The Mechanics of the Milieu

Authors: Sherah Faulkner*,
Topics: Gender
Keywords: biopolitics, psychoanalysis, feminist geography
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: 8229, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Biopolitics’ “last domain” is, for Foucault, the management of populations through their milieux (Foucault, 2003, p. 244). He gestures to the genealogy of the milieu in a mid-lecture aside, remarking that the term enters physics with Newton and is adopted into biology only with Lamarck. Both scientists, as the lecture footnotes highlight, posit a fluid milieu that contains and explicates the actions of the discrete, solid bodies with which they are concerned; Newton’s paradigmatic milieu, the ether, is pluralised and elemental in Lamarck, referring to the light, air and water he understands as fluids. Foucault argues this structure of thought is prefigured by 18th-century European town planners whose concept of the urban landscape as one of flows, circulations, uncertainties, and indefinite possibilities suggest spatial liquidity(Foucault, 2009, p. 36). As Luce Irigaray has compellingly argued, neither space, the unconscious, nor mechanics--fluid or otherwise--are sexually innocent or neutral (1985). An element of the real that resists symbolization, the properties of fluids/the feminine not only threaten to dissolve the logics of mechanics and the unconscious but raise questions about the relations between the matrix and the milieu. This paper begins an Irigarian reading of the biopolitical milieu by examining these aporetic engagements with fluids and suggesting the concept relies on a sublimated maternal-feminine.

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