The Biopolitics and Grey Spaces that Define the Lives of Indigenous People

Michel Foucault defined biopolitics as the regulation and control of the life and social order of a population through an authoritative body of the state. Biopolitics, in its most simplistic definition, means the politics of life and death. Within biopolitics there are sometimes gray spaces. Gray spaces are the areas (and sometimes people) that bio-politics cannot touch because, in the eyes of the authoritative people, they do not exist. Most notably, indigenous people often fall into this grey section of politics, in every country.

In countries from America to Palestine to Canada, indigenous cultures are not considered to be living entities, however, they are still living. These countries have their own methods for dealing with indigenous people, however, many of these techniques are similar to one another. One commonly used method is the systematical dismantling indigenous peoples culture, past and future. Specifically, in Australia, with the Aboriginal people and their culture the government regularly takes ‘Half-Caste’ Aboriginal children and places them within white communities that will assimilate them into white culture.

In his article “Biopower, Whiteness and the Stolen Generation: The Arbitrary Power of Racial Classification” Stefan Haderer wrote “As racial absorption of mixed ‘half-caste’ children into mainstream society was promoted and enforced, Australian whiteness became more flexible but also arbitrary, as the concept of whiteness was now understood as a power mechanism and normative political goal pursued by policymakers, governors, and anthropologists. ‘Half-caste’ children were randomly selected and removed from their Aboriginal familial and cultural environment to be educated and trained according to white moral standards.” This quote reflects the earlier statement, that Australian society dealt with biopolitics and the gray spaces that are indigenous people and cultures by trying to destroy their future as a culture. The future that lies with the children that are being taken from them; this occurrence is commonly referred to as the “Stolen Generation” because of the countless numbers of Aboriginal children being taken and forced to conform to white ideals.

In other Western countries and their various time periods this method and many others have taken place. In “The Biopolitics of Settler Colonialism: Right Here, Right Now,” Scott Lauria Morgensen wrote “…we find that Europeans establish Western law and a new People on settled land by practicing … the law that permits eliminating Indigenous peoples while defining settlers as those who replace,” in the beginning of his article. In this quote Morgensen defines that in past Western culture it was perfectly acceptable to eliminate native people and replace them with settlers. In today’s world biopolitics are still prevalent, and even the continuous idea that native people are grey spaces is still a common notion. While the dismantling of native cultures and the idea of politics dictating people’s lives are rejected to the fullest by most western citizens, these events still take place.


Haderer, S. (2013). Biopower, whiteness and the Stolen Generations: The arbitrary power of racial classification [Abstract]. Critical Race and Whiteness Studies,9(2).

Morgensen, S. L. (2011). The Biopolitics of Settler Colonialism: Right Here, Right Now. Settler Colonial Studies,1(1), 52–76. doi:10.1080/2201473x.2011.10648801

Biopolitics: An Overview. (2013, January 21). Retrieved February 19, 2017, from