More-than-human community work: the affirmative biopolitics of life in a Glasgow neighbourhood

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Michel Foucault’s work on biopower has been used in critical social work scholarship to make visible its mechanisms of control (Fook). Social work, particularly in affluent geographies, is presented as an apparatus of biopolitical governance which operates through two human centred vectors; the management of populations and the subjugation of bodies. Critical developments in biopolitics, mostly from contemporary Italian (Agamben, Negri and Esposito) political science, have reframed biopower and made it relevant to contemporary issues of war, migration and environmental degradation. Thinking with Spinoza, Deleuze and Simondon, Roberto Esposito challenges Foucault’s anthropocentrism. He expands the boundaries between persons and things with an interest in life in the making; life which is shared across organisms not between. His affirmative biopolitics critiques the biopolitical nihilism evident in Agamben’s thanatopolitics and Mbembe’s necropolitics. Esposito proposes an affirmative biopolitics as a politics of not over life. In doing so he affords an understanding of the affective movement of life which involves more-than-human relations and where destruction is a facet of life’s motion. His work gives rise to the ethical challenges of a politics which eschews anthropocentricism. It is therefore of relevance to the development of a post-anthropocentric social work.

This chapter draws on an anthropological study of a multi-ethnic, economically disadvantaged neighbourhood in Glasgow (Scotland). This locality hosts a mess of contemporary challenges linked to migration, the current rise of right-wing populism and environmental degradation. Esposito’s affirmative biopolitics is used to identify the ethical problems of working within a more-than-human community, that includes, decaying built environment, unwanted animals (bedbugs, mice, rats and cockroaches) and a migrant population. This approach does not provide sought after political solutions but reframes the problems and makes apparent the need to stay with the mess.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPost Anthropocentric Social Work: Critical Posthuman and New Materialist Perspectives
EditorsVivienne Bozalek, Bob Pease
Place of PublicationAbingdon/Oxon
Number of pages13
ISBN (Print)9780367349653
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


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