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The Politics of the Body and the Body Politic

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Vulnerable to disease, heavily surveilled, brutalized by the carceral state, disciplined for transgressing - the body, our bodies, physical and political, are under attack. 

The technologies of violence imposed on our bodies, individual and collective, have never been more complex and our bodily autonomy more attenuated. These books about the politics of the body and the body politic reveal what is behind the veil of headline vocabulary of "security," "health," "population," and "privacy” and offer an analysis of the organizing potential generated when we dare to put our bodies on the line for a liberatory future.

Until January 2, 2023 at 11:59PM EST, we have 40% off ALL books (see full details here)!

See our Gift Guide and all our reading lists, including The Year in 10 BooksRadicalize Your NiblingsRadical HappinessTis the Season to Abolish the FamilyUnderstanding the Cost of Living CrisisChristianity and Anticapitalism.

In the midst of the crises and threats to liberal democracy Isabell Lorey unfolds an original concept of a presentist democracy based on care and interrelatedness through a collection of voices from Germany and Spain, Italy, England, France. Weaving and unweaving the political philosophy of Rousseau, Derrida, Benjamin, Foucault and Negri, Lorey assembles a constellation of debates around keywords: democracy, time, sovereignty, commune. She does so in order to systematize the discontinuous struggles that inhabit these words, the possible futures that their meanings open up, and to place them at the disposal of a queer-feminist theory that locates the strike as one of its inspirational practices.

From quarantine to border closures and from vaccination certificates to immunological surveillance, this is a masterful survey of one of the key metaphors of our time: the medical biopicture of the body as a battleground, and the extension of this metaphor to the ‘body politic.’

Engaging four key concepts —Cell, Self, System and Sovereignty—Politics of Immunity moves from philosophical biology, neurology and immunology to intellectual history and from critical theory to psychoanalysis to expose the politics underpinning the way immunity is imagined. At the heart of this imagination is the way security has come to dominate the whole realm of human experience. From biological cell to political subject, and from physiological system to the social body, immunity folds into security, just as security folds into immunity. The book opens a critique of the violence of security and spells out immunity’s tendency towards self-destruction and death: immunity, like security, can turn its aggression inwards, into the autoimmune disorder. Wide-ranging and polemical, Politics of Immunity lays down a major challenge to the ways in which the immunity of the self and the social are imagined.

Elsa Dorlin listens for June Jordan's testimony, examines Rodney King's legacy, traces the lineage of Krav Maga and explores the insidious American tradition of vigilantism. Translated from the French for the first time, Self Defense draws a global genealogy of violence recognized as legitimate or illegitimate through a legacy of colonialism, white supremacy, and the hegemony of powerful state entities.  She mines the archives of slave revolts in French colonies and the uprisings in the Warsaw ghetto. Never focusing merely on a collective standoff, or an individual subjection, seeking instead a phenomenology of violence, Dorlin traces a constellation of the history of self defense beyond the legalistic. With an aim to change how violence is theorized in political thought in an age where marginalized peoples' bodies are increasingly under attack, Dorlin turns to the memory of struggles for which the dominated body constitutes the principal archive. She recenters the marginalized body in motion, through a "martial ethics of the self," to argue for the deployment of violence in liberation struggles as a practice of resistance. 

Imperium asks: What is valuable about ideals of internationalism? What are the forces that produce the fragmentation of a world political community into distinct finite wholes, such as the nation-state? What engenders such groupings and prevents them from being perfectly horizontal, but also leads them to disappear, merge, or change form? Drawing on Spinoza’s political philosophy and especially his two central concepts of multitudo and imperium, the economist turned social philosopher, Fredéric Lordon pushes against liberal theories of the atomized subject in search of a collective body of affectual unity.

Health Communism is a searing analysis of health and illness under capitalism written by longtime disability justice and healthcare activists and the hosts of the hit podcast "Death Panel," Beatrice Adler-Bolton and Artie Vierkant. It looks to the grave threat capital poses to global public health, and at the rare movements around the world that have successfully challenged the extractive economy of health. Examining how capital has instrumentalized health, disability, madness, and illness to create a class seen as “surplus,” regarded as a fiscal and social burden, demarcating the healthy from the surplus, the worker from the “unfit” to work, the authors argue solidarity has been undermined. In this fiery, theoretical tour-de-force, Adler-Bolton and Vierkant offer an overview of life and death under capitalism and argue for a new global left politics aimed at severing the ties between capital and one of its primary tools: health.

In Mobility Justice, Mimi Sheller makes a passionate argument for a new understanding of the contemporary crisis of movement. Sheller shows how power and inequality inform the governance and control of movement. She connects the body, street, city, nation, and planet in one overarching theory of the modern, perpetually shifting world. Concepts of mobility are examined on a local level in the circulation of people, resources, and information, as well as on an urban scale, with questions of public transport and “the right to the city.” Mobility Justice is a new way to understand the deep flows of inequality and uneven accessibility in a world in which the mobility commons have been enclosed. It is a call for a new understanding of the politics of movement and a demand for justice for all.

How do we find out who we are in this digital era? Where do we create the space to explore our identity? How can we come together in solidarity? A glitch is normally thought of as an error, a faulty overlaying, but, as Legacy Russell shows, liberation can be found within the fissures between gender, technology, and the body. The glitch offers an opportunity for us to perform and transform ourselves in an infinite variety of identities. In Glitch Feminism, Russell makes a series of radical demands through memoir, art, and critical theory, as well as the work of contemporary artists—including Juliana Huxtable, Sondra Perry, boychild, Victoria Sin, and Kia LaBeija. Russell offers a timely rethinking of cyberfeminism from an intersectional perspective—a deeply personal investigation of blackness and queerness in and through technology to examine the technologies imposed on the body and the technology of the body. She offers a pathway through identity to solidarity in this nuanced look at inspiring artists whose works reprogram systems of race, gender, and sexuality in the virtual places between living bodies and data bodies.

In The Security Principle, French philosopher Frédéric Gros takes a historical approach to the concept of security, looking at its evolution from the Stoics to the social network. With lucidity and rigour, Gros’s approach is fourfold, looking at security as a mental state, as developed by the Greeks; as an objective situation and absence of all danger, as prevailed in the Middle Ages; as guaranteed by the nation-state and its trio of judiciary, police, and military; and finally biosecurity, control, regulation, and protection in the flux of contemporary society. In this exploration of the meaning of security, past and present, Gros exposes the contemporary abuses on the body in the name of security and to the detriment of political action.

I Fear My Pain Interests You is an absurdist novel about fame, culture and connections, bodies and breakdowns from the author of The Superrationals. A young woman's graveyard encounter with a disgraced doctor and the discovery of a dozen old film reels leads to a troubling new subjecthood, as her congenital inability to feel pain puts her center stage for one man’s desire and ambition. LaCava examines issues of power, how it is or is not inherited, what the consequences of being defined by others are, and the ways pain shapes us and our embodied experience. This is a jarringly sensual book about the peculiarities of our bodies and the impossibilities of our families, and a young woman trying to find a way forward with both.

In State of Insecurity, Isabell Lorey explores the possibilities for organization and resistance under the contemporary status quo, and anticipates the emergence of a new and disobedient self-government of the precarious. Lorey's contribution to the critical debates on precaritization finally exposes the state of precarity as a new form of regulation for this historical time and here to stay, away from understandings of it as an episodic condition. Years of remodelling the welfare state, the rise of technology, and the growing power of neoliberal government apparatuses have established a society of the precarious. In this new reality, productivity is no longer just a matter of labour, but affects the formation of the self, blurring the division between personal and professional lives. Encouraged to believe ourselves flexible and autonomous, we experience a creeping isolation that has both social and political impacts, and serves the purposes of capital accumulation and social control.

The Revenge of the Real envisions a new positive biopolitics that recognizes that governance is literally a matter of life and death. We are grappling with multiple interconnected dilemmas—climate change, pandemics, the tensions between the individual and society—all of which have to be addressed on a planetary scale. Even when separated, we are still enmeshed. Can the world govern itself differently? What models and philosophies are needed? Bratton argues that instead of thinking of biotechnologies as something imposed on society, we must see them as essential to a politics of infrastructure, knowledge, and direct intervention. In this way, we can build a society based on a new rationality of inclusion, care, and prevention. This is the book for the future of politics in the wake of the pandemic.

Judith Butler’s new book shows how an ethic of nonviolence must be connected to a broader political struggle for social equality. Considering nonviolence as an ethical problem within a political philosophy requires a critique of individualism as well as an understanding of the psychosocial dimensions of violence. Butler draws upon Foucault, Fanon, Freud, and Benjamin to consider how the interdiction against violence fails to include lives regarded as ungrievable. Butler tracks how violence is often attributed to those who are most severely exposed to its lethal effects. The struggle for nonviolence is found in movements for social transformation that reframe the grievability of lives in light of social equality and whose ethical claims follow from an insight into the interdependency of life as the basis of social and political equality. Butler offers a vision for another way to be embodied - another kind of world.

 Here, Emily Apter develops a critical model of politics behind the scenes, a politics that operates outside the norms of classical political theory. She focuses on micropolitics, defined as small events, happening in series, that often pass unnoticed yet disturb and interfere with the institutional structures of capitalist parliamentary systems, even as they secure their reproduction and longevity. Unexceptional Politics develops a political and philological vocabulary drawn from a wide range of media (political fiction, art, film, and TV), highlighting the scams, imbroglios, information trafficking, brinkmanship, and government procedures that obstruct and block progressive politics. The book renews modes of thinking about micropolitics that counter notions of the “state of exception” embedded in theories of the “political” from Thomas Hobbes to Carl Schmitt. To diagnose the emerging future, Apter asks that you turn to what takes place in the intimacy of everyday life and undoes the very notion that we even know what poltics is.

To attend to the question of solidarity building, to conceive of oneself as a part-of, and drawing on the work of British cultural studies, black feminism, and theories of the subject (and subjection), Asad Haider presents a powerful challenge to the way we understand the politics of race and the history of anti-racist struggle. Weaving together autobiographical reflection, historical analysis, theoretical exegesis, and protest reportage, Mistaken Identity is a passionate call for a new practice of politics beyond colorblind chauvinism and “the ideology of race.” Haider dares to ask, what if our embodied experience is not at the center of our organizing? What if another universality is possible?