“Victorian Necropolitics: Colonialism, Slavery, and Death in the Nineteenth-Century”
As a correction to Foucault’s theory of biopolitics, where state power is predicated on the control of life, Achille Mbembe coins the term “necropolitics,” where state power is predicated more saliently on the control of death. Necropolitics names the use and public display of death in the contested zones of modern nations, zones in which a sector of the human population is systematically deprived of rights. Slavery and colonialism are, according to Mbembe, the chief nineteenth-century examples – and contemporary terrorism is their descendent. This panel will take Mbembe’s essay “Necropolitics” as a prompt with which to investigate nineteenth-century instances where death is used both to institute and resist slavery, and the memory or fact of British colonization contributes to a state of exception that makes such uses of death possible. Topics might include displays of death, attitudes towards death, or uses of death in any of the following: slave rebellions and their aftermath; the Morant Bay rebellion; British naval or military interventions in nineteenth-century slave trades; novels, histories, or propaganda about slavery; the discourse of anti-slavery and/or anti-colonialism in late Victorian terrorist groups.