The Four Figures of the Anthropocene, Elizabeth Povinelli


As is known, although his histories of sexuality would consume much of his final life, Michel Foucault was not interested in sexuality in and of itself but only in relation to how it entangled itself in modern forms of power—what he called the “technology of life.” Ditto with the four figures and strategies of sexuality: the hysterical woman (a hysterization of women’s bodies); the masturbating child (a pedagogization of children’s sex); the perverse adult (a psychiatrization of perverse pleasure); and the Malthusian couple (a socialization of procreative behavior). The reason Foucault cared about sexuality and its dominant discursive figurations and strategies, was because he cared about the formations of modern power within which he lived. This talk asks, what would the figures of power be if Foucault were writing today in the shadow of climate change, the emergence of the security state, and the shaking of neoliberalism.

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