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Biopower, heterogeneous biosocial collectivities and domestic livestock breeding

Holloway, Lewis; Morris, Carol


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Professor Lewis Holloway
Professor of Human Geography, Director of Research (School of Environmental Science), Chair of the Faculty of Science and Engineering Ethics Committee

Carol Morris


This chapter explores Foucault’s concept of biopower and its focus on the regulation and fostering of life. It examines the analytical potential of Foucault’s anthropocentric conceptualisation in examples involving nonhuman animals. Specifically, it explores the empirical case study of livestock breeding in the UK, focusing on the increasing use of ‘genetic’ knowledge-practices in this context. It is argued that genetic techniques represent new ways of regulating life, and are associated with the emergence of a particular mode of biopower in livestock breeding which can be seen as part of a wider social process of ‘geneticisation’ .The chapter concentrates on the idea of ‘population’, a central element of Foucault’s discussions of biopower, but develops a more heterogeneous sense of the term via an engagement with the notion of ‘biosocial collectivity’ . As such, the chapter attends to the conceptualisation of nonhuman actors within the set of analytical tools provided by Foucault’s biopower. First, after outlining the notion of biopower, it is argued that, from the basis of its focus on life, nonhuman animals can be understood in terms of relations of biopower, drawing on conceptions of population and biosocial collectivity. Second, the chapter examines empirically how new genetic knowledge-practices might be reconstituting the populations and biosocial collectivities associated with livestock breeding. Third, it is suggested that the emergence of genetic knowledge-practices might signal a new inflection of biopower, tied to new senses of population and biosocial collectivity.


Foucault and Animals (239-259). Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers.

Publication Date Jan 1, 2017
Deposit Date Aug 22, 2016
Publicly Available Date Dec 4, 2018
Journal Foucault and animals
Publisher Brill Academic Publishers
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Pages 239-259
Series Title Human-animal studies
Series Number 18
Series ISSN 1573-4226
Book Title
Foucault and Animals
Chapter Number 10
ISBN 9789004332249
Keywords Foucault, Biopower
Public URL
Publisher URL


Book chapter (140 Kb)

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©2018 The authors. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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