3 The playground as biosocial technology In discussing the Child Study movement in the previous chapter, I began to enlarge the scope of the anthropological machine by connecting it to the field of education. To take this step is to move towards the realm of social practices, which is what I will be doing from this point onwards, thereby staging encounters with biosocial power by conducting what I presented in the introduction as a transversal genealogy. This chapter lays the groundwork for chapter 4 in that both focus on play and playgrounds, and in opening out
. ( 2016 ), ‘ Biosocial Approaches to the 2013–2016 Ebola Pandemic ’, Health and Human Rights Journal , 18 : 1 , 115 – 28 , PMID: 27781004 . Saez , A. M. , Borchert , M. ( 2014 ) ‘ Burial in Times of Ebola - Dos and Don’ts – issues of acceptability
1 Introduction: biosocial power and normative fictions In 2018, Childhood: A Journal of Global Child Research marked its twenty-fifth anniversary by publishing a series of textual ‘conversations’, with participants discussing the state of the field of childhood studies. It makes for an interesting exercise to inhabit the space of these conversations as a way of taking up a critical perspective on the wider arena of academic research and inquiry. As argued by Joanne Faulkner and Magdalena Zolkos (2015: xii), childhood is often ‘hidden in plain sight’ amid the
Recent years have witnessed a burgeoning international literature which seeks to analyse the construction of health and health policy through an analytical lens drawn from post-Foucauldian ideas of governmentality. This book is the first to apply the theoretical lens of post-Foucauldian governmentality to an analysis of health problems, practices, and policy in Ireland. Drawing on empirical examples related to childhood, obesity, mental health, smoking, ageing and others, it explores how specific health issues have been constructed as problematic and in need of intervention in the Irish State. The book focuses specifically on how Jean Jacques Rousseau's critical social theory and normative political theory meet as a conception of childhood. The 'biosocial' apparatus has recently been reconfigured through a policy framework called Healthy Ireland, the purpose of which is to 'reduce health inequalities' by 'empowering people and communities'. Child fatness continues to be framed as a pervasive and urgent issue in Irish society. In a novel departure in Irish public health promotion, the Stop the Spread (STS) campaign, free measuring tapes were distributed throughout Ireland to encourage people to measure their waists. A number of key characteristics of neoliberal governmentality, including the shift towards a market-based model of health; the distribution of power across a range of agents and agencies; and the increasing individualisation of health are discussed. One of the defining features of the Irish health system is the Universal Health Insurance and the Disability Act 2005.
Refiguring childhood stages a series of encounters with biosocial power, which is a specific zone of intensity within the more encompassing arena of biopower and biopolitics. Assembled at the intersection of thought and practice, biosocial power attempts to bring envisioned futures into the present, taking hold of life in the form of childhood, thereby bridging being and becoming while also shaping the power relations that encapsulate the social and cultural world(s) of adults and children. Taking up a critical perspective which is attentive to the contingency of childhoods – the ways in which particular childhoods are constituted and configured – the method used in the book is a transversal genealogy that moves between past and present while also crossing a series of discourses and practices framed by children’s rights (the right to play), citizenship, health, disadvantage and entrepreneurship education. The overarching analysis converges on contemporary neoliberal enterprise culture, which is approached as a conjuncture that helps to explain, and also to trouble, the growing emphasis on the agency and rights of children. It is against the backdrop of this problematic that the book makes its case for refiguring childhood. Focusing on the how, where and when of biosocial power, Refiguring childhood will appeal to researchers and students interested in examining the relationship between power and childhood through the lens of social and political theory, sociology, cultural studies, history and geography.
, augmenting and regulating life processes and populations (Foucault 1998: 139–41).1 Which leads me back to biosocial power. What I have attempted to do in this book by working through the lens of biosocial power is examine how childhood became a targeted zone within the larger biopolitical arena, a zone characterised by attempts to act upon life in its ‘unfinished’ form, thereby transforming what is into what ought to be (see Kohan 2011: 340). Moreover, biosocial power continues to prefigure the future by constituting the subject who is to inhabit the future envisioned by
2 Kevin Ryan Governing the future: children’s health and biosocial power Introduction When Michel Foucault began to develop the concept of biopolitics, he wrote that ‘a society’s “threshold of modernity” has been reached when the life of the species is wagered on its own political strategies’ (1998: 143). More recently, Giorgio Agamben has shown how this threshold is a zone of indeterminacy at the intersection of zoē, which is ‘bare’ metabolic life, and bios, or life that has been ‘clothed’ or cultivated by language and politics, thus amounting to a ‘form or
begin to see the shortcomings of Marshall’s benign evolutionary account. As argued by Turner (2015) and Bottomore (1992), histories of citizenship are mired in conflict and struggle, orchestrated by people who have had to fight for the rights that Marshall evokes. Important as these histories are and continue to be – think of the Black Lives Matter movement for example – we should not overlook other struggles staged in the name Empowering the young citizen 71 of citizenship, including efforts to control or manage the biosocial processes tasked with producing
–10). What I want to suggest by way of an introduction to this chapter is that this entwining of zoē and bios affords a line of approach to biosocial power as sketched in the introduction to this volume. Put otherwise, what Agamben refers to as the ‘politicisation of bare life’, or ‘the entry of zoē into the sphere of the polis’ (1998: 10) offers a fruitful way of examining how the figure of the child came to articulate an idiom of unruly otherness: ‘nature’, ‘animal’, ‘primitive’ – these are among the remainders which have been constituted by (and are constitutive of) the
composite entity – part school, part hospital and part prison. The more encompassing objective of the chapter is to stage an encounter with a particular form of biosocial power that has acquired Procrustean properties. For ease of discussion, let me present this simply as Procrustean power. As argued by Sean Noah Walsh (2012), Procrustean power operates according to the logic of the ancient Greek myth, which tells the story of a sadistic smith who lured travellers into his home to rest their weary bodies on an iron bed. Once prostrate they were manacled by Procrustes, and