Faculty Writing: On the Necropolitics of Reproductive Freedom, and Co-Existing with Viruses

Writing in Salvage magazine, BISR faculty Sophie Lewis characterizes the American right’s sustained and increasingly successful attacks on reproductive freedom and its regime of forced care more generally as “class war,” against which the democratic party’s faith in legislation and the discursive frames of “privacy” and “choice” are woefully, even lethally, insufficient: “The so-called pro-life camp is crusading (of course) not just for forced gestational care of the fetus by the gestator, but for entire lifetimes of forced, privatised care,” she writes; meanwhile, “inasmuch as care is romanticised, flattened, and abstracted from capitalism, patriarchy, and the state” by the left, “there can be no liberatory politics around it.” It is hardly credible to proclaim healthcare a human right in an America where healthcare must be bought, she argues. And lifting proletarian reproduction out of its “materially abjected” condition necessarily involves asking not just biopolitical questions but necropolitical ones: “What lives, households, social relations, worlds, must we unproduce, in order to produce the ones we desire?”

And, in the New York Times Book Review, John Okrent raves about BISR faculty Joseph Osmundson’s new essay collection, Virology: Essays on the Living, the Dead, and the Small Things in Between: “His thought is discursive, his questioning accretive. He contains—and covers—multitudes” — from a biologist’s description of the lysogenic pathway, by which a virus folds into a host, to an essayist’s meditation on this process as a desirable form of self-disintegration. Osmundson’s essays bring hard science into contact with queer theory and political critique, exploring the metaphorics of virality and proposing against contamination frameworks of collaboration and care: “I live to be lysogenic,” he writes; “Won’t you join me here?”

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