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Biocitizen Banter #6: The Biopolitics of COVID-19 with Jerry Phillips

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Welcome to Biocitizen Banter, a podcast dedicated to environmental philosophy featuring lively discussions between people active in the effort to bring biotic health to our communities and commonwealth.

In this episode, The Biopolitics of COVID-19, Kurt Heidinger interviews Dr. Jerry Phillips, literature professor at the University of Connecticut, Storrs.

Our contexts:

1) “[The UN agency’s director general, Guy Ryder] said he hoped governments would recognise that they needed to reconstruct their economies around better working practices and “not a return to the pre-pandemic world of precarious work for the majority”.

He said: “The pandemic has laid bare just how precarious, just how fragile, just how unequal our world of work is. It is commonly said that this pandemic does not discriminate, and in medical terms that is right. We can all be struck by the pandemic.

“But in terms of the economic and social effects, this pandemic discriminates massively and above all it discriminates against those who are at the bottom end of the world of work, those who don’t have protection, those who don’t have resources and the basics of what we would call the essentials of a normal life.”

2) Foucault recognized a) all human societies are fundamentally biological and b) that “politics” is the way societies determine how humans, in particular, are given or denied vitality/life.

The biopolitics of COVID-19 involves the way our government determines who lives and who dies, what vanishes and what endures, and what is created, as it infects us.

3) Darwin’s acknowledgement of Malthus as a primary influence, found in his Autobiography

“In October 1838, fifteen months after I had begun my systematic inquiry, I happened to read for amusement Malthus on Population, and being prepared to appreciate the struggle for existence which everywhere goes on, from long-continued observation of the habits of animals and plants, it at once struck me that under these circumstances favourable variations would tend to be preserved, and unfavourable ones to be destroyed. The result would be the formation of a new species.”

4) COVID-19 is a result of the way mass human populations inhabit the earth.

 

 

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