Biopolitics of a Face: Masks and Sovereignty
March 25 , 2014
Foucault and Biopolitics
• Foucault looks at biopolitics in the context of the transition of making a life, and
defining life as a sovereign, allowing the life to continue its natural course until
• This is where the standard of “norms” come into place – ideas of normalcy are a
product of biopolitics.
• Sovereignty is not the sword that hangs over you, but the life that determines who
• Biopolitics is the production of life. It’s not the disciplinary power and biopolitics,
but that one is the extension of the other.
• While the body that we have is defined by the state, they are multiple and share
ascribed similarities – we are told what defines us as people and living humans.
• The face is the evidence that provides the evidence for evidence to be possible – it
is biopolitial in the sense that you are described by who you are in the context of
how society determines your description (rather than their personality). Your face
describes who you are, and this is verified by the state’s requirement for photo
• By looking at your face on your identification, do you really see yourself as you
define yourself? Or do you see the person that the police see and define – the
identification determined by the state?
Performing the Mask
• The Mask is the projection of the persona into the world – an identity.
• The product of the mask in combination with the person, is something new.
• Why wear the mask? Why are there masks at almost every protest that occurs?
• While we believe that masks hold no special properties, we act as though we do.
We employ masks as a form of protection during times of chaos, confusion, and
• We can identify masks that have become universally adversarial in their nature
(e.g. those of the Occupy Wall Street, Quebec student protests, etc.) have
established the mask as a symbol of solidarity and resistance.
• The face has not only been reclaimed, but resurrected and openly hostile towards
the state and its methods of identifying its subjects.
• How can we be sure this identification of the state actually exists?
• The State of Exception. The removal of rights done to defend the ability to
have rights. We exist as subjects waiting to be constituted by the loss of
constitutional respect. • We no longer have th