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Notes – Detention and Hunger Strikes


“Since government had made control an essential task of the state, the increasing difficulty
facing states wanting to prevent or channel the mobility of strangers across their borders was
presented as a danger to society and to the state itself” (492)

“While deportation is an explicit form of exclusion from the territory of the state, detention is both
‘enclosure’ within a camp or prison, and exclusion from the receiving society” (493)


2005 – more than 500 people being held

“in the growing body of popular and scholarly studies on the ‘war on terror,’ the most interesting
and popularized analogy used to identify the status of Guantanamo prisoners is the figure of
homo sacer” (408)

“quoting a US senator, Slavoj Zizek underlines how the prisoners are regarded as expendable
biological creatures: “The inmates at Guántanamo were those that were missed by the bombs.”

A leaked logbook of the interrogation of Mohammed al-Qahtani, a high-value prisoner, records

the following:
[alQahtani] was interrogated for 18 to 20 hours a day for 48 of 54 days; he was doused
with water and kept in a room air-conditioned to induce hypothermia; he was hooded and
menaced by a dog; he was injected with fluids and forced to urinate on himself” (409)
(classic instance of sovereign violence) (409)

Let us now read the detailed and nuanced regulations found in the unclassified Standard
Operating Procedures for Guántanamo:
Detainees will receive two twenty minute recreation periods a week. Detainees will receive
two five minute showers a week. . . . The . . . exception to this policy will be detainees
being interrogated. . . . The detainee will receive a water bottle when his reward level is
changed to a one or he has completed his discipline for destroying or damaging a water
bottle. . . . At times, personnel will give out special rewards outside of the normal reward
system. For the special reward of a roll of toilet paper, the following procedure will apply:
give the detainee the roll of paper, if the detainee tries to force the roll into the toilet or
passes it out to other detainees, confiscate the roll of toilet paper. . . . If medical says they
must be at the appointment, they cannot refuse. If medical says [treatment] can wait
another day, allow the detainee to refuse; however; they will be disciplined for failure to
obey. (409)

“Sovereign power, biopower, and disciplinary power are all deployed in the camp” (409)

“biopower has always needed sovereign exceptionalism to demarcate between those citizen-
subjects who are domestic/domesticized subjectivities and those subjects who are to be cast
outside” (409)
Notes – Detention and Hunger Strikes

“Agamben theoretically privileges the importance of exceptional sovereign power over the type
of power that Foucault theorizes to be operating in and producing the “everyday life” of a
normalizing society” (409-10)

“one can make Agamben’s reading more Foucauldian by exploring how subject formation is
closely related to sovereign statehood and the violent exclusionary discourses that put it into
effect.” (410)

“the production of the biopolitical body has long operated in tandem with a regime of truth that
produces a demarcation of self and other, a process that is marked by culture and history. The
sovereign power to put bodies into a zone of indistinction does not follow Agamben’s account.”

“While the former technology of power [discipline] is individualizing, or as Foucault puts it, is
concerned with “the manufacturing of individuals,” the second technology [biopower] is totalizing
in that it brings together and amasses docile bodies, then observes and acts upon this
assembled body known as the population/species” (411)

“For Agamben, the entry of biological life into political calculations has always been the original
activity of sovereignty” (413)

“It is in such periods of crisis that sovereign power’s exceptionalism is clearly seen, for it
demarcates domains that are subject to “normal” law and conduct from domains that would be
regarded as “foreign” and exceptional” (413)

“In the contemporary articulation of security, sovereign power constructs domains “outside” of
law and “normal” society, such as in Guantánamo Bay, which in turn makes possible “normal”
law and “normal” society” (414)

“If “modern statecraft is modern mancraft,” then sovereign subjectivity would be that form of
subjectivity that the state creates and fosters. In return, such subjects go on to produce the state
and conduct its violent business.” (416)

“Prison camps are “legitimated” by a regime of truth and classification intrinsic to biopower,
which provides petty bureaucrats, border patrol agents, intelligence interrogators, and so on,
with the authority to implement sovereign violence on physical bodies. The local decisions and
violence are committed by petty bureaucrats who decide on a case-by-case basis which bodies
will be tried in military tribunals” (416)
- like Ticktin (arbitrary decision-making based on some kind of ethic - humanitarian?)
“My point here is that sovereign violence needs and capitalizes on sovereign subjects in order to
produce deadly effects. The killing and violence itself may be conducted and administered by
bureaucrats, but it requires citizen-subjects to mobilize the will and resources necessary for the
sovereign violence” (418)

800 people in Guantanamo since 2002, about half released (from Western countries) (419)
Notes – Detention and Hunger Strikes

“if in the classical Foucauldian terminology sovereign power is about “taking or granting life,”
and biopower is about “letting live and making life,” then what can be said about the power
operating in Guántanamo that “forces to live” when prisoners are carefully controlled to prevent
them from committing suicide” (419-420)
 unlike homo sacer, can’t be killed or sacrificed

“punishment and interrogation are orchestrated so that the use of violence does not result in
death” (420)

“Therefore it is correct to say that what goes in Guantánamo Bay is neither “letting live” nor
“taking life,” but instead “making live,” or even “forcing to live.” (420)

not just power of sovereign exception – “multiple technologies of power that are at work in the
day-to-day administration of this space” (420)

“The production of homo sacer is… supplemented by a regime of truth that identifies certain
marks of difference (and carriers of those marks) as inferior and dangerous” (421)

“neither Agamben, nor even Foucault, talk much about the intersubjective construction of the
identity of the West vis-à-vis its other(s). The disciplinary techniques and regime of modernity
did not emerge from Europe itself but from the interactions in the periphery during Europe’s
imperial adventures” (422)

“techniques of power that attempt to individualize, divide, and discipline bodies feed back into
and justify the conditions of possibility for the exceptional logic in the articulation of emergency
powers” (425)

“What accounts for this difference are the marks of difference on a subject’s body (race, religion,
national background, and ideology) that all come in to play at the ground level when petty
bureaucrats get to decide who is to be treated according to what standard of operation” (426)

treatment of “Tipton Three”: not product of sovereign violence, “but of a vengeance informed by
a certain racist bias. Their capture, torture, and treatment was all made possible by a prior initial
racial profiling” (426)

“sovereign power needs the classification, hierarchization, and othering provided by a

regime of truth in order to conduct its violent power. Only certain types of people could
be rendered as bare life and thrown into a zone of indistinction” (427)

“The theoretical priority that Agamben gives to sovereign power is reversed when it is shown
that biopower makes it possible for the petty agents of the state to conduct sovereign violence.
Sovereign power is informed and shaped by biopower” (428)