“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Friday, October 19, 2012

Becky Mansfield Q&A: Biopolitics Liveblog 2

Q: It seems as if you are saying environmentalism is eugenics. And that a thousand chemicals should bloom.
A: In a way yes. There is concern about purity in environmentalism, purity of nature (haha, like Doctor Strangelove). Humans are degraders. Eugenic sentiments in the founders of environmentalism, George Marsh and Aldo Leopold or Muir.

We have to have a discussion about who and what is going to benefit.

Q: You talk a bit about the biopower of population, Foucault. You make an argument that raced women are charged with preserving the purity. But is it in fact the opposite. A nice middle class solution to consumption. A nice clean easy dividing practice. When you see a pregnant woman lighting a cigarette. Or kids with plastic lunch boxes. I wonder whether this is reassuring rather than disturbing.
A: absolutely. There is a sense that I can do something and that somebody else isn't doing it right. That's part of the racializing process. Everyone is assumed to have liberal freedoms. We can feel good about ourselves. I exercise therefore I'm worthy.

Q: Kevin Dan, genealogy of eugenics and class, not race. Ways of living on the land are what is contested. Not so much race as class. Community versus population and individual.

A: Our class and race become part of our biological makeup.

Q: I don't doubt that issues of nation, race, gender, class are built into the very frameworks of risk. But in some ways I want to see more qualitative evidence of that. More fieldwork on that. But let's step back a little bit from race and class. And look at the issue of fear. That life is plastic. Perhaps this fear is connected to our capacity to be reprogrammed all the time by cultural codes. Darkness. Maybe not just to do with race and gender, but to cyborgization.
A: Yeah. Part of that is a fear of the loss of nature. This opens up a lot of possibilities ("we are not essences.") But this makes us nervous.

Q: I want to go to the critical moment at the end. The shift of the burden to the individual. Versus socialized regulation. But doesn't give the store away? Let's take the example of finance regulation. Individuals shouldn't get bad mortgages. Or the call for a different regulatory regime. But since the birth of the Fed, regulation exists to stabilize regimes. If the solution is one kind of regulation or another this sets a horizon we might want to try to surmount.
A: Yes. The call for a stronger EPA won't really solve the problems.

Q: Is going back to a regulatory paradigm a good thing?
A: The left is suddenly left with defending the state.

Q: Weird alliances? E.g. Holistic Moms and Tea Partyers. And why are all these studies about reproductive health in particular?
A: Much happens during fetal development. Time of greatest plasticity. Fetal origins of adult onset diseases and transgenerational effects. Dutch famine in WW2.
The focus on IQ and demasculation have to do with our fears. There might be all kinds of other things going on.

Q: I wonder whether it's unfortunate that precaution is used to talk about action at all. It's not precautionary when you get to the individual level.
A: We create incredible fears and openness and then set a threshold.

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