Victorian Necropolitics

deadline for submissions: 
April 15, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Jolene Zigarovich/Special issue of Victoriographies: A Journal of Nineteenth-Century Writing, 1790-1914
contact email: 

Call for Contributions for a Special Issue of Victoriographies: A Journal of Nineteenth-Century Writing, 1790-1914  “Victorian Necropolitics” Deadline 15 April 2022

In his essay (2003) and later book Necropolitics, (2019) Achille Mbembe used the term ‘necropolitics’ to account for the cruel relationship between life and death in colonial contexts, as well as the subsequent production of 'death worlds' within postcolonial, geopolitical spaces. Mbembe argues that biopower, in its desire to distinguish between who is disposable and who must be protected, produces a corollary power termed 'necropower.' This sovereign power maximizes the destruction of people and creates 'deathscapes' or 'death worlds,' 'unique forms of social existence in which vast populations are subjected to conditions of life which confer upon them the status of the living dead' (2003). According to Mbembe, colonies, plantations, and slavery are the chief nineteenth-century examples of necropolitics, and current systems of terrorism are its descendents. Mbembe’s concepts can be insightfully deployed to investigate how slavery is instituted and resisted, how British colonization contributes to a state of exception that makes these uses of death possible, and how rebellions, discourses, and histories contain, rebel against, or propagate uses of death. While Mbembe centers his project on slave plantations in the West Indies and the colonial horrors of his native West Africa, his thanatotic, corpse politics are certainly relevant to nineteenth-century Western culture, specifically in the examination of the necropolitical construction of the British Empire onto the inhabitants and landscape of England, for instance, as an example of a re-enacting or reversal of the horrors of the imperial system.

Following Mbembe, we have seen a broader expansion of necropolitical theory to diverse fields, such as ecology, architecture, and queer studies. Jasbir Puar (2014) elaborates a queer necropolitics which calls attention to the ‘differences between queer subjects who are being folded (back) into life and the racialized queernesses that emerge through the naming of populations, often those marked for death.’ With this capaciousness, necropolitics involves multiple modalities of power deployment over the production and management of dead bodies.

This special issue “Victorian Necropolitics” seeks to complicate and expand the postcolonial and posthuman interrogations launched by Mbembe, Rosi Braidotti (2013) and others.   

Proposals might address but are not limited to the following topics:

• The aesthetics of violence and fear

• Urban life, surveillance, and regulating mechanisms

• Necro tendencies in architecture, interior, and object design

• Necropower, industrialization, and capitalism

• Queer Necropolitics, Ecologies, and/or Thanatologies

• Necro/dark economies

• Necro ecologies

• The Undead and/or Posthuman

• Imperialism, slavery, and the war machine

• Death and law

• Necropolitics of state racism

• Social death in literature

The suggested topics may be interpreted widely and are intended to encompass a broad range of fields in Victorian studies. Please send a 300-500 word abstract briefly outlining your proposed 7000-8000 word essay with the subject heading “Victorian Necropolitics” and a brief biography to Jolene Zigarovich: by 15 April 2022. Notifications of the outcome of submissions will be by early May 2022. If accepted, essays will be due 1 October 2022. The special issue will then be sent to Victoriographies for review and approval. Further details about the journal and a style guide for submissions are available at