Chung Hsing Journal of the Humanities (CHJH) seeks articles and essays for a special issue devoted to the topic of “private life.” Over the past decade or two, countless studies employing biopolitical and posthumanist theoretical assumptions have tried to explain what “life” (Greek zoe/bios) is or means today; however, very little of this scholarship has been devoted to the ages old political and philosophical dilemma of “private life.” From the early-19th century on Western society has emphasized private life as a privileged domain of existence distinct from its partner, public life (the public sphere), in that it encompasses a space where everything from family life to leisure pursuits and sexual relations freely take place. Today, however, private life appears increasingly under siege by omnipresent social networks, government and corporate surveillance, and a rhetoric of “sharing” that demands private life be de-privatized, fetishized, or constantly put on display (as vividly portrayed in Dave Eggers’ The Circle). For this special issue of CHJH we seek articles that question these challenges to private life, explore its non-Western cultural dimensions, and examine its history and meanings from a variety of theoretical and/or philosophical perspectives.
Malabou is most interested in the fundamental distinction between symbol
and life. Both the symbol and the symbolic have long had an important
role to play in fields like semiotics and psychoanalysis, not to mention
philosophy as a whole. The symbol is a concrescence of meaning. The
realm of the symbolic is the realm of language, the realm of
abstraction, the realm of linguistic universality. The symbol aggregates
and focuses meaning, abstracting it away from particularities in favor
of a more unified, formal point of focus. “Bio-” on the other hand, the
realm of material life, is often characterized in terms of its lived
particularity, in terms of an irreducible material condition.
That a resistance to what is known today as biopower—the control,
regulation, exploitation, and instrumentalization of the living
being—might emerge from possibilities written into the structure of the
living being itself, not from the philosophical concepts that tower over
it; that there might be a biological resistance to the biopolitical;
that the bio- might be viewed as a complex and contradictory authority,
opposed to itself and referring to both the ideological vehicle of
modern sovereignty and to that which holds it in check: this,
apparently, has never been thought.
Earlier this week, news
of a pregnant woman forced into abortion by her father after her
husband-to-be could not afford her bride price became trending on Sina
Weibo. The father of the bride wanted him to pay 200,000 RMB (30,680
US$) to get married to his daughter.
Bride prices are a long-standing tradition in China. A ‘bride price’ is
an amount of money or goods paid by the groom’s family to the bride’s
family upon marriage. Since China’s gender imbalance has made it more
difficult for men to find a bride, the ‘bridewealth’ prices have gone up
drastically. This holds especially true for the poorer, rural areas in
Death [is] no longer something that suddenly swoop[s] down on life — as in an epidemic. Death [is] now something permanent, something that slips into life, perpetually gnaws at it, diminishes it and weakens it.
Foucault, “The Birth of Biopolitics.” (via barrrrrrs)
There can be little doubt that before very long every
State will have to take in hand seriously the question of
increased population and examine accurately the places
and classes in which increase is most pronounced. The
present troubles with hysterical women are greatly due
to the excess of the female over the male population,
this superfluity having nothing to do and doing it extremely
ill. There is clearly a case where legislation
might rationally diminish the number of female births,
and thus leave enough women to go round without
superfluity. Or, again, the superfluous women might
be compelled to leave the country by a process of lot drawing –
a method employed by the Athenians for
selecting their archons, and one which can be regarded
as the result of their mature consideration.
G.W. Harris, first published in The New Age, 28th December, 1911