“Neoliberal Breakdowns: the Biopolitics of the Monstrous” explores non-docile, untamed and unbounded (post)human bodies, interested in possibilities of existence beyond the regulatory regimes of neoliberal optimization. Seeking out the alleged embodiments of breakdown, such as Colson Whitehead’s zombies in his 2011 novel Zone One, I ask how these hybrid creatures offer new grounds for envisioning the human body in a future-oriented way.

My approach is inspired by Donna Haraway’s suggestion that cyborg bodies are “monstrous” in a double sense: they combine organic and non-organic matter, but also ‘demonstrate,’ signifying alternative biopolitical visions. Changing the register from breakdown to breakthrough, this also re-introduces the idea of an ethico-political agency that originates within inhabited bodies, re-activating resistance to the discursive regulatory patterns in a neoliberal biopolitical regime. These monstrous bodies are trans-corporeal, porous, and thus transformational. They can help to build a posthuman lexicon of transformation, hybridity and connectivity.  Ultimately, this entails a vision of life that is centred around the ‘becoming-animal’ of a human existence coextensive with non-human matter. It might seem paradoxical to seek an affirmative biopolitics in the apparently death-bound figures of the zombie, the vampire, or the undead avatar; but these breakdown visions open up cracks in the sheen of late capitalist cocktail-sipping, glittery-dressed “bedraggled drones” (Colson Whitehead), exposing that if a mode of human existence has proven to be a dead end, it is that of unitary, hegemonic self.

This was published in Alluvium, https://www.alluvium-journal.org/2019/08/22/neoliberal-breakdowns-the-biopolitics-of-the-monstrous/


Katharina Donn, “Neoliberal Breakdowns: the Biopolitics of the Monstrous”. Alluvium, 7.4 (2019): n. pag. Web. 22nd August 2019. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7766/alluvium.v7.4.01