Geography and Biopower

The sociospatial view of biopolitics is based on the understanding of power as a web of dependencies emerging in and through the constantly evolving settings of human communities and associations. Power grows from within individual and collective initiatives, reactions, and proactions under the fluid conditions of general change. Power has in this view thoroughly permeated our social practices and it emerges both in macro and microspheres of our sociospatial being. It is an immanent and unavoidable element of social coexistence, taking shape via continuous processes of re negotiations. Power becomes activated both through submission and reaction. This type of endless contest forms multilayered regimes with networks of reciprocal ties and an endless series of inclusions and exclusions. Biopower becomes manifested in those situations where both our bodily existence and our intimate sociospatial relations become increasingly integrated into the general technologies of population governance, more or less reproduced in our daily decisions by our willing selves or through our respective reactions and pro actions.

This type of biogeographical approach links our everyday practices with broader matters of population policy and demographic development. In political geography, studies of changing security regulations have become popular in the 2000s and critical analyses of biometric border control innovations have for example much enriched the geographical debate. The prefix bioguides us to concerns of life and conditions of land and life. General social change is now indivisible from changes in the living conditions of individuals and their communities or networks. These ground level actors can obstruct, promote, and initiate change in society. Sociospatial variation is accordingly seen as constitutive to biopolitical renewal. It is inseparable from human change and governance.

The geographical emphasis in biopolitical thinking helps us notify the multilayered needs and motives of individual actors anchored in the multilayered dynamics of sociospatial projections. This line of thinking has been developed in the analyses of historical conditions of social space and power but it has also been examined in the studies of the more unarticulated spheres of human existence. In these studies geographers have developed their personal and professional views in close connection to the multiple practices of land and life, ranging from global biogeopolitics to individual geobiographies of the everyday.

Geographers with biopolitical concerns are, due to the spatial lessons from the disciplinary past, broadly aware of the risks of horizontal fixations. Abstract spatialism of the 1960s was followed by radical nonspatialism in the 1970s, and it is therefore feared that the current enthusiasm in postlocalism distances us from individual and shared concerns of life under the concrete conditions of social change. This tendency would undoubtedly constrain our ability to renew ourselves as researchers in dialog with the subjects of our study focus. We might then lose the opportunities to build a reciprocal relationship between the subject partners of research and perhaps even ignore the changing social conditions of the lay reality of everyday.

The emphasis of biopolitical practices has been a welcome step forward in developing human geography’s sensitivity to endlessly fragmented matters of sociospatial change. The biopolitical renewal remains, however, partial and elitist in geography if not co developed in close contact with the drama and the dynamics of human communities and networks in their concrete sociospatial settings.We could call this an invitation to move from the cartography of biopolitics toward more participatory studies of particular biogeographies or, alternatively, a leap from intertextual choreogeographies to critical and co constructive research profiles.