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Biopolitics Biometrics And Border Security Notes

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This is an extract of our Biopolitics Biometrics And Border Security document, which we sell as part of our Critical Security Studies Notes collection written by the top tier of University Of Warwick students.

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*Link - 1.10 Algorithmic Security / 2.1 Identity & Border / 2.5 Popular Culture & the Everyday of Security

Biopolitics, Biometrics & Border Security
Section B:
◦ What can the integration of a 'biopolitics' perspective into the CSS field add to our understanding of security dynamics? Discuss with reference to key concepts and empirical examples. [2018]

How does a Foucauldian perspective of 'biopolitics' enrich our understanding of border security practices? Discuss with reference to empirical examples. [2017]

To what extent does 'biopolitics' enrich our understanding of contemporary politics and security governance? Discuss with reference to empirical examples [2016, 2014]

'Population is a political, economic, scientific, biological problem, it is a problem of power' (Elden,
2008). With reference to this statement AND empirical examples discuss the contribution of
'biopolitics' to the study of contemporary security dynamics. [2015]

'Borders are no longer at the border' (Balibar, 1998). With reference to empirical examples, critically discuss some of the ways in which the functions and characteristics of borders have changed in the aftermath of 9/11. [2015]

In the aftermath of 9/11, attention has increasingly been paid to the ways in which (homeland) security has become reliant on new technologies of surveillance that are deployed, often covertly, on the 'everyday' level. Much of this discourse has arisen out of a Foucauldian concern for biopower and the management of populations.

In The History of Sexuality, Foucault [1978] discusses the emergence of a new technology of power during the mid-18th century called 'biopower'. At this time, new statistical/epidemiological methods pioneered by early demographers gave rise to new knowledge about birth rates, morbidity, life expectancy, marriages,
burials, criminality, etc.

'Life' thus became a discrete, scientific and measurable factor that could be separated from the singularity of individual bodies/experience; and administered, optimized, controlled and governed at the level of populations - i.e. cohorts of biopolitical individuals.
◦ The 'population' - not the state, humans or the environment - is the referent object of analysis/security. Subsequently, it is dealt with 'as a political problem, as a problem which is at once scientific and political, as a biological problem, and as a power's problem' [Foucault]

Sovereignty is no longer constituted by the ability to 'take life and let live' (an individualizing politics of death or 'thanatopolitics'), but the ability to 'make live and let die' (a massifying politics of life). This places the emphasis on regularizing - not disciplining - life by promoting positive enabling elements (e.g. circulation,
flow and movement), and managing contingencies through statistical knowledge.

Circulation & the dispositif of security

In this way, the modern problematic with which biopolitical security practices are concerned, 'is no longer that of fixing and demarcating territory, but that of allowing circulation to take place… of eliminating its inherent dangers, sifting the 'good' from the 'bad', and maximizing the former while eliminating the latter'

Differentiating between 'good' and 'bad' flows requires sophisticated means for identifying probabilities,
patterns/correlations and profiles.
◦ One example is the deployment of biometric surveillance technologies at borders to govern both the mobility and enclosure of bodies  This has become a central feature of homeland security policy in the context of the 'war on terror'.


Rapid advancements in automated and digital interconnectivity have spawned new ways of imagining/practicing security.

Of special interest is the advent of biometrics - i.e. the measurement of life - which refers to 'the technology of measuring, analysing and processing digital representations of unique biological data' such as fingerprints, eye retinas, facial patterns and hand geometry for purposes of identification, verification and access control.

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