Undergraduate Module Descriptor

POC3106: Biopolitics of Security

This module descriptor refers to the 2018/9 academic year.

Please note that this module is only delivered on the Penryn Campus.


NQF Level 6
Credits 15 ECTS Value 7.5
Term(s) and duration

This module ran during term 1 (11 weeks)

Academic staff

Dr Shubranshu Mishra (Lecturer)





Available via distance learning


‘To say that power took possession of life in the nineteenth century, or to say that power at least takes life under its care in the nineteenth century, is to say that it has, thanks to the play of technologies of discipline on the one hand and technologies of regulation on the other, succeeded in covering the whole surface that lies between the organic and the biological, between body and population’ (Foucault 2003, 253).

Drawing from French philosopher Michel Foucault’s scholarship, this module highlights the focus on life that is at the centre of contemporary politics. Biopolitics is the administration of life through various regulatory apparatuses that monitor, modify, and control life processes to govern a people and achieve ‘docility-utility’ function. Underpinning biopolitics are regimes, institutions of inclusion-exclusion and political rationality also known as governmentality. In this module you will explore the state’s regulatory practices like enumerating population through census and biometric projects, racialised categorisations, and increasing camp and slum based existence. In so doing, you study its effect on identities and people falling in grey areas (refugees/stateless/asylum seekers), prisons and other areas of confinement. This understanding will be facilitated through the conceptual formulation of biopolitics by Michel Foucault, and its reformulation by Giorgio Agamben, Achille Mbembe and Judith Butler, among others. This conceptualization will be supported by a range of empirical work on practices of militarism, persistent insecurity and systems of disciplining and punishing. Topics include borders and mobility, racism and indefinite detention, policing and criminalisation, biometrics, airport security and video-surveillance, encounter killings and secret prisons, and contemporary states of exception backed by laws and policies.

Although no prior knowledge is required, it is expected that students taking this course are interested in contemporary security debates from a theoretical and empirical point of view. A background in social science will be helpful for following the key debates. The module is especially suitable for students studying International Relations, Politics and History. 

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