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The Microbial State

Global Thriving and the Body Politic

2017

Stefanie R. Fishel

The Microbial State

An innovative exploration of the metaphorical power of bodies on global politics and the potential for the planet’s future

Stefanie R. Fishel redefines and extends the metaphor of the body politic and its role in understanding an increasingly posthuman, globalized world politics. Reframing the concept of the body politic to accommodate greater levels of complexity, Fishel suggests, will result in new configurations for the political and social organization necessary to build a world in which the planet’s inhabitants actively thrive.

For three centuries, concepts of the state have been animated by one of the most powerful metaphors in politics: the body politic, a claustrophobic and bounded image of sovereignty. Climate change, neoliberalism, mass migration, and other aspects of the late Anthropocene have increasingly revealed the limitations of this metaphor. Just as the human body is not whole and separate from other bodies—comprising microbes, bacteria, water, and radioactive isotopes—Stefanie R. Fishel argues that the body politic of the state exists in dense entanglement with other communities and forms of life.

Drawing on insights from continental philosophy, science and technology studies, and international relations theory, this path-breaking book critiques the concept of the body politic on the grounds of its very materiality. Fishel both redefines and extends the metaphor of the body politic and its role in understanding an increasingly posthuman, globalized world politics. By conceiving of bodies and states as lively vessels, living harmoniously with multiplicity and the biosphere, she argues that a radical shift in metaphors can challenge a politics based on fear to open new forms of global political practice and community.

Reframing the concept of the body politic to accommodate greater levels of complexity, Fishel suggests, will result in new configurations for the political and social organization necessary to build a world in which the planet’s inhabitants do not merely live but actively thrive.

The Microbial State

Stefanie R. Fishel is assistant professor of political and international theory in the Department of Gender and Race Studies at the University of Alabama.

The Microbial State

Contents
Preface and Acknowledgments
Introduction: Involutionary Politics
1. Corporeal Politics
2. Lively Subjects, Bodies Politic
3. States in Nature, Nature in States
4. Posthuman Politics
Coda: New Metaphors for Global Living
Notes
Index