Health as “Fix”: Geographies of the Biopolitical in Settler- and Post-Colonies II

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups:
Poster #:
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM (Eastern Standard Time)
Room: President's Boardroom, Omni, East
Organizers: Erin Torkelson, Meredith Palmer
Chairs: Meredith Palmer

Call for Submissions

Please send a paper title and abstract to, as soon as possible. We are looking for two more papers to complete two sessions.

*Please note, to enhance the discussion, participants must submit a brief conference paper to the session organizers by March 3rd, 2019 for distribution to discussant(s).


Organizers: Erin Torkelson, UC Berkeley (Geography); Stephen McIsaac, UC Berkeley (Anthropology); Meredith Alberta Palmer, UC Berkeley (Geography)

In both colonial and post-colonial contexts, normative frames of “health” have been at the center of discourses and practices of regulation and control. Work in fields such as medical anthropology, gender and sexuality studies, and critical race studies examines how the nation-state has come to be predicated upon a moral injunction to develop a healthy and docile population (Ticktin 2011, Repo 2013, Chen 2012, Stryker 2014, Weheliye 2014). Biopolitical efforts to produce healthy subjects are conceived as neutral and apolitical, and importantly, necessary to the production of a healthy national body. Yet, such interventions that seek to fix, cure, or otherwise improve bodies marked by difference have undergirded (and are undergirded by) practices of racialized violence, segregation, dispossession, and the techno-scientific surveillance of health (Stoler 1995, McClintock 1997, Foucault 1978 & 2007, Mbembe 2003, Anderson 2006, Stevenson 2014).

Following these scholars, our panel contends that biopolitical interventions in the name of health, medicine, and care work in and through the production of national space. Such biopolitical interventions justify regimes of care intended to “fix” certain bodies, but these health-related “fixes” are very often about simultaneously “fixing” certain people in certain spaces (Malkki 1992, Moore 2005). Examples include: making the national population as “healthy” subjects; using ill-health to justify territorial segregation; or legitimizing the nation through public interventions predicated on care. Struggles over health, medicine and care, are therefore, always struggles over spatiality, power and nationhood.

This panel brings a critical lens to the study of medical and health geographies. Focusing particularly on post- and settler- colonial contexts, this panel foregrounds the spatiality of interventions related to health, medicine, and care: spaces where people are made and remade as racialized and gendered subjects; where histories of settler colonialism, dispossession, and expropriation are reproduced; where public functions of care have been increasingly devolved to corporate, non-profit, and familial sectors; where the possibilities of liberation are structured and limited and ongoing traumas and inequalities are perpetuated, and importantly, where new possibilities for solidarity are fomented.

This panel explores such themes as:
Biopolitics and biometrics
Racializations in medical and social interventions
Re-inscription of colonial logics of control through the neutral discourse of “health”
Justification of intervention through broad appeal to the “public” good
The pathologization of family structures of care
The co-production of the body and place


Anderson, Warwick. Colonial pathologies: American tropical medicine, race, and hygiene in the Philippines. Duke University Press, 2006.

Chen, Mel Y. 2012. Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering and Queer Affect. Durham: Duke University Press.

Foucault, Michel. 1978. The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction. Robert Hurley, trans. Pantheon, 1978.

Foucault, Michel. 2007. Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the Collège de France 1977-1978. François Ewald, trans. Macmillan, 2007.

Malkki, Liisa. 1992. “National Geographic: The rooting of peoples and territorialization of national identity among scholars and refugees.” Cultural Anthropology. 7(1): 24-44.

Mbembe, Achille. 2003. “Necropolitics.” Public Culture 15(1): 11-40.

McClintock, Anne. Imperial leather: Race, gender, and sexuality in the colonial contest. Routledge, 2013.

Moore, Donald. Suffering for Territory. Duke University Press, 2005.

Puar, Jasbir K. The right to maim: Debility, capacity, disability. Duke University Press, 2017.

Repo, Jemima. 2013. "The Life Function: The Biopolitics of Sexuality and Race Revisited." Theory & Event 16(3): 1-15.

Stevenson, Lisa. Life beside itself: Imagining care in the Canadian Arctic. University of California Press, 2014.

Stoler, Ann Laura. Race and the education of desire: Foucault's history of sexuality and the colonial order of things. Duke University Press, 1995.

Stryker, Susan. 2014. “Biopolitics.” TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly 1(1-2): 38-42.

Ticktin, Miriam. Casualties of Care: Immigration and the Politics of Humanitarianism in France. University of California Press, 2011.

Weheliye, Alexander. Habeas Viscus: Racializing Assemblages, Biopolitics, and Black Feminist Theories of the Human. Duke University Press, 2014.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Hasnaa Mokhtar*, Clark University, Beyond Victims and Villains: Decolonizing and Localizing Knowledge Production of Gender-Based Violence in the Arab Gulf States 20 5:00 PM
Presenter Dirk Kinsey*, Temple University, The Returning Body: On Health Inequities and Prison Reentry 20 5:20 PM
Presenter Kelsey Johnson*, , Health, race, and economy in the US blood industry 20 5:40 PM
Presenter Alanna Higgins*, West Virginia University, The Carrot and the Needle: "Fixing" diet-related diseases in West Virginia 20 6:00 PM

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