourse will bring together recent
research on the concept "life" and its function in value production. Recent
work by Giorgio Agamben has helped us to understand modern philosophies as
ones deeply invested in the question of "life" by situating Michel
Foucault's work on biopolitique within a network of post-Heideggerian
thought. Agamben calls for future philosophy to produce a genealogy of the
concept "life" and to rethink it in ways other than those which enable
contemporary forms of domination. Foucault describes the development of
concrete problems that call for a philosophy of life in his biopolitical
studies. Starting with the observation that the modern state has the power
to control life, Foucault shows how contemporary governance justifies
itself and regulates society by invoking "life" in ways which are, at least
in part, philosophical. The contemporary concept of "life" implicit in
governing institutions responds to concrete problems faced by the state. To
be able to decide legal cases concerning the termination of life-support or
abortion, for example, the state refers to notions of life developed by
biology, theology and philosophy. In biopolitical regimes, a vague, largely
unthought concept of life, pricelessly outside of any economy, confers
worth on all other values. Thus the task of philosophy in such societies is
to make explicit the appropriation of the concept of life for social
control while producing another one that would resist such appropriation.
As Nietzsche argues in Daybreak, to historicize a value is to neutralize
it, the first step in changing or reinventing it. This issue of dicourse
welcomes submissions on this topic from across the humanities and social

Deadline for submissions will be March 1, 2008. We will only consider
full essays for publication, however, if you would like to submit an
abstract in order to query if your article is appropriate, please do feel
free. Email all related correspondance (including submissions) to

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Received on Tue Dec 11 2007 - 21:58:29 EST