Peter Fitzpatrick and Maria Carolina Olarte – Foucault and the Laws of Death

Event Date: 3 and 4 June 2011
Clore Lecture Theatre
Clore Management Centre
Birkbeck College
Malet Street, Bloomsbury
London WC1E 7HX

The Birkbeck Centre for Law and the Humanities presents:

THE FOUCAULT EFFECT 1991-2011

A Conference at Birkbeck College, University of London Reflecting on 20 years of
The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality


Peter Fitzpatrick and Maria Carolina Olarte – Foucault and the laws of death

Leaning heavily on a term used often in relation to Foucault and sometimes by him, we offer a ‘schematic’ of constituent connections between law, death, and a generative aporia embedded in sociality. Our initial and insistent focus is on the death penalty and on a productive dissonance in Foucault’s engagements with it, that focus giving us a pointed perspective on disciplinary and biopower and their limits when set in relation to the aporia. All of which impels us towards a specular dissonance in Foucault’s conceptions of law, a dissonance evoking affinities between law and death. Contrary to what such affinities may initially intimate, the aporia then figures in a way which renders law and the death penalty incompatible. We end with a cognate excursus on how to read Foucault, the presumption of which is attenuated by copious reference to the author.

fitzpatrick Peter

Fitzpatrick is currently Anniversary Professor of Law at Birkbeck, University of London and Honorary Professor of Law in the University of Kent. In 2007 he was given the James Boyd White Award by The Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities. He has taught at universities in Europe, North America and Papua New Guinea and published many books on legal philosophy, law and social theory, law and racism, and imperialism, two of the recent ones being Law as Resistance (Ashgate, 2008) and with Ben Golder, Foucault’s Law (Routledge, 2009). Outside the academy he has been in an international legal practice and was also in the Prime Minister’s Office in Papua New Guinea for several years.

Maria Carolina Olarte

Maria Carolina Olarte is reading for a PhD at Birkbeck College, University of London. Her fields of interest include modern constitutionalism, the biopolitics of constitutional design and transitional justice expertise, and the current influence of the field of law and economics. Her doctoral thesis seeks to develop a critique of the biopolitical character of modern constitutional design and transitional justice schemes through a problematization of a series of economic knowledges which, ultimately, lead to the consolidation of a corrective constitutionalism. Her research is particularly concerned with the economic intervention of death through calculability devices deployed in the identification and counting of human remains in so-called conflict and post-conflict scenarios.

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