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Giorgio Agamben and the New Biopolitical Nomos Author(s): Claudio Minca Source: Geografiska Annaler.

Series B, Human Geography, Vol. 88, No. 4 (2006), pp. 387-403 Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4621536 . Accessed: 29/07/2013 14:29
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GIORGIO AGAMBEN AND THE NEW BIOPOLITICAL NOMOS


by Claudio Minca

Minca, C., 2006: Giorgio Agambenand the new biopolitical


nomos. Geogr. Ann., 88 B (4): 387-403.

In this paperI reflecton the progressive ABSTRACT. normalizationof a seriesof geographies of exception withinWestern democracies the relation of theseto the new bioand,in particular, itselfin oureverypoliticalpowerthatis progressively affirming to be imposingitself as the new, seday lives - andthatappears tos' - see la Repubblica, 2005a), introduced in the cret,ontologyof the political. areabsolutely I do so by engagingwiththe workof GiorgioAgambenand, daysaftertheJulyattacks, necessary thatunderpins in orderto avertothersuicideattacks the spatialarchitecture specifically, interrogating andto assure his theoryof sovereign power. the protection of London'scitizenry.JeanCharles I explore fromAgamben's Starting spatial conceptualizations, markedout by his heavy his attempt to tracethecontours andthe secretcoordinates of the de Menezes, apparently thebodyof thepopunomos,a nomosrootedfirmlyin the clothing,waskilledto protect contemporary biopolitical crisisandprogressive demolition of thatwhichCarlSchmittde- lation/citizenry - of which he, in that specific time scribed astheiuspublicum I note,moreover, howthe and Europaeum. ceasedto be partof. The counplace,suddenly definitivedissolution of the geographical nomosthathaddomimeasures in place, the ter-terrorism transformed, natedthe two centuries the First World and the War, preceding electrician homo into lack of a new, alternative, in nomos the sacer, grantingthe police geographical century whichfollowed,canalsobe grasped some agents absolute sovereign power over him: the by critically rereading of European in particular, key episodesin the history geography; right,thatis, to define,withinthe instant,the conthecontested Ratzel'sgrand legacyof the workof Friedrich geofine betweena life worthliving anda life thatdoes andthe Geopolitik graphical project experiment. reWhatI suggestis thatto understand thedeepnature of thegeo- notdeserveto live (on someof thecontroversies thatarmthe globalwaron terror, of exception it is vital garding graphies thepolice'sbehaviour in thathaveemerged thatwe thinkin termsof a theoryof spacein order to tryto unveil the months see Cowan, 2005). subsequent thearcanum, thesecretenigmaof theemptycentrearound which This sovereignpoweris only in parta function turnthe wheelsof a new, macabre, machine. geo-biopolitical nomos,historyof geography, Keywords:biopolitics, Agamben, camp

errorand reassurethat family for the unfortunate will in do they everything theirpower to prevent similarmistakesin the future.At the same time, insist that the however,the official communiqu6s whichconsentshootingto kill measures preventive Krasuspectsin thehead(the so-called'Operation

Introduction On 7 July2005,five suicideattacks the ripthrough heartof London,strikingits Underground in particular. Theattacks leavefifty-four deadandcountless wounded.On 22 July,two weeks afterthe atterrorist is shotdownby a police tacks,a suspected anti-terrorist unitafterhavingbeencaptured on the The suspectedterrorist is, in fact, a Underground. Brazilian electrician who, allegedlyseeinghimself followed by plain-clothespolice, decides to flee and, once reached,is killed with five shots to the head.His behaviour andclothing(according to the much too for the warm London temagents, heavy him an homosacer (Agamben, rendered perature), terrorist who canbe deliberately 1995),a suspected thatfollow,thepoliceforward theirapologiesto the
killed without committing homicide. In the days

the agentsthatextraordinary, degranted arbitrary, cisionalpower.In theory,any of us actinglike the Brazilianthatday could be killed withouta crime In a regimeof exception, havingbeen committed. all of us canbecomepotential homines sacriforthe forthe veryfactthatwe travelon the Underground; fact that we enter into a vast and extraordinary spaceof exception- extraordinary preciselyfor its Withinthis spaceof exception, apparent normality. the normand its transgression are decided in the a mobileconfinethatwe, as moment; theystraddle citizens, are not consentedto know, but that realletti, 2005). A confinewith respectto which, at between anymoment,canbe decidedthethreshold our life worthliving - andthatwhich can be suphomicide. pressedwithoutcommitting A few monthslaterin Milan,the Italiancourts 387
quires us to be ready to die to save ourselves (Cav-

of exception - the London Underground - that

of the identitiesof the actorsinvolvedin thatmacabrescene;it is, aboveall, the product of a space

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CLAUDIO MINCA

into the activitiesof twentyopen an investigation two CIA agents, chargedwith having kidnapped anddeported an Egyptianimamin February 2003 are fully (la Repubblica, 2005b). The accusations andan arrest substantiated warrant is issuedfor the consideraagents,causingthe Italiangovernment ble embarrassment, as the activitieswere carried out in violationof Italianlaws and,indeed,Italian national (la Repubblica, 2005c). Justa sovereignty few weeks before,Le Monde(Chambraud, 2005) hadunveileda seriesof othersimilar'kidnappings' that had takenplace in otherEuropean countries over the past couple of years,as well as countless with theirhuman 'secretflights'thathadtransited the airports of the Old Continent, en cargothrough routeto undisclosedlocations(Leseret al., 2005; see also Amaret al., 2005; Staglian6,2005). The exceptionto the norm,to the juridicalorderin effect withinthe nationalterritory, thusbecomesnot only systematic,but partandparcelof a veritable of intervention strategy implicitlyconsentedto by (Leseret al., 2005, p. 25). governments European Inthelightof theseevents,we shouldaskourselves if we aretodaywitnessinga definitive paradigmatic breakin conceptionsof the relationship between orderandterritory; if we arefacjuridical-political of an enormous ing the creation spaceof exception withinwhicheach andeveryone of us - in a temporaryandarbitrary suspensionof the norm- can be potentially whiskedawayto a secretprison,similarto in the panopticnightmare imaginedso well in TerryGilliam'sBrazil. Thispaper will remark norupontheprogressive malization of a seriesof geographies of exception withinWestern democracies the and,in particular, relationof theseto the new biopolitical nomosthat is progressivelyaffirmingitself in our everyday lives - andthatappears to be imposingitself as the new, secretontologyof the political.The writings of GiorgioAgambenin these past yearshave furnished a formidablebody of reflectionregarding the deep nature of exceptionin contemporary politics.Inparticular, notionsof homosacAgamben's er andnudavita (barelife), fundamental pillarsof his theoryof sovereignty, have stimulated countless disciplinary andinterdisciplinary debatesand formtodaykey reference pointsfor discussionsof thepoliticalgrammar of modernity (see e.g. others, Edkinset al., 2004; Norris,2003, 2004a, 2004b; editedby Dilalso the specialissue of Paragraph lon, 2002).Yet,despitethe enormous impactof the Italianphilosopher's work,little has been written thus far about the spatial architectureof his 388

thought.It is my firmbelief thatAgamben'stheoreticaledificeshouldbe conceivedof, aboveall, as a grandspatialtheory; or,betteryet, thatone of Agamben's mostimportant is thatthereis no intuitions politics, and thus no politicalanalysis, withouta theoryof space(it is notby chance,in fact,thattwo of the principalreferentsin the elaboration of his biopoliticaltheoryof exceptionare Carl Schmitt andMichelFoucault). The conceptof the space of exceptionis, indeed,key to Agamben'stheoretical apparatus. In the pages which follow, I will try to demonstrate how,starting preciselyfromAgamben'sspatialconceptualizations, we canbeginto explorehis to tracethe contours andthe secretcoordiattempt nates of the contemporary biopoliticalnomos, a nomosrootedfirmlyin the crisis and progressive demolitionof thatwhich Carl Schmitt(1998, pp. howthe definitive dissoum.I will note,moreover, lutionof thegeographical nomosthathaddominated the two centuries the FirstWorld War preceding andthelackof a new,al(as described by Schmitt), nomosin thecentury which ternative, geographical re-readfollowed,can also be grasped by critically ing some key episodesin the historyof European in particular, thecontested geography; legacyof the workof Friedrich Ratzel(and,in part,thatof Karl Indeed,bothSchmitt(1998, p. 84) and Haushofer). fashion, Agamben(2003, p. 48), albeitin different makereferencein theirwritingsto the workof the WhatI will putativefatherof politicalgeography. here is that to understand the try to demonstrate deep natureof the geographiesof exceptionthat armtheglobalwaron terror, it is vitalthatwe think in termsof a theoryof spacein order to tryto unveil the arcanum, the secretenigmaof theemptycentre aroundwhichturnthe wheels of the macabre biopolitical machine;a biopoliticalmachinethat today's new global political grammaris perhaps, once again,attempting to bringto its extremeconsequences. I cannothope to tacklethe entirespatialarchitectureof Agamben'sthoughthere,for sucha task wouldrequirea book;a book which,I believe,it is task to write. WhatI will try to do geographers' here, rather,is to hint at some of the key spatial questionsraisedby Agamben'swork, with some brief allusions to Ratzel's grand geographical Geopolitik projectandto Haushofer's experiment. I will arguethatnot only shouldgeography engage with Agamben'sspatialtheory,but it should also the production of a new implicitglobal interrogate
161-265) described as the ius publicum Europae-

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GIORGIO AGAMBEN AND THE NEW BIOPOLITICAL NOMOS

nomos,a new Atlanticnomosthatriskstranslating itself into a terrifyingbiopoliticalcaesura of the bodies- as bodyof thenationandof ourindividual thenewdanger evokedtodayevenin theverybanal decision to travelon London'sUnderground appearsto portend. The end of the European nomos and the triumph of exception considerations on thestateof exception Agamben's take as their startingpoint the paradoxof sovereignty as presentedby Schmitt.Accordingto the Germanlegal theorist,the sovereignis he (sic) to whom the juridicalordergrantsthe powerto proclaim the stateof exceptionand, thus, to suspend intheorder's Thesovereign, Schmitt veryvalidity. is same time and at the both outside inside sists, - the juridicalorder(see Agamben, 1995, p. 19; 1996, p. 84; 2004, pp. 33-34). Agambenremarks, in particular, on thatwhichhe definesas theimplicit the thatis, the topologyof paradoxof sovereignty; mechanism by whichthe sovereign, possessingthe legal meansto suspendthe juridicalorder,places himself (legally)outsideof the law.This observation is key bothto understanding the spatialtheory ownworkbutit is alsoa vital implicitinAgamben's to rethinkin exstarting pointfor my own attempt terms the nature of that plicitlygeographical spatial whichhas beendefinedas the newbiopoliticalera. I will begin, therefore, by brieflyconsideringthe two key spatial-ontological devices that structure Agamben's theoryof exception- the campandthe ban - to then move on to a discussionof the supnomos deposed dissolutionof the geographical scribed by Schmitt, suggestingsomewaysin which an understanding of this latterpointcan help us to betterdecipher thegeographies of decisionthatappearto guideAmerican geo-biopoliticstoday. Accordingto Schmitt,thereis no normapplicable to chaos. To obtainjuridical-political order,a 'normal'situationmust be created.At the same time, however,any suchorderis senselesswithout territorial grounding- and without the meaning In this optic,the occugranted by suchgrounding. of territory thusbecome pationand denomination the foundational ontologicalgestures,fromwhich all rights emanate and within which space and right, order and its localization, come together (Schmitt,1998, p. 26). All rights,all laws arethus situations' applicable only to specific 'territorial and can only be suspended,with respectto such specific 'situations', within the exception. Sch-

mitt's theory of exception is thereforepremised upon the recognitionof the necessity of a funda- of a spatial mentalspatial'measure' of the Earth fromwhichbothorderandthesustheory- starting pension of ordergain meaning.And what has alof geographyand ways been the preoccupation if not the spatialmeasureof the Earth geographers - a measure which,at a certainpointin time,came to be termed 'geographicalspace' (see Farinelli, hasnottheimplicitandexplicitdef2003)?Indeed, initionof territorial orderalwaysbeen an essential task of geography?In this sense, Schmitt'sDas NomosvonderErdereflectsin manywaysthe spatial ontologiesof the Ratzelianproject- a project misread academstrategically by twentieth century ic geography. The Schmittian theoryof exception upon which Agamben'sreasoningdraws is thus firmlyrootedin geographical theory. The essence of sovereignty,Schmittcontinues (1988, evokedby Agamben,1995, p. 20; 1996, p. or 84; 2004, p. 47), is notthemonopolyof sanction the monopolyof decision.The exrule,butrather ception,whichmakessense only whenclearlydefined in spatialterms,revealsthis deep natureof In proclaiming the stateof exsovereignauthority. ception,the German legal.theoristconcludes,sovdemonstrates thatit does not need ereignauthority law to createlaw.The exceptionis thusmoreinteresting thannormality:'this latterproves nothing, lives only withinthe exception'(Agamben,1995, to 'live', therulerequires a spatial p. 20). However, of the worldthatgrantsit matheory,a 'measure' Thejuridical order'doesnot terialityandmeaning. originally presentitself simply as sanctioninga transgressivefact but instead constitutes itself of the same act withoutany throughthe repetition thatis, as anexceptional case'(Agamben, sanction, 1995,p. 31; 1998,p. 26; see also 2004, pp. 44-49). Suchrepetition of the exceptionmust,necessarily, be spatialized, for its very existencedependsupon its (concrete) locationoutsideof thejuridical order, beyond the 'measure'that translatesspace into Thelaw,Agamben norm. argues(1995,p. 31; 1998, see also 2004, p. 54), is rendered into norm 26; p. but not simplybecauseit commandsor prescribes becauseit mustfirst createits sphereof reference in it mustnormalize it. Therepetition of 'normal'life, an act withoutsanctionnecessitatesa where;necessitatesa topography thatallows for the grounding of the (exceptional)act. Such groundingin a concretespace aims at makingpossible an impossible coincidencebetweenthe normand its trans389

whiletheexception [...] therule proves everything

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CLAUDIO MINCA

gression,placing them in a zone of indistinction where the exceptiongains form, meaningand leIt is herethatinhabitthe sovereignand gitimation. thatwe thehomosacer- andit is withinthisterrain of exception, findthe rootsof today'sgeographies all of exceptionthatrisktransforming geographies politics into a purebiopoliticaltask. The exceptionis, thus, a kind of exclusion,accordingto Agamben(1995, pp. 21-22; 1998, pp. the exception 17-18), butwhattrulycharacterizes is thatwhatis excludedin it is not, for this reason, withoutrelationto the norm:indeed,what is excludedin the exceptionremainsin relationto the normin the formof the latter'ssuspension(2004, pp. 47-54). Agambentermsrelationof exception the extremeform of relationwithin which somethingis includedonly by its exclusion:'the situation createdin the exceptionhas the peculiarcharacteristicthatit cannotbe definedeitheras a situof right,butinsteadinationof factor as a situation stitutes a paradoxicalthresholdof indistinction betweenthe two' (Agamben,1995, p. 22; 1998, p. 18). Froma politicalpoint of view, this threshold not only the cardinalpoint of any georepresents of pasgraphy exception,but also a fundamental of the body of the nation,a sage in the production Thisthreshpassagethatcanneverbe complete(d). in fact, the most fundamental caeold constitutes, sura betweennascita (birth)- andlife - of an inthatis, thenecessary andnazione(nation); dividual - translation - thoughalwaysincomplete of the individualinto a member of a greater, biological-territorial body:exhaustive, totalizing,yet alwaysincomplete.I will say moreon thispointsubsequently. In the sovereignexception,Agamben(1995, p. 23; 1998, p. 19, emphasisadded;see also 2004, p. 47) continues,'whatis at issue ... is not so much of anexcess as thecrethecontrolorneutralization ationanddefinition of the veryspace in whichthe juridico-politicalordercan have validity'.It is in this sense that the exceptionbecomes that which Schmitttermsthe 'fundamental localization'(Ortung),a spatialdevice that'does not limit itself to whatis inside fromwhatis outside distinguishing of exbutinsteadtracesa threshold [thestate-space ception] between the two, on the basis of which andchaos, outsideandinside,the normalsituation enterinto those complextopologicalrelationsthat make the validityof the juridicalorderpossible' (Agamben,1995, p. 23; 1998, p. 19). The 'spatial thatconstitutes for Schmittthe sovereign ordering' nomosis not,Agamben(1995, p. 23; 1998, p. 19) 390

adds, merely 'a "takingof land"(Landesnahme), and a the determination of a juridical(Ordnung) territorial (Ortung)order- but aboveall a "presa del fuori" [a "takingof the outside"],an exception'. And such a presa del fuori is performed, turf;thatis, the again,on eminentlygeographical andits spatial'measure'. territory Theentireedificeof Das Nomosvonder Erdeis in fact,upontheanalysis- andprospected founded, demise- of theEuropean nomos;thatis, of a global order founded upon the existence of an spatial enormousspace of exception,the extra-European orderwas susone; a space where the European but at the same time with respectto which pended, it was constitutedand found its meaning. The thresholdof exceptionis, then, presentedby Agambensince the openingpages of HomoSacer as thethe focal pointof an exquisitelygeographical for Agamory.The spaceof exceptionconstitutes, nomos,thefoundinggestureof the ben,theoriginal theontologicaldevice of politicalspace modernity, and thatlies at the rootsof the modern nation-state intoa biopolitical machine. its potential translation Thecamp is theparadigmof thispolitical space; the structureof the ban its translationinto geographicalterms. The camp In its archetypal form,the stateof exceptionis theprinciple of everyjuridicallocaltherefore ization,sinceonly the stateof exceptionopens of a certhe spacein whichthe determination tain juridicalorderand a particular territory first becomes possible. As such, the state of exceptionitself is thusessentiallyunlocalizalimitscan ble (evenif definitespatio-temporal be assignedto it fromtime to time). (Agamben,1995, p. 24; 1998, p. 19) arcanumthatany conHerelies the geographical theoryof exceptionmusttakeinto contemporary - andthatAgamben's reflections sideration finally to bring light. The nexus betweenthe localization (Ortung)and ordering(Ordnung)that constitute the 'nomosof the Earth'for Schmitt(1998) conan unlotainswithinit 'a fundamental ambiguity, or exceptionthat,in calizablezone of indistinction the last analysis, necessarilyacts against it as a principle of its infinite dislocation' (Agamben, 1995, p. 24; 1998, pp. 19-20). This explainswhy, a pertheunlocalizable 'whenourage triedto grant manentandvisible localization,the resultwas the

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GIORGIO AGAMBEN AND THE NEW BIOPOLITICAL NOMOS

concentration camp'. The camp is thus the space thatis openedwhenthe stateof exceptionbeginsto becometheruleandgainsa permanent spatialform 1996, (Agamben, p. 37). The camp as a space of exceptionis, in fact, a whichlies outsideof thejuridportionof territory ical order- butis, nonetheless, not simplya space As Gregory(2004a, p. 258) externalto thatorder. rightlynotes, in the camp 'the externalandthe innot to erasethe outsidebutto ternalarearticulated it as the serial spacingof theexception,for produce ever inscribingexclusionthroughinclusion'.The politicalsystemthusno longerordersformsof life andjuridicalrules in a determinate place but, instead, containsat its very centre what Agamben terms a 'dislocatinglocalization'that exceeds it and into which everyform of life and every norm canbe virtually taken. Thecamp,as 'dislocating localization',may thusbe seen as the hiddenmatrix of modempolitics: the birthof the campin ourtime appears as an eventthatdecisivelysignalsthepoliticalspace of modernity itself. It is producedat the point at which the political system of the modern which was foundedon the funcnation-state, localizational nexus between a determinate anda determinate tion (theterritory) politicaljuridicalorder(the State)andmediated by automaticrulesof the inscription of life (nascita or nazione),entersin a lastingcrisis, and the Statedecidesto assumedirectlythecareof the nation'sbiologicallife as one of its tasks. (Agamben,1995,p. 197; 1998, pp. 174-175) The transformation of the stateof exceptioninto a to the permanentspatial order thus corresponds definitiverupture nomosthathad of the territorial - andhadbeenproduced produced by - the modem And while the aim of Euronation-state. European of the nineteenthand pean bourgeoisgeography1 early decades of the twentiethcenturyhad been preciselyto describe,inscribeand legitimizethis structure very political-institutional-territorial triad of thedis(Agamben's state-nation-territory), solutionof the European nomos,of the European of global order,and the accordantabandonment any attemptto link life andrightto a comprehensive spatialtheory,will result in a violent emerThe attempt to cancelthe gence of the biopolitical. becomes, ambiguityof the originalspatialization taskof the nationindeed,the supreme biopolitical state.The spaceof exceptionthusremainsunloca-

lizable so long as its natureas a thresholdis not madeexplicit withina concretezone of indistinction - withina geographyof exception- with respectto whichthe hiddenmatrixthatlies at the orinto a permanent igin of the camp is transformed becomes suspensionof orderand, paradoxically, to describethisperthenorm.Findingthelanguage manentsuspensionandthe almostmysticalnature of its originalspatialization is, I believe, geography's mostpressingtasktoday. Today'swar on an unlocalizableterroris localizedwith'intelligent weapons'andtheappearance of (moreorless) invisibleprisons- prisonsthatcertainlyexist somewhere, thoughtheirexactlocation andinhabitants areunknown 2004a).Itis (Gregory, thatthe rendering for thisreason,perhaps, explicit of the Guantanamo (see Butler,2002, experiment 2004) is a fundamental starting point from which we canbeginto decipher thenature of a new nomos that strugglesto affirmitself as somethingmore than mere force/action rendered into norm; a nomos unableto thinkitself as spatialtheoryand theconditionsthat which,forthisreason,produces allowforthelocalizedtranscendence of biopolitics This transcendence is usually into tanatopolitics. a failure, presented by sovereignpoweras anerror, a 'crackin the project'while, in fact, the contemporarycamp is the boundarybetween the inside andthe outsideof thenew orderand,as such,must be translated into geography,must be territorialized. So is whatwe arewitnessing,indeed,the attemptof the new nomosto inscribeitself uponthe Earth? If the aim of the permanent stateof exception is, indeed,to imposea new globalnomos,can it do so withouta new spatialtheory,withouta new 'measure' of the Earth? The ban Wehave thusseen thatwhile the exceptionconstitutes the 'deep' structure of sovereignty, it is also in which law refersto life 'the originarystructure and includesit in itself by suspendingit' (Agamben, 1995,p. 34; 1998,p. 28). Agamben, following Jean-Luc of the Nancy,termsthe banthispotenza2 law 'to maintain itselfin its ownprivation', to apply itself. ForAgamben,'the relaby '(dis)applying' tionof exceptionis a relation of ban';thatis, anemrelation: inentlyspatial He who hasbeenbannedis not,in fact, simply set outsidethe law and made indifferent to it but is rather abandoned that it, is, by exposed 391

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CLAUDIO MINCA

and threatened on the thresholdin which life andthe law,outsideandinside,becomeindisIt is literallynot possible to say tinguishable. whetherthe one who has been bannedis outside or insidethejuridicalorder. (Agamben,1995, p. 34; 1998, pp. 28-29, emphasisin the original) The werewolf- the threshold figurethatAgamben of the ban- is, at adoptsto explainthe geography its origin,the figureof themanbanned by his community.His life, tom between the forest and the withoutanyrecity,is not 'a piece of animalnature a threshold lationto law andthecity.It is, rather, of indistinctionand of passage between animaland man,betweenphysis andnomos,exclusionandinclusion' (1995, p. 117; 1998, p. 105). The stateof nature thatthis latterembodiesis not,therefore,'a realepoch,chronologically priorto the foundation of the City, but a principleinternalto the City' (ibid.).Thedecisivefactorhereis thatthewerewolf thisthreshold does notonly metaphorically inhabit andmovesthrough of indistinction; he inhabits real spaces, spaces which, with his very presenceand his hybridnature, It is he contributes to producing. the 'survival of thestate herethatAgambensituates of natureat the very heartof the state' (1995, p. 119;1998,p. 106),butit is alsoherethatis rendered explicit (by meansof an originaland thus hidden the confinebetweenbarelife and a spatialization) life worth living. Agamben'swerewolf is thus a subjecttorn not only between life and death,but also betweenplace andits 'measure' (space)- excludedby bothbut,atthe sametime,constitutive of both. The Brazilian electrician shotdownon the London Underground, in those few, decisive seconds, was thrustinto the conditionof the werewolf;a not by his culpability, but by conditiongenerated the exceptionalnatureof the (real, urban)place withinwhichhe happened to findhimself.Herewe
come, again, to the hidden matrix of the geographies of exception. What defines the condition of

- is the life thathas been killed but not sacrificed in thissphere.' I do nothavethe spacehere captured to furtherdevelop this key point of Agamben's whatI wouldliketo highlight, is however, analysis; thatthestructure theItalian of thebanprompts philosopherto rethinkthe mythsof the very foundation of the modemcity, arguing that we must learn to recognize this structure of the ban in the political relationsand public spacesin whichwe still live.... It is the sacred nomos that conditionsevery rule, the originary spatializationthat governs and makes possibleeverylocalizationandeveryterritorialization. And if in modernity life is moreand moreclearlyplacedat the centreof Statepolitics (which now becomes biopolitics) ... this

vita sacra (sacred life) - that is, life that may be

is possibleonly becausetherelationof the ban has constituted the essentialstructure of sovereignpowerfromthe beginning. (Agamben1995,p. 123; 1998, p. 111) When the territorialstate of the ancien regime itselfas themodern,bourgeois nationreconfigures to renderpossible a state,this latter,in its attempt imcompromisebetween its initial revolutionary seizureof power,is this petus and its subsequent
very structure of the ban (which becomes, with this

the homosacer, as we havereadin by now countless articlesthat adoptthis term(see, e.g. Norris, 2004b) is 'the double exclusion into which he is takenandtheviolenceto whichhe findshimselfexposed' (1995, p. 91; 1998,p. 82). The homosacer, forAgamben(1995, p. 92; 1998,p. 83), represents the 'originary figureof life takenintothe sovereign ban', so faras 'the sovereignsphereis the spherein which it is permittedto kill withoutcommitting andla nomos andphysis, Ordnungand Ortung - a confine homicideandwithoutcelebrating a sacrifice, 392

of all the politicalcategories passage,constitutive of the modem)thatconsentsto thinkof the populationas a bodyandits members as citizens;as bioThenation of thegreater beorganism. logicalparts comesthenecessary of thisbody,and spatialization geography,together with medicine, provide the cognitive tools for the description,identification, and management of its partsand its organization confines.Butthisis nothingparticularly new.None of the ban revealshow the the less, the structure translation of subjectsinto citizensis produced by of theirbodiesintonumbers, the reduction figures, of the politicalbody necessary(or not) fragments of the nation(Cavalletti, 2005). These bodies becomepotentially to killable,sincetheyarereduced vital organism mereelementsof a superior, whose and purification become one of the preservation principal tasks of modem politics; indeed, the strugglebetweenthe life worthliving andthe life not deservingto live of those citizens is decided confinedefiningthebodyof alongtheever-shifting the nation.As Agambenremindsus, this is the decisive confine between zod and bios, between

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GIORGIO AGAMBEN AND THE NEW BIOPOLITICAL NOMOS

was assignedby thenascentmodwhosedefinition em stateto thatwhichFarinelli (1992)terms'bourgeois geography',often presentedas the 'science of synthesis' par excellence(Capel, 1987). To understand fully the conditionsthatallowed of the ban,Agfor the affirmation of the structure ambensuggeststhatwe look backto the Declarationof theRightsof ManandCitizenof 1789as the sancto thephilosopher, momentwhich,according to the nations the politicalpassageof sovereignty of all the principle withthe Declaration, tion-state: comesto residein thenation'precisely sovereignty because it has alreadyinscribedthis element of of thepoliticalcombirth[nascita]in theveryheart 1995, 141; 1998,p. 128;see (Agamben, p. munity' thatderives also 1996,p. 23). Thenazione(nation), etymologically from nascere (to be born), thus completesthe circleopenedby the nascita (birth). ourentryinto Birthitself,in thisregime,thusmarks to its sovereignpowthe nationandoursubjection withinthenation'spoer.Barelife is thusinscribed liticizationof the corpusof its citizens(Agamben, 1995,p. 143; 1996,p. 24). Thenation-state, by disbetweenan 'authentic' life and a bare tinguishing life - a life stripped of any politicalvalue- transforms the fundamental question 'what is French (Italian, English...)' into an essential political question;a questionthat,with Nazism,will come to coincide'immediately withthe highestpolitical task'(Agamben,1995,p. 146; 1998, p. 130). Inhis (sic) ascentto power, themodern bourgeois thus mobilizes the idea of nationas a crucial subject to thetrideviceandalso,thanks spatial-ontological andthe failureof the umphof positivistgeography Erdkunde project(see Farinelli,1992, 2003), ends of thisvery(nation) upconceiving spaceas given,as The mystiqueof the nation,once spatialnatural. intothe bioized, allowsfor the directintervention politicsof the bodiesof the citizens;citizenswho, with theirbarelife andtheirpoliticallife, makeup thebodyof the state.Thenation-state thusbecomes andcula mythical of nature combination biological for theproduction of thedefinture.Theconditions of indistinction itiverelation betweenlife andpolistatein the tics were thusalreadyin an embryonic conceptionof the bourgeoisnationgeographical betweena cartographicstate.Thefatalcompromise theoryof spaceandtheparallel emphageometrical sis on individual rightsthatformedthe ideological been basisof thenascent statewouldhave,however, to sustain for long,basedas it was upon impossible a specialeffect, upona metaphysics of powerthat would, sooneror later,inevitablyreveal its most

nature. The fragilityof this impurelybiopolitical wouldemergewithvirulence afplicitcompromise - also with the aid ter the GreatWar, transforming of 'normal' positivistgeography(see, e.g. Demathomines sacri. teis, 1985)- all citizensintopotential The FirstWorldWar,according to both Schmitt andAgamben,marksindeedthe definitive rupture of the ius publicumEuropaeum andwith it, of the of the grandspatial nomosof theEarth, projectthat lay atits origin.Thenexusbetweenthejuridical-politicalorderandterritory thatsustained theoriginal - thearcanum of sovereign spatialization power- is thusbrokenandtherepressed scarto(rift)between nascitaandnazioneis dramatically revealed, losing its original self-regulatingfunction (Agamben, 1995,pp.42-44; 1996,pp.24-29). Itis thusthatfascism and Nazism appear: biopoliticalregimespar ones excellence (togetherwith the state-socialist which would follow) whichrenderexplicit,in the mostviolentof fashions, theplaceof barelife in the Thespatio-temporal constitution of thenation-state. confinesof the (juridically bare)spaceof exception andcometo coincidewith aredefinitively breached withinwhichliterally the 'normal' order, everything becomespossible(ibid.). It is herethatthe grandprojectof the bourgeois nation-state revealsall its shortcomings; aboveall, thatof thefictitious compromise uponwhichits territorialmyth is founded,a myth destinedto sucThe reproduccumbto its own biopoliticalmatrix. tion of the 'biologicalbody of the nation'thusbecomes the supremetask of the state,and the normalization of exception its most immediate This 'biologicalbody' is also, political grammar. however,an inescapablygeographicalbody that the nationalterritory and the rendersinseparable individualswho inhabitit, now transformed into mere 'population'. Institutionalgeography has long struggledto give form and meaningto this body;it has long beenits taskto furnishit with stable and reassuring representations(Dematteis, Ratzel'slesson 1985), andit is herethatFriedrich is particularly instructive. Ratzel'slegacy can, indeed, tell us much about the definitive passage throughwhich the world producedby the bourgeois nation-state,having abandonedthe global spatialtheorythatlay at the bases of the iuspublientrusts itself to an orderwithout cumEuropaeum, - to the abstract localization spaceof the economy - yet withoutincludingthis latterwithina new,alternative nomosof the Earth. the last geogRatzel,as we shallsee, is perhaps to thinkin termsof a territorial nomos,and rapher 393

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CLAUDIO MINCA

his failuretragically reflectsthe definitivetranslainto a biopoliticalmachine tion of the nation-state - in forcebutwithoutsignificance, thatcannotbut assumeas its supreme taskthecontrolandmanagementof the biologicallife of thepopulation andits members. The definitive disappearanceof the (2003) 'Subjectof geography' (echoingFarinelli's thus coincideswith the disappearance arguments) of the separation betweennascitaandnazione,betweenphysisandnomos,betweenlife andthemap. In this way, the nation-state will be able to extend sovereign poweroverbothnomosandphysis.Afew years later,Vidal de la Blache's new Geographie Humaine(1903, 1922) andPassarge's Landschaftskunde thispassagewith (1919)will aimto provide a new languageand a definitivelegitimation. The implicitlycartographic logic thatguidesthesetwo of the geographer projects,andthe disappearance as the explicitlypoliticalsubjectthatcharacterizes the (notionof) translate both,servesto definitively a container into mere for territory objectsandpeoto naturalizing the ius soli as ple, thuscontributing - andno longerpolitical- order. a natural Fromthatmomenton, the biopoliticalmachine will spinaround a centrethatis no more,rendering the purification of the body of the nationits ultimateimmanent task,a taskthat,at this point,cannothavelimits;a taskthat,rather, restsupontheinfiniteandarbitrary mobilityof suchlimits.Modem of stateandsociespatial-geometrical conceptions logic thatguidesthemthus ty andthe cartographic become the ultimateexpressionof a projectbased withoutcontent,upon a space upon a purification withouta nomos.It is so thatthemapcomesto repan resent,stilltoday,a mitologema (mythologeme), ideal- to be reachedthoughalwaysunreachable territorial politicalform;an illusoryreignoverthe Earth,to borrowSchmitt's(1998, p. 15) words. In such a regime of/in force without significance, the biological becomes immediatelyand necessarilypolitical,and geopoliticsand biopolitics become confounded,become one and the same: 'the police now becomespolitics, and the careof life coincideswith the fightagainstthe enemy' (Agamben,1995, p. 163; 1998, p. 147; see also 1996,pp. 83-86), the conceptof population, a 2005), while the definispatialdevice (Cavalletti, tion of barelife, pure,unmediated biopolitics.And when life and politics, 'originally divided, and linkedtogether by ... the stateof exception',come together,'all life becomes sacredand all politics becomes the exception'(Agamben,1995, p. 165; 1998,p. 148). 394

Lebensraum ... In thehistoryof Western science,the isolation of ... barelife is a fundamental event. (Agamben,2005, p. 393) In L'aperto(2003), Agambenhighlightshow the researchof Jakobvon Uexkull,consideredone of the founders of modern ecology,followedbyjust a few yearsthe pioneeringworkof PaulVidalde la Blache (1903) on the relationsbetween populations and their environment, and the researchof FriedrichRatzel (1897) on the conceptof lebensraum.The workof VidalandRatzel,as Agamben revolutionize the discinotes, was to 'profoundly (2003, p. 48), contribpline of humangeography' in fundamental fashion,the utingto transforming, relation conceived between traditionally livingbeings andtheirenvironment-world. Agamben'sreferenceto these important pointsin the disturning his conviction that thereexists a cipline expresses directrelationbetweenthe evolutionof geographical thoughtand the rise of the biopoliticalstate. of thestate'slebenRecallingRatzel'stheorization noteshow this conceptionwould sraum,Agamben findits echoes in Nazi geopolitics,while in theVidalianproject he envisionsthefirstformalization of a certain of the relations enbetween understanding vironmentand society, an understanding that accordingto him was to furnisha specific, 'ecological' visionof life, allowingfor its eventualtotalexwithinthe politicsof the state. clusion/inclusion AndreaCavalletti,whose 2005 book La cittii biopolitica is largely inspired by Agamben's work,is even moreforcefulin tracingthe linksbetween Ratzel's spatialtheory and the emergence of the biopoliticalstate.In his readingof the German geographer's work, Cavallettistresses how, to the cosmologicalspeculationsof his compared predecessorsHumboldtand Ritter,Ratzel (1897, the idea of total1907, 1914) ends up radicalizing ity: what matters,for Ratzel, 'is the [idea of] terrestrial space as both generic and limited vital space, as the totality of the necessary relation properto everyliving being, a totalityto whichhe will give the nameof oecumene'(Cavalletti, 2005, p. 205). Cavallettinotes, indeed, how in Ratzel's betweenthe 'ebband thought emergesthecontrast flow of life, which knows no rest', and the unchangingspaces of the Earth.It is from this fundamental contradiction that the 'struggle for space' is born, as describedin this well-known work: passagefromthe geographer's

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GIORGIO AGAMBEN AND THE NEW BIOPOLITICAL NOMOS

butonce it itself to the Earth, ...life subjected reachedits confines,it ebbedback ... onto the path already taken. Since then, everywhere andwithoutrespite,life struggleswith life for expression'struggle space.The much-abused for existence"signifies,aboveall, thestruggle for space. Indeed,it is spacethatgrantsnorm andmeasureto all otherconditionsof life. (Ratzel,1907, p. 718; emphasisadded) Life,in thiscase,is biologicallife, Cavalletti (2005, p. 206) insists,whichis definedas suchin contrast its speto theinert,to non-life- andwhichacquires at themomentin which,havcific spatialcharacter limitsof theEarth, ing touchedthe insurmountable it ebbs back into itself (Ratzel, 1907, 1914). It is fromthis momenton thatthe linkbetweenlife and in thetraditional is no longerpresented poterritory butis read,rathunderstanding, litical-geographic terms:spacebecomes'vital' er,in geo-biopolitical - andlife becomesspatialized (Cavalletti, 2005). of thehistoryof modTraditional interpretations havelong emphasized the influencem geography of Social Darwinism on Rates of a certainstrand zel's theoryof the state.Theseinterpretations highhis idea of the survival of the lighted,in particular, fittest,stronglymarked biological by evolutionary theoriespopularat the time: an idea which envithat(as all otherorsionedthe stateas anorganism of ganisms)muststruggleto survive.The adoption an ecological-evolutionary perspective brought the 'temporary' Ratzel(1897) to affirm, moreover, natureof all stateboundaries, since subjectto the ongoing struggle for space between competing frontiers'-as stateactors. Thenotionof 'moveable these interpretations of Ratzel's opus intimatewas most strongly associatedwith the idea that expandto reach their large states will 'naturally' of necessarylebensraum,often into the territory 'weaker'(smaller)states. surrounding doesnotdivergemuch Here,Cavalletti's reading His analysis suggests, indeed, from the tradition. that while Ratzel's work purportsto transcend in practicethe Germangeograemptymetaphors, a enacts of the vital orpher grandrepresentation ganizationof the Earth:in his PolitischeGeogramimics ... the phie, the notionof state'necessarily beconstitutiveand unproblematized relationship tweenan organism andits environment' (2005, pp. does not allowitself 206-207). The state,however, to be boundwithinrigidconfines:'Thediffusionof men andtheirworkon the surfaceof the Earthhas thecharacteristics of a mobilebodythat,depending

on its ebb and flow, expandsand contracts,binds new ties, breaksthe old and,in doing so, takeson formsthatresemblethoseof othersociablebeings' (Ratzel,1897, p. 3). Cavalletti'sand Agamben'sconsiderations on - and,more theimportance of Ratzel'scontribution on the vital role playedby geographical generally, as andlegitimation, knowledgein the constitution well as thefunctioning, of thebiopolitical machine I of the state - are certainlyto be appreciated. of thereading wouldbe morecritical, however, given by both to the influencesof Ratzel's work on Nazi geographies of exception- and,by extension, of the new, 'Atlantic'regime of exceptiontoday. For while it is certainlytruethatRatzelis widely considered to be thefatherof twentieth century pohis legacyis muchmorecomplex liticalgeography, - andambiguous - thanmoststandard accountsallow.Accordingto FrancoFarinelli(1992, p. 110): in 1897,of Ratzel'sPolitische the publication, Geographie,does not only mark,as is comthe birthof whatwe now term monlythought, At the very same time political geography. - [Ratzel'soeuand,alas,this is not a paradox vre] marksthe end of geographers' recognition of the political role of every geography. But this is not Ratzel'sfault.Quitethe opposite, for his geographyof the State proffered itself, unique in the history of geographical to state thought,as the only true alternative a 3; that, geography geography havingsilently re-emerged from its ashes in the second-half of the 1800s, woulddominatethe entiredisciWar. pline untilwell afterthe SecondWorld For Farinelli, then,Ratzelshouldnot be seen preas the founder of the academic dominantly political thatwoulddevelopin thesuccessivedecgeography ades but, rather,as the last bourgeoisgeographer able/willingto admitthe inescapably politicalnatureof his cognitiveenterprise; thelastto render exof spaceand plicitthenexusbetweenhis conception inhis organic theoryof the state.Thedeterministic in of Ratzel's Farinelli is work, insists, terpretation factan 'invention' of French sociologyandhistorioof the notionof (2003,p. 108);the adoption graphy lebensraum by Nazi geopoliticalthoughtis, on the of the spiritthatguides otherhand,a degeneration Ratzel'swork,a tragicreinterpretation of the relationshipbetweenspatialtheoryand politics, a rethatwouldrender interpretation explicitthepolitical in its mostvirulent nature of modemgeography and 395

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CLAUDIO MINCA

and Agamben'sassessviolent terms.Cavalletti's in part,the geographer's ment,while recognizing, complex legacy and resistingfacile characterizahis determinism, still falls into the tions regarding trapof most conventional readingsof Ratzel. InbetweentheRatzelian deed,therelationship gesture turn'of the andwhatwe maytermthe 'biopolitical nation-state European maybe readin a different optic altogether. Inparticular, Franco Farinelli's (1992, of thenature of bourgeois 2003) theorizations geogand its state of crisis can offer raphy permanent avenueswhich allow some interesting interpretive us to investigate thelinksbetweenRatzel'sopusand nomosthatso trouthe dissolution of theEuropean of Ratzel'sdevotedfolbled CarlSchmitt(another thegeographer on numerous oclowers,whothanks casionswithinhis writings). Muchhas been writtenaboutthe ways in which - in its roleas stategeography bourgeois geography - adopted a geometric concept of geographical to reducethecomplexity of theworld spacein order to the measureof its own language,andto profess the innocence of its representations (see, e.g. Farinelli, 2003; Minca and Bialasiewicz, 2004; architecture Pickles,2004).Itis thisveryconceptual thatallowsit to firstforget- andto makeforget- the ideological thrustof Ratzel's political theory of of the tragiclegspaceand,later,to takeadvantage of Ratzel'stheoryby acyof thedegenerate adoption to Nazi geopoliticalrhetoric (thoughnot practice), the scientificmethodof Ratzel'sgeograreinterpret phy as thoughthis latterwerepartof the sameposfromwhichtwentieth-century itivisttradition 'state' Ratzelthus geography largelydrewits inspiration. one of the foundbecomes,in the officialnarrative, Ratzel thus beers of geographical determinism. of many,the fountof comes, in the interpretations theoriesthatwouldjustify,on the basis imperialist of a misreading terriof his conceptof lebensraum, torialexpansionandan evolutionary readingof reof lationsbetweenstatesandnations(fora critique see Bassin(1987a, 1987b)as well as suchreadings on the centenary the proceedings of the conference
of Ratzel's Politische Geographie: Antonsich et al.,

2001). Certainly,the past decades have broughtnew critical impetus to interpretationsof Ratzel's have noted that work. For instance,geographers of Ratzel's understanding the territorial although stateas an 'organism',marked by its own 'needs' and 'demands', was undoubtedlyinfluencedby evolutionarybiological theoriesof the time, this also had mucholderroots.Indeed, understanding 396

Germanidealist philosopherssuch as Hegel and Fichtehadalso regarded the stateas a havinga life of its own (Agnew, 1998; Heffernan,2000). Others (see e.g. Bassin, 1987a, 1987b;Dijkink,2001) have stressedthatRatzel'sworkcan in no way be conflatedwith purely materialistic(and biological) theoriesof the state.Forothersstill, Ratzel's workwas notonly to be seen as anoriginalreinterof the intellectuallegacy of manyof his pretation but his very conception of the contemporaries, 'state as organism'should be viewed part of 'a broader modern of the State',drivpersonification ing the emergenceof nationalistideologies in the late 1800s (see Raffestinet al., 1995, p. 25). Acfor Ratzel,as for the cordingto this interpretation, the state earlytheoristsof nationsandnationhood, was a whole, a whole thatacts as one 'body'. This body was a physical, geographicalbody - but it was also the state's 'human'body: indeed, it was the decades of Ratzel's writings that also witnessed the emergenceof notions such as the 'social mass', thatwitnessedthe 'birthof the crowd' (Raffestinet al., 1995,p. 25); wholes conceivedof as humanizedaggregatesendowedwith a life of theirown, as well as a certaindegreeof consciousness and autonomy. it Althoughit is usefulto note suchcontinuities, is also important to note thatthe body of the Ratzelian state was characterized by mobile/tempoin clearconraryconfines,placingthe geographer trastwith the prevailingnationalistideologies of his time. Ratzel would insist, in fact, that states were and could only be fluid historicalentities. while Ratzelstrongly believedthatgeoMoreover, - in particular, statebehaviour graphydetermined specifyingthat,often,a state's'success'was deterwas neverexminedby its location- thisequation tendedto humansubjects.This distinctionis vital to understanding Ratzel'scollocationin thehistory of the discipline,as well as vis-ca-vis the evolution in that the of geopolitical century followed, thought of marked by more or less faithfulinterpretations thegeographer's opus.Ratzel'swork,in fact,never - fortheLeipziggeojustifieda racialdeterminism it was the (and space strugglefor space), grapher thatwas the drivingforcein notraceor nationality, relations(see Parker, international 2001). has reFarinelli(1992, p. 131), in particular, how Ratzelwas perfectlyconsciousof the marked of any social subjectto claimknowlimpossibility his (sic) legitimacyas edge withoutfirstaffirming a knowingsubject.Ratzel, accordingto Farinelli, was well aware of the necessity of a 'theory of

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AGAMBEN AND THENEWBIOPOLITICAL GIORGIO NOMOS

knowledge'ableto reconcilescienceandideology, andthatthis wouldformthe basis of anytheoryof geographicalspace. For Ratzel, as for Humboldt andRitterbeforehim, 'discourseprecedeswriting andcommandsit, becauseknowingsignifies,first of all, establishing relations betweenobjectsbased - andthat on hypotheses thatprecedeanymap/text no map/textis able to represent' (1992, pp. 134135). In this sense, Ratzel's conceptionof space himprofoundly frompositivistgeogdistinguishes as one of its despitehis oftenbeingpresented raphy, most influentialadvocates.For Ratzel, space remains,in fact, a form of intuition: [ForRatzel],the initialtask of the geographer is that of "understanding the conditions" (which may, indeed, be "objective")under whose "influence space becomes a subjective which for us";the conditions formof intuition individual of our conceptions space. produce Conditions which,if conceived... specifically withrespectto geographical space... referto a muchbroader and generalvision of the world within andtheroleof the scienceof geography it - to Ratzel'smind,... coterminous with the to rationalize the sphereof the politiattempt cal'. (Farinelli,1992, p. 135) ForRatzel,geographical spacebecomessomething seen as abstract, essentiallysupra-local, something the productnot of an unchanging (andthusmeasurable) relationshipbetween immobile physical objects,but ratherthe resultof a web of relations between dynamic (albeit physically determined) politicalentities(Farinelli,1992, p. 136). For this reason, Ratzel bemoans the dependenceof geoon cartographical ones, graphicalrepresentations andconteststhe reduction of material, historically of the lived spacesto thepuregeometries produced, 'it is indeed the map: polemic against "geometrism"as an overtlyreductive andschematicinterpretativemodel of geographicalspace that best characterizesthe Ratzelian oeuvre' (Farinelli, 1992, p. 137). Ratzel,Farinelli (2003, p. 125) sustains,is quite consciousof thefactthatthe 'geometrical' grammar is but a rhetorical tool - as effectiveas such a tool maybe. He is awareof the factthatthe worldis not andthatscientificknowledgeis simplyan orderly, orderly/ordering way of knowing.This is why he daresto proposeanorganic theoryof the state- and a scientific of geographical it: theory spaceto sustain

with Ratzel,for the first time ever,bourgeois wouldservenotas society'scritique geography of the Statebut, rather, it would be the State, conceivedas "thegreatest of man'sworksupon the Earth", the culmination "of all phenomena of thediffusion of life",thatwould,as supreme ... Ratzeltries, subject,claimall of geography in fact,to legitimizetheexistence[of the State] in scientificterms;he does not denythe political function of geographical buthe knowledge, seeks to adaptthis role to the requisites of the new bourgeois thatnow coinorder, requisites cide, toutcourt,withthoseof the Stateitself. (Farinelli,1992, p. 141) The complex historyof the Ratzelianconceptual universereflects,indeed,a formidable tension.It is a tensionbetweenthe effortsof twentieth-century to affirm academicgeography's implicitparadigm its epistemologies as coinciding with the 'deep structure' of geographical space, on the one hand, andits concurrent to mask(to the pointof attempts the politicalimpetusof such an operaforgetting) tion. The translation of Ratzel'sthoughtinto 'normal' geography(and,more specifically,into 'political geography') rendered possible the isolation of a geography entrusted with 'thepolitical'(political geography, thatis) and the remainder of geoconceivedof fromthatmomenton as neugraphy, tral,scientific,'a-political'. Farinelli 'Ratzelis geography'slast individual', (1992, p. 140;emphasisadded)insists, 'anindividual, nonetheless,who is the firstto claim a role not only vis a vis society but also the State;[but]any such individual in crisis'. Ratzel is, constitutively, is markedby this crisis, and it is perhapsfor this reasonthathis legacypassesdownto us in theform thatit does.Vidalde la Blache- a stategeographer par excellence- is the firstto alimentthe mythof Ratzelthe determinist, a myththatwill simplybe across the reproduced paradigmswhich travelled Itis withthroughout geography. twentieth-century in the shadowof this myththat 'geometrical' geographical spacehascolonizedourwaysof conceivto thisform ing thepolitical- andeventhecritiques of knowledge.However, as Farinelli (1992, p. 147) remindsus, the experienceof the Nazi Geopolitik demonstrates that'a highpriceis paidfor tragically the expulsion from geographicalmemory of the natureof the nexus between science problematic and ideology; the price of the reductionof geographyto an immediateand declaredideology'. And of the reduction of geopoliticsto biopolitics. 397

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CLAUDIO MINCA

The ghost of Geopolitik Even thoughCavalletti is carefulto note thatRatzel's Politische Geographie should not be conflated

withNazibiogeography or simplyreduced to those Ratzelianpassages adoptedby 'Hitler's geograhe none the less maintains pher'KarlHaushofer, thataccusingRatzelof determinism andnationalism becausehe linksa peopleto a giventerritory is much too simplistican interpretation. Ratzel, acaffirms itself (2005, p. 208), 'did not write Andit is whengeography cordingto Cavalletti definitively Politische Geographie in order to translate geoas a politicalpracticethatit lays open the doors to graphicalconceptsinto a national(ist) projectbe- the camp, allowing Geopolitik to enter and the most cause his biogeography was alreadypolitical:the violentanddecisivesubjectof geography (andthe notionof the stateas living organismwas already political)to emerge. If we agree with Farinelli's interpretation, presentin [Ratzel'sconceptionof] the oecumene'. If this is true, what relationcan we envision be- Haushofer'sgeographyno longer appearsas an tween such a contestedinheritance, and the affir- ideologicalandpseudo-scientific that degeneration mationof the modemstate- a statelackinga geo- marksa breakwith the evolutionary progressof nomosandintenton takingto its extreme modem bourgeoisgeography. graphical Quite the contrary: consequences the constitutive ambiguity of its Haushofer'sGeopolitikbecomes simply another territooriginaryspatialization? productof the dissolutionof the European The Geopolitikexperimentis illustrativehere rial nomos; an attempt - albeit doomed to failure Haush- to grant a theoretical-geographical veneer to the (Haushofer, 1925).Accordingto Farinelli, ofer is the directheir to - and most faithfulinter- tragicrevelation of theriftbetweennascitaandnapreterof - the positivistgeographythatbecomes zione, between physis and nomos, that the Nazi biin the finaldecadesof the nineteenth opolitical machinewould quickly take to its exconsolidated Haushofer Thegrandprojectof the Geois, indeed,'thefirstto revealits tremeconsequences. century. andhiddennature. All the while, howev- politik was nothingother,therefore,than the exforgotten er, withoutbeing awareof doing so, for awareness treme (and thus tragicallybanal) expression of necessitates memory; a memory of which geo- bourgeoisspatialideologythatherelays bareits ingraphical knowledgehadbeen stripped by thepos- escapablypolitical nature- but that in doing so, itivistGeographie' 1992,p. 241). Thisis comes to coincide with the political tout court, (Farinelli, a key passagein understanding therelationship be- spawninga monsterthatstill todaywe struggleto tween the dissolutionof the geographical nomos recognize as our own. Haushofer'sgeopolitics, identifiedby Schmitt,and the emergenceof the Farinelli(1992, p. 237) insists,was aboveall a reof exceptiontheorizedby Ag- searchagenda(as fallaciousas it may have been). spatialarchitecture amben.ReadingHaushofer as heirto thebourgeois While for RudolfKjell6ngeopoliticswas nothing of the Stateas a geographgeographicaltraditionsignifies, indeed, locating otherthan'the doctrine his confusedgeographical theorizing firmlywithin ical organismor spatial phenomenon'(in other the wombof the politicalculturethatproduced the words,thatwhich Ratzelprescribed as the task of definitive indistinction betweengeopoliticsandbi- political geography),for Haushofer,Geopolitik it was to become opolitics,nomosandphysis,zo"andbios. Perhaps was something entirelydifferent: the mostscathingcritique of Geopolitik datesback 'the science of the forms of politicallife existing to 1929,writesFarinelli (1992,p. 235), andit is that withinvitalnatural spaces;a scienceseekingto unof SigfriedPassarge: derstand suchformsin theirrelation of dependence
with terrestrial manifestations ... and historical

that[his] academicgeography was a scientific enterprise, while Geopolitik was an ideoandthusfalselogical activity- as a motivated ly objectiveknowledge.[And] it is precisely the separation betweenGeographieand Geopolitik that is the result (and, in analytical terms, the reflection)of the definitiveabanof all of geodonment,in inter-war Germany, graphical knowledgeto the realmof ideology.

who definedit as "thecircusof linguisticacrobatics".In this definitionwe can see the


scorn of an academic geographer ... for the

transformations' (Farinelli,1992, p. 237; on Kjellen see also Holdar,1992). Not by accidentis the word'Politik'preceded by that little prefix 'geo'. This prefix means muchanddemandsmuch.It relatespoliticsto

amateur thatis KarlHaushofer. AlthoughPassarge'sjudgementmay have been correct,it was founded upon a mistaken assumption: 398

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GIORGIO AGAMBEN AND THE NEW BIOPOLITICAL NOMOS

the soil. It rids politics of arid theories and teenth-century bourgeoisgeography,a rebellious senselessphraseswhichmighttrapourpoliti- offspringwho chose to overturn the established orcal leadersinto hopelessutopias.It putsthem der between politics and knowledge that had back on solid ground. Geopolitik demon- broughtaboutthe triumph of cartographic reason. strates the dependence of all political deveHaushofer'sGeopolitikis born at the momentin which 'the scienticismof [academic]Geographie lopments on the permanent reality of the soil. of furnishing 1925, ... showsitself utterly (Haushofer, incapable popp. 33; emphasisadded) ularopinionwith the necessaryideologicalreference pointsthatwouldallowforthemobilization of ideas of his intel- [national] meaning exacted by [state] power' the Social Darwinist Combining FriedrichRatzel (an influence (Farinelli,1992, p. 248). Geopolitikbecomesjust lectual forefathers that was, as I have arguedabove,far from direct) that: the first form of bourgeoisgeography'deandRudolfKjellen,together withthetheorizations claredly and exclusively dedicated to providing ideof Mackinder Haush- ological support to political power' (Farinelli, (whomhe greatlyadmired), ofer arguedthatin orderto 'survive',the German 1992, p. 249; emphasisin the original). Inthisoptic,it becomesimpossible state would necessarilyneed to achieveits lebento reducethe Haushofer himselfnever Geopolitikexperimentto simply an episode, the sraum.Moreimportantly, theracialdeterminism thatdistinguished fruitof anomalous conditions. It promoted historical-political Nazi 'science' (on this question see especially is Haushofer's Farinelliinsists,thatregeography, Bassin, 1987a, 1987b;Heske, 1987, 1988, 1994). establishesthe relation(abandoned by nineteenthIn Haushofer'sRatzelian understanding, it was centurystategeography) betweenphysical,matespace, not race, thatwas the ultimatedeterminant rial space and the geometries of geographical of the destiny of the nation, and throughout the space, spacesmadeto coincidein orderto sustain 1930sand1940stheMunichgeographer published the political and ideological needs of the nationin its arrogance many articlesthat were criticalof Nazi racialre- state.The Geopolitik experiment, search. Indeed,withintheoriginalvisionof Haush- reflectingthe powerof the Reich, actuallyends up ofer's Geopolitik, 'it was not ideology ... that de- re-establishing theprimacy of thesubject of knowltermined our ways of thinkingspacebut,quiteon edge overits objects:'havingdisappeared fromthe the contrary, spatialrealitiesthatshapedour ideo- Geographie,submerged by the weight of the obto the subjectwas to forcelogies' (Farinelli,1992, p. 238). Herelay the theo- ject, all thatremained reticalinnovativeness it is re-affirm itself of theGeopolitik (in ideological fashion) project; fully thusthatit attempted to legitimizeits distinctform through the Geopolitik, a veritable of the "revenge of scientificity. subject",[whose] geopolitical virulence was diFarinelli does not denythe influenceof Ratzel's rectly proportionalto its geographicalsilence' on Haushofer's an in- (1992, pp. 243-244). politicalgeography thought; fluencewithoutwhichthe spatialtheorythatlay at Haushofer's overturns, indeed,even Geopolitik theheartof Geopolitik wouldhavesimplynotbeen the bourgeois commonsense thatpreceded Ratzel: the he notes that the in the None the of essential of less, possible. ways assumption futility official which Haushofer adoptsthe organictheoryof the geographicalknowledge for political power.For of Haushofer(1945), rather, state,as well as Ratzel'sscientificunderstanding geopoliticsis drivenby an or do not evolution elaboration the need to space, represent imagesof theworldthatcanbe produce of the Leipziggeographer's its useful to - and used by - leaders called to shape the thoughtbut,rather, falsificationif not degeneration. For Ratzel, the political destinyof theirpeople. It is this shift in for and are struggle space position the 'essence'of perspectivethat,following on the heels of Ratzeas theywill lian organicism,producesa cognitive monster:a the state,nottheobjectof its dominion, become for Haushofer andthe expansionist geog- form of geographical knowledgethat, on the one evraphiesof the Reich.Haushofer's spatialtheoryis hand,justifiesitself by appealsto the 'objective not only antithetical to Ratzel'sconception butalso idence' of scientificdiscourse,a discoursewhich, much more ingeniousand simplistic;and despite as we well know,reduceseverythingto the same its professed dynamism,essentially static in its measure,that is, to the horizontalgeometriesof conceptions(Farinelli,1992, p. 244). space;on the otherhand,a geographgeographical Haushofer heir,but ical knowledgethatmarriessuch pretencesto scimaybe Ratzel'sillegitimate he is also - if not above all - the offspring of nine- entificity withthecelebration of a peopleandits in@The author 2006 @2006 SwedishSocietyforAnthropology Journal and Geography compilation

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CLAUDIO MINCA

Ratzel'stheorization exorabledestiny,translating of living space into a culturaland political statement affirmingthe superiority and right to existence (as a worldpower)of the German nation.It is here, indeed, that Geopolitik'scrucial contradiction lies: the respectof the natural and havingaffirmed of certainspaces (calling historicalattributes for the re-unification of a greater Deutschland as a morphological, andracultural-linguistic cial whole) in orderto sustainthe expansionary aims of the state, [while this latter]as an imperialiststatenecessitatedinsteadthe total annulmentof such attributeswithin an abstract and absolute space - the Ratzelian Raum. (Farinelli,1992,p. 246) Haushofermay speak of space, but he thinks of concludes,andit is withinthis laplaces, Farinelli tentcontradiction thattherootof his failurelies, as well as theviolentlybiopolitical rootthatopensthe doorsto thecamp,to let in thenormalization of exof the subjectin Haushception.Theviolentreturn - preciselybecauseof its conoferiangeography and hidden becauseof matrix, bourgeois tradictory - vanishesintotheNazi its pretences to scientificity of vortex,into the macabre tanatopolitical triumph the spatialization of the ban, renof the structure deringitself, at the end,essentiallyfutile.The mobile caesura thatcuts throughthe Germannation can thuslaterbe explained, justifiedas a degeneration- and not as the rottenfruitof a structure of exceptioninaugurated already by themodembourgeois statewhich, at a certainpoint in its history, its role in granting abandons meaningto the world; thatis, its very spatialontology. Towards a new Nomos? Theday aftertherevelation of thetortures inflicted on the detaineesof AbuGhraib, MassimoCacciari andcurrent (2004),Venetian Mayorof philosopher the city, writesa briefeditorialon the Italiandaily la Repubblica entitled'Ii maleradicale'('Absolute on thebanal comments Evil'). Inhis piece,Cacciari natureof the 'evil' thatis being revealedin those fashion daysto the eyes of all in sucha scandalous and urgesnot to considerthe Abu Ghraibepisode as somethingunthinkable, as somethingsomehow removedfrom us. The exceptionhas become the - andinnorm- this is my reading of his argument 400

habitsourhousesandourstreets,insofaras thepermanentstateof exceptionthatthe Waron Terror is to enact corresponds to a multi-scalar attempting bodies.The geographyof nationaland individual whereof the tortures thusbecomesa key factorin the biopolitical understanding regimeof exception 2004a, 2004b). (Gregory, We shouldthereforeask ourselveswhetherthe machineputintomotionby thenew tanatopolitical of warof the current Amerstrategies pre-emptive - andby the explicitbiopolitiican administration cal transgression of the norm - marksthe emera new of sovereignsubject,set on imposing gence a geopoliticsof 'facts'and 'dea new Geopolitik, cisions', free of the bourgeois hesitations that broughtabout the failure of Haushofer'sgrand project.Is whatwe arewitnessingtoday,as Agamben appears to argue,the affirmation of a new biopoliticalnomos,made possible simplyby the exforceto imposeit and,moreoistenceof sufficient ver,a politicalsubjectwillingto adoptit, willingto a permanent zone of indistinction between produce the spacesof thenormandthe spacesof its suspension, of its (dis)application?Reflecting upon American geo-biopoliticalexceptionalismtoday to fican perhaps provideus with the opportunity nally come to termswith ourdisturbing proximity to the Nazi project,to findthe courageto confront it once andfor all and,especially,to ask, together withGiorgioAgamben,'howcanwe avoidthe catresultsof this proximity'? astrophic InLapotenzadelpensiero,Agamben urgesus to readKafka'sshortstoryDerBau,in whichthewriter describesthe obsession of an animaloccupied withtheconstruction of anunbreachable den;a den that,as timepasses,revealsitself to be a trapwithoutescape.'Butis thisnotpreciselywhathappened to thepoliticalspaceof Western nation-states', Agamben(2005, p. 327) asks himself, within which 'thehomes(thepatrie)thattheselatterhavestruggled to buildhavebecome,at theend,for the "people" that were to inhabit them, simply deadly the triumph of traps?'For the Italianphilosopher, the biopoliticaldimensionof this 'trap'marksthe demise of Westernpolitical space. In the modern era,Agamben(2005, p. 371) argues,Western politics conceivedof itself as the enactment of a collective historicalmissionor task(an opera)on the partof a people or a nation.Such a politicaltask, suchanopera,coincidedwitha metaphysical task; thatis, withthefulfilment of man's(sic) purposeas a rationalbeing. But the problemsintrinsicin the determination/identification of this task emerge

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AGAMBEN AND THENEWBIOPOLITICAL GIORGIO NOMOS

with increasingforce with the end of the First whichhad World whenthenomosof theEarth War, a fatal into andthe the enters crisis, guided political nation-state European begins to realizethe emptiness of its historical mission.Intheimpossibility of a new ends up defining purpose,the nation-state andcontrolof biological claimingthereproduction anddecisivehistorical task. life itself as its ultimate For this reason,it is a fundamental misundertotalitarian to conceiveof thegrand standing experas simplyputting imentsof thepastcentury intoaction, albeitin extremeform,the declaredmissions of the nineteenth-century nation-state: namely,nationalism and imperialism(Agamben, 2005, p. thispaper, 328).As I havetriedto arguethroughout the dissolutionof the nomosof the Earthhas cornot only to a politicalcrisis but also to responded a crisisof thenation-state projecttoutcourt.In this of the twentieth sense,the totalitarianisms century constitute trulytheotherfacetof theHegelian-Kosojeviannotionof the 'endof history':'Western' its historical to havereached telosand ciety appears all thatremainsis an inevitabledepoliticization of the social,enactedby theunstoppable forcesof the of bioeconomy- but also by the reconfiguration logical life itself as the supreme politicaltask(Agamben,2005, p. 329). In such an understanding, moderntotalitarianisms may be conceivedof as the instauration, by meansof the stateof exception,of a legal andpermanentstateof civil war;a civil war thatpermits the physicaleliminationnot only of politicalenemies but also of whole categoriesof citizenswho, for one reasonor another, cannotbe integrated into the political system. It is thus that 'the voluntary creationof a permanent stateof exception ... has becomeone of theessentialpractices of contempoeven those states, rary popularly perceived as "democratic"' 2004, p. 11).Thestateof (Agamben, exceptionthus tendsto increasingly presentitself as the dominantparadigm of governancein conandever-fluid temporary politics,as a fundamental between democracy thresholdof indeterminacy andabsolutism. At thisthreshold, the sovereign does notonlydecidetheexception: 'he (sic) now,de facto,produces the situation of his decisionon the as a consequence exception'(Agamben,1995, p. 190; 1998, p. 170; see also 2004, p. 49). Thepermanent stateof exceptionis thusnota dictatorship butsimplya 'spacefree of law'(2004,p.68), andit is forthisreason thatCarl Schmitt,alreadyin the 1950s, warnedagainstthe risksof theexception becomingthe norm- andex-

plicitlyaccusedAmerican foreignpolicy of having theambiguous lineof exceptionality alwaystreaded and exception,thuscontributing to the progressive dismemberment of the European nomoswithout,at the same time, proposing/imposing another,preof maintaining a globalspaciselywiththeintention basedwithin'forcewithoutsignificance', tialorder an orderwithoutterritory. Whatwe witnesstodayis nota newiuspublicum basedwithina newAmerican nomos, Americanum, becausetheaimof thepermanent stateof exception is preciselythatof notdefininga stablerelation between political-juridical order and territorybut, rather,of always keeping open the possibilityof between playing at the thresholdof indistinction the norm and its (dis)application. The 'localized dislocation'that marksthe political paradigmof modernityof which Agambenspeaks is thus inwitha voidatits centre,a geoscribinga geography a geography that lackinganyspatialtheory; graphy and withdismembers continually produces spaces in whicheverything is, literally,possible.In these spaces,not only is everythingallowed,but the relationbetweennormand exceptionis based upon the event, not the order- as on London'sUndergroundthatwarmJulyday - thusleavingan enormous, previouslyunthinkable space to sovereign decision,a decisionableto move,atwill, withinthe confinesof the (dis)application of the norm. Notes
1. My adoption here of the conceptof 'bourgeoisgeography' Farinelli's use of the termto referto theErdechoesFranco kundetradition (see Farinelli,1992) and,morespecifically, to its criticalrendering of modern spatialtheory. - on 2. Usually (problematically) translated as 'potentiality' this question see Minca,2005. 3. TheclaimthatRatzel's'geography an of the State'provided alternative spatialtheoryto that advancedby (positivist) 'state geographies' that dominated the disciplineduringa large partof the XX centuryis one of FrancoFarinelli's centralclaimsin his criticalre-reading of the historyof the thatthe Ratzelian discipline.This is not to say, nonetheless, - those vision was the only such 'alternative' understanding that years also saw the emergenceof otherunderstandings fundamentally challengedthe orthodoxyof the discipline, mostnotablythoseof EliseeReclus(1894, 1905-08).

Claudio Minca Department of Geography Royal Holloway University of London Egham, Surrey UK

E-mail:claudio.minca@rhul.ac.uk 401

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CLAUDIO MINCA

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