SSC Virtual Seminar Series: Marco Antônio Sousa Alves, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil

Marco Antônio Sousa Alves
Marco Antônio Sousa Alves

New Power Regimes and Forms of Surveillance: The Pandemic as a Laboratory of Power

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

12:30 – 2:00 pm

Seminar recording available here


What are the main features of the new contemporary power regime and the emerging forms of surveillance? I intend to investigate this question following the steps of Michel Foucault, but looking beyond the sovereign, disciplinary and biopolitical or securitarian logics. In this presentation, I would like to return to the course "Security, Territory, Population" (1978), in which Foucault reflects on the organization of cities and the fight against contagious diseases, through the triad of leprosy, plague, and smallpox, or La Métropolitée, Richelieu, and Nantes. I propose a fourth paradigmatic moment: Covid-19 and smart cities and necropolises. I want to emphasize the complexity and variations in the way power and surveillance operate in the contemporary world, with special attention to the ways in which the Global North and the Global South differ. I argue that neoliberal governmentality assumes two important features today, one more focused on the "winners", on the production of entrepreneurial subjects, and another more authoritarian, focused on the "losers" or the "undesirables". In the former, we observe the "principle of racism" and the sacrificial logic operating, as we can notice in the Brazilian way of dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. I also argue that a complete analysis of the new power regime cannot ignore this twofold dynamic, just as a complete analysis of European modernity is not possible without considering the phenomenon of colonization.

About the speaker:

Marco Antônio Sousa Alves is an Assistant Professor of Theory and Philosophy of Law at The Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. He got his PhD in Philosophy at UFMG, with a research stage at École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), in Paris, France. He is the organizer of the books “Life-death: biopolitics in perspective” (Vidamorte: biopolíticas em perspectiva, 2021) and “The information Society in question: law, power and the subject in contemporaneity” (A sociedade da informação em questão: o direito, o poder e o sujeito na contemporaneidade, 2019). Furthermore, he is the coordinator of the Information Society and Algorithmic Government Research Group (Grupo SIGA) and the Study Group on Philosophy, Law, and Power (GFDP), based at the UFMG Law School. He is currently a visiting scholar at the Surveillance Studies Centre, at Queen's University.

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