Homo sacer vs. homo soccer mom: Reading agamben and foucault in the war on terror

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20 Scopus citations


In the past decade there have been efforts to understand the war on terror through the writings of Michel Foucault and Giorgio Agamben. Some analyses reify certain concepts employed by Foucault and Agamben. Others do not accurately represent the actual occurrence of violence at ground level. Without claiming to present a sovereign gaze on the literature and the reading of sovereign violence in places such as Guántanamo, this article argues that there are at least three central elements that philosophers and theorists might want to reconsider in connection with sovereignty, biopower, and subjectivity: that there is a Derridean logic at play between sovereignty and biopower; that there is a connection between sovereignty and subjectivity informed by a "dangerous connection" between power and knowledge; and that sovereignty is informed by a classifying and hierarchizing regime characteristic of a regime of truth. Although Agamben claims to correct Foucault, he betrays important methodological and epistemological elements of Foucault's work. Nevertheless, there are elements in Agamben's work that can shape our understanding of a "biopolitical reading" of our contemporary era.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)407-435
Number of pages29
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Agamben
  • Biopower
  • Foucault
  • Guántanamo
  • Sovereignty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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