When the personal is necropolitical: on Inauguration Day and alliances of hate
Today marks what I believe will be remembered as a new era. We tend to think of historical eras as having neat demarcations, limits we can recall with specific dates and times. “Today this country declared independence”. “On this date, the regime fell”, etc. But historical eras are more like processes that follow a continuum rather than neatly marked portions of time. And yet, I cannot help but see today’s President Donald Trump’s inauguration as the officialization of something that has been a long time in the making: the institution of necropolitics as State policy, no longer disguised or thinly veiled under the pretense of “national interests” or “freedom for all” but as an explicitly declared intention of leaving vast swaths of the world open to harm for the benefit of the very few in Trump’s administration.
In 2001, Achille Mbembe’s On the Postcolony was published in English. In his essays, Mbembe developed the theory of necropolitics wherein he elucidated how Foucault’s ideas of biopower could no longer explain the totality of contemporary forms of subjugation. Necropolitics being a global
expression of sovereignty in which the world is divided into those who are disposable and those who are not, those whose lives can be wasted and those who cannot. In this political order a new form of control is exercised over those whose lives are considered disposable or what Judith Butler would call “those whose lives are ungrievable”. Mbembe’s necropolitics are matters of State and sovereignty however, each of the people who contributed to the point we have reached today have made necropolitics their own. They have gone as far as appropriating and repurposing feminist ideas to attract white women into their fodder. For them, the personal is necropolitical.
Trump’s ascent to power is the ultimate expression of these necropolitics. Born out of an alliance of extreme right elements advocating genocide, internment camps, mass deportations and extreme forms of discipline for anyone that isn’t a compliant white, cisgender man of a certain class. He was brought to power by a combination of extremely conservative white people who will benefit financially and neo Nazi elements that are hoping to institute a racial order that calls back to the 18th century. However, the phenomenon is not confined to US borders. Nigel Farage, the most public face of British right wing populism has been vying for some crumbs from Trump’s administration. In the rest of Europe, we are seeing a relentless push of similar ideologies embodied by the likes of French leader of Front National Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders of the Dutch far-right Freedom Party, Frauke Petry of the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) and Matteo Salvini of Italy’s xenophobic Northern League. It is no coincidence that this weekend, the Euro counterparts of Donald Trump are gathering in a summit to discuss common strategies and shared ideologies.
If neoliberalism, with its constant chipping away at social policies, normalized precarity while rendering some lives disposable, this new ideological turn to the extreme right takes us a step further. This is what I refer to as an “eugenics adjacent” project. It’s not merely that some lives are considered acceptable collateral damage but that some lives are explicitly considered an unnecessary burden. While in its pure form, eugenics is an ideology aimed at controlled breeding to increase desirable heritable characteristics it also involves the systematic death of those who do not possess these desirable characteristics. What else if not “eugenics adjacent” politics are the disproportionate deaths of Black people in the hands of US police, the rates of mass incarceration for Black and Latino populations also in the US, the mass deaths of migrants in the Mediterranean, the institution of policies of control through EU funding that result in mass deaths across African nations to control migrant flows or the promotion and advertising of policies that facilitate the death of the chronically ill, disabled and elderly? When each of these instances lead to the deaths of specific groups that are deemed “undesirable” by these extreme right groups, how else are we supposed to name these policies if not “eugenics adjacent”? The necropolitics as the institution of death affirming technologies and policies, finally officialized through the ascent to power of one of their own.
The next four years are going to be times of resistance across North America and Europe. Up until now I had viewed US domestic policies as separate from those in Europe. These new alliances that seek to seize power based on common white supremacist platforms have a shared goal of hegemonic control for white people. I strongly suspect that the resistance will no longer be local and that just like these eugenics adjacent policies are deployed across the world to advance the interests of the wealthy, in the same way a new form of shared resistance will have to emerge in order to counteract them. I write this not as a desire to posit new theories or ideas but as a need to document where we stand now. I write this mostly to remind myself that when the necropolitics seized power, I assessed the situation to the best of my abilities and I stood for all that is life affirming. At least that will also count as a beginning.
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