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The way of the flesh: life, geopolitics and the weight of the future

Taylor and Francis
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  • Philosophy
  • Political Science


How can a feminist materialism problematise the knowledges and practices of geopolitics, and locate new objects for critical analysis? In the following, I acknowledge how geopolitics as a form of statecraft has been preoccupied with the unruly nature of flesh. I also note how an accounting for flesh as a socio-spatial material has helped to animate both a critical geopolitical inquiry concerned with the inscription of bodies alongside other texts and a feminist concern with embodiment. My response to these developments is twofold. First, I want to query the devolving of the flesh into an ideologically saturated matter that can be examined using corporeal bodies as entry points for analysis. Second, and via recourse to work founded on feminist material philosophies, I want to reclaim the excessive, lively character of flesh. To do so, I outline how the geo- in geopolitics can be understood as an ‘earthiness’ that is concerned, at the broadest level, with differential orderings of and access to life, and especially the matters of sex, sexuality and reproduction, and, more specifically, with a concern for differential renderings of a corporeal vulnerability and obduracy, and the articulation of these alongside the building of a practice-based ethics. Using the example of stem cells, I go on to demonstrate how an emphasis upon flesh as an object of analysis allows for a reworking of geopolitics' traditional foci – such as borders – away from questions of the ‘where’ of social relations and toward the inexhaustible becoming of materials and forces that makes and unmakes such foci.

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