Art and Ethics: Shifts from Biopolitics to Necropolitics

24 - 26 September, 2014

S:PAM organises a three day intensive specialist course with guest lecturer Prof. Dr. Marina Grzinic (Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, and ZRC SAZU-Scientific and Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Science and Art) during which we will examine the political and ethical dimensions of contemporary art in the present times of neo-liberal global capitalism and migration. This involves rethinking the notion of sovereignty (imperium) of Fortress Europa and an analysis of the prevailing discourses on identity, migration, integration and globalisation. We will discuss how the transition from biopolitics to necropolitics relates to the questions of art, politics and ethics; what it means for contemporary performing art practices and production.
The specialist course will consist of a theoretical introduction, workshop sessions and a presentation by a guest artist followed by a discussion. Participants in the workshop will be invited to present their past, ongoing or planned projects (artistic and/or research) to be discussed in the group and in relation to the topic of the doctoral school.


In his famous essay 'Necropolitics' (2003) the African philosopher and political scientist Achille Mbembe argued that Michael Foucault's concept of biopolitics is no longer sufficient to explain contemporary relations of power. Unlike biopolitics that governs from the perspective of the production and regulation of life, necropolitics regulates life from the perspective of a production and regulation of death. Mbembe observes how life is actually regulated within the extreme conditions of a war machine and of global capitalism. The notion of 'necropolitics' refers to life reduced to its bare existence, in other words, to life at the verge of death. While, as suggested by Marina Grzinic, Foucault's biopolitics as mode of governmentally can be described in an axiomatic way as "make live and let die", in Mbembe' s necropolitics this expression is rephrased as to "let live and make die".
In this specialist course, we study the following research questions along the paradigm shift from biopolitics (Foucault) to necropolitics (Mbembe):

  • What does the implementation of Mbembe's notion of necropolitics mean with regard to art studies and migration studies?
  • How does necropolitics account for the ways in which the political, under the guise of the fight against terror, or the normative theories of democracy, demarcate the border of Fortress Europa?
  • How does necropolitics account for the ways in which the 'migrant as other' is divested of political status and is reduced to what the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben would call "bare life"? How is their state of exception inscribed along normative theories of democracy and neo-liberalism?
  • How are these questions inscribed in contemporary works of art? How do these works of art trigger issues that invite the spectator to reflect on the residing necropolitics of Fortress Europa?



  • 10-13 Introduction on the overall topic of politics, ethics and performing arts in connection with the running activities of the research groups S:PAM and PEPPER (Philosophy, Ethology, Politics and Performance) - Christel Stalpaert
  • 14-16 Introductory lecture with Marina Grzinic: "From Biopolitics to Necropolitics"


  • 10-13 Presentation and discussion of participants' research projects and art works connected to the topic (workshop session). Participants will be invited to prepare presentations of their ongoing, past or upcoming projects they would like to elaborate and receive feedback in this framework.
  • 14-16 Screening and discussion of video/film "Images of struggle/Decoloniality" (Grzinic & Smid director's cut 40.00 min)


  • 09-12 Seminar session with Marina Grzinic and Aneta Stojnic: " Capitalists modes of life and Implications in Arts"
  • Are we capable of action, critical analysis, resistance, or better to say insurgency in contemporary neo-liberal and capitalist times? If so, how? What is the social bond that structures neoliberal global capitalism? How to talk about ideology, subjectivities, power and life, if it is said that we live today in a world of post-ideology and of post-politics conditions?
  • 13-15 Guest artist Marissa Lobo (Vienna): work presentation and discussion with the artist
  • 15-17 Conclusions and Feedback with M. Grzinic, C. Stalpaert and participants of the course moderated by A. Stojnic;

Bios of the invited speakers

Prof Dr Marina Grzinic (1958) is doctor of philosophy and works as researcher at the Institute of Philosophy at the ZRC SAZU (Scientific and Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Science and Art) in Ljubljana. She also works as a freelance media theorist, art critic and curator. She is Professor at The Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. Marina Gržinić has published hundreds of articles and essays and several books.

Marissa Lobo artist and activist born 1975 in Brasil, living and working in Austria. Lobo studied history in Bahia and post conceptual art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. She is coordinator of the cultural department of the association Maiz, a self-organisation of migrants, where she creates projects between cultural and political education. The winner of the Willemer prize she involved in the black and migrants movement, trying to programmatically connect politics, education and art.

Prof. Dr. Christel Stalpaert (°1971) is Professor Theatre, Performance and Media Studies at Ghent University (Belgium) where she is co-director of the research unit S:PAM (Studies in Performing Arts and Media). Her main areas of research are the performing arts, dance and the new media at the meeting-point of philosophy. She has contributed to many journals such as Performance Research, Text & Performance Quarterly, Contemporary Theatre Review and Dance Research Journal and edited such works such as Deleuze revisited: Contemporary Performing Arts and the Ruin of Representation (2003), No Beauty for Me There Where Human Life is Rare: on Jan Lauwers' Theatre Work with Needcompany (2007) and Bastard or Playmate? Adapting Theatre, Mutating Media and the Contemporary Performing Arts (2012). She is a member of the editorial committee of Documenta, Studies in Performing Arts and Film (Academia Press Ghent) and Theater Topics (Amsterdam University Press) and is currently finishing a book on Performing Violent Conflicts and Traumas. Towards an Embodied Poetics of Failure.

Dr. Aneta Stojnic obtained her PhD in Theory of Arts and Media at the University of Arts in Belgrade, with a thesis entitled: Theory of Performance in Digital Art: Towards the New Political Performance (2013). She is the author of various papers, critical reviews and essays on contemporary art and media, published in Serbia, Slovenia and Austria. She was an artist in residence in Tanzquartier Vienna in 2011 and a writer in residence at KulturKontakt Austria in 2012. As an Ernst-Mach Scholarship holder for a research project at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna in 2013 she was teaching the seminar Conceptual art techno bodies: and Cyborg and Queer in new media environment.


  • Michel Foucault, "The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1978--1979 (Lectures at the College de France)"
  • Achile Mbembe, "Necropolitics", Public Culture 15(1): 11–40, Duke University Press: 2003
  • Maria Lugones, "Heterosexualism and the Colonial / Modern Gender System", in Hypatia 
Volume 22, Number 1, Winter 2007, pp. 186-209
  • Marina Grzinic, "Biopolitics and Necropolitics in relation to the Lacanian four discourses"  in Simposium Art and Research: Shared methodologies. Politics and Translation, Barcelona, 6 y 7 de Septiembre de 2012

Research Context

The doctoral school will be realised in the context of PEPPER (Philosophy, Ethology, Politics and Performance), a research group embedded in the research center S:PAM |Studies in Performing Arts & Media. Research at S:PAM is guided by a transdisciplinary approach that brings various artistic, historical and philosophical issues into dialogue with the concept of performativity.
The research community PEPPER aims to host an international research network on the emerging interdisciplinary field of Philosophy, Ethology, Politics and Performance. It takes as a starting point the recent politico-philosophical turn in contemporary performance theory and practice, mainly influenced by the writings of Jacques Rancière and Giorgio Agamben. Politics is conceived by Rancière as 'ways of doing and making' in a given hegemonic framework. In this way, PEPPER aims to develop a new approach for the way in which performing arts are redistributing the political. This so-called 'politico-philosophical turn' also sheds a new light on ethics and ecology, referred to by Isabelle Stengers as 'ethology'.

Organising and Scientific Committee

Prof. Dr. Christel Stalpaert (UGent, Vakgroep Kunst-, Muziek- en Theaterwetenschappen, onderzoeksgroep S:PAM | Studies in Performing Arts & Media)
Dr. Aneta Stojnic (Basileus post-doc research fellow, UGent, Vakgroep Kunst-, Muziek- en Theaterwetenschappen, onderzoeksgroep S:PAM | Studies in Performing Arts & Media)
Drs. Stoffel Debuysere (HoGent School of Arts KASK)

In interuniversity collaboration with

Prof. Dr. Rudi Laermans (KULeuven, Centre for Sociological Research)
Prof. Dr. Kurt Vanhoutte (UA, Research Centre Visual Poetics)