The biopolitics of victim construction, elision and contestation in Northern Ireland and Lebanon

John M. Nagle (Corresponding Author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

In this article I explore two postconflict societies – Northern Ireland and Lebanon – in regards to their different approaches to dealing with victims and victimhood. While in Northern Ireland the state and other agencies have constructed a victims’ sector, Lebanon’s political elites have advanced political amnesia to silence victims’ rights. To help conceptualize these divergent policies, I utilize two contrasting representations of the biopolitical, namely those formulated by Michel Foucault and Giorgio Agamben. Foucault’s original statement presents biopolitics as governance directed towards the production of collective life and well-being. Rather than promoting life, Agamben’s subsequent vision of the biopolitical sees modern sovereignty as established through its power over life. Foucault’s biopolitics, I argue, provides a framework to understand how the victims’ sector and victims’ subjectivity was constructed as part of the Northern Irish peace process. Agamben’s version of the biopolitical allows scope to examine how victims and their families in Lebanon are rendered as ‘bare life’ and positioned within the state of exception. Despite the lack of unpredictable agency accorded by both Foucault and Agamben to biopolitical processes, I explore the complex forms of contestation – including ‘destituent resistance’ – generated by victims’ social movements.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPeacebuilding
Early online date29 Jul 2019
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Jul 2019

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peace process
social movement
sovereignty
Lebanon
political elite
policy
rights
society
family
Social Movements
subjectivity
well-being
governance
lack

Keywords

  • victims
  • biopolitics
  • Lebanon
  • Northern Ireland
  • Agamben

Cite this

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abstract = "In this article I explore two postconflict societies – Northern Ireland and Lebanon – in regards to their different approaches to dealing with victims and victimhood. While in Northern Ireland the state and other agencies have constructed a victims’ sector, Lebanon’s political elites have advanced political amnesia to silence victims’ rights. To help conceptualize these divergent policies, I utilize two contrasting representations of the biopolitical, namely those formulated by Michel Foucault and Giorgio Agamben. Foucault’s original statement presents biopolitics as governance directed towards the production of collective life and well-being. Rather than promoting life, Agamben’s subsequent vision of the biopolitical sees modern sovereignty as established through its power over life. Foucault’s biopolitics, I argue, provides a framework to understand how the victims’ sector and victims’ subjectivity was constructed as part of the Northern Irish peace process. Agamben’s version of the biopolitical allows scope to examine how victims and their families in Lebanon are rendered as ‘bare life’ and positioned within the state of exception. Despite the lack of unpredictable agency accorded by both Foucault and Agamben to biopolitical processes, I explore the complex forms of contestation – including ‘destituent resistance’ – generated by victims’ social movements.",
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