Accepted Paper:

Between exclusion and belonging: ontology, potentiality and life at the threshold of sovereignty  
Justin Izzo (Duke University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines contested visions of community well-being in French suburbs after the 2005 riots. I present a critical reading of Giorgio Agamben's Homo Sacer and The Coming Community and argue for modes of political belonging that exist outside sovereignty's juridical indeterminacies.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines changing discourses of national belonging in France through a discussion of sovereignty and the rule of law in French minority communities in the wake of the 2005 riots. In particular, I examine two internet chats between suburban residents and members of the French parliament in which representatives from racialized neighborhoods contested the forms of inclusion and concern for suburban life and "well-being" that the government had planned for them. Ultimately, this paper suggests that this situation in France represents just one instance of a larger struggle over sovereignty and political subjectivities in European minority communities, and that the work of Giorgio Agamben offers us a theoretical escape hatch through which to conceive of modes of political belonging that exist outside the juridical indeterminacies of modern biopolitics and sovereignty.

For Agamben, the principle of sovereignty is enacted and sustained on a juridical threshold, a zone of indeterminacy obtaining between the opposed (yet inextricably linked) figures of the sovereign and homo sacer, whose bare life is included within the political order of the West through its exteriority to extant juridical structures. This paper offers a critical reading of Agamben's Homo Sacer and The Coming Community and argues that by recasting the political paradox of sovereignty in ontological terms, and especially in terms of the tension between potentiality and actuality, we can imagine a form of belonging that exists outside the inclusion-exclusion nexus that so characterizes contemporary sovereignty.

Panel W027
Anthropological perspectives on biopolitics and sovereignty in Europe and the world