Angelica Baker Ottaway (KCL) - 2019-20 Students

From the Classical to the Biopolitical: Tracing the Ancient Roots of Contemporary Political Discourse

My thesis explores how continental philosophy in the 20th century saw a fundamental interrogation of the classical foundations of Western political thought. It will demonstrate that confrontations with the idea of ‘origin’, through new interpretations of ancient Athenian democracy and Roman law, haveled to a reconsideration of politics and its boundaries. It will further suggest that these20th century re-readings of classical texts are vital to understanding the emergence of biopolitics in Europe in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Biopoliticsis concerned with the intersections between the lived and political body, and has made available new theoretical frameworks through which to deconstruct notions of sovereignty and subjectivity. Biopolitical philosophers- Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben, Roberto Esposito –have thus generated new critical approaches to contemporary crises; their analyses of contemporary sovereignty, initiated by Foucault, have shown how government power increasingly rests on a logic of control and exclusion, which politicises the very biological nature of its subjects. Biopolitics has, and continues to, allow new understandings of how authority manifest in contemporary society by reconsidering the position of the individual and the limits of political space. As many continue to progress the field of biopolitics, my projects intends to dissect the emergence of these methodologies in dialogue with classical antiquity and some of its students.

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