University to host biopolitics conference

Graphic by Alan Li

Wilfrid Laurier University is hosting its first annual Biopolitcs Conference. Techne: Wilfrid Laurier University BioPolitical Research Group, in association with the Balsillie School of International Affairs and the International Migration Research Centre held the conference.

The event will take place at the Balsillie School from March 2-4.

The event will be three days long and feature academic workshops focused around the term biopolitics: an intersectional field between politics and biology that was developed by French philosopher, Michel Foucault.

Greg Bird, one of the event organizers and an assistant professor of sociology, as well as Rachel Bangura, master’s student of cultural analysis and social theory, shared some valuable insight to the topic of biopolitics and general information about the upcoming conference.

Bird’s own research focuses on the history of immigration policies in Canada, as well as how security and control play a significant role in biopolitics. Bird’s research will also focus on immigrants coming into Canada, as well, regulating health, the racism attached to immigration and the ways in which national boarders operate.

“My own [research] focuses on temporary foreign workers programs and that the people who are deemed as ill-suited to become Canadians and the programs kind of exploit these individuals.”

Bangura explained how her own research focuses around the biopolitics field of study.

“Right now my MRP is about speaking to Bill C51 and this biopolitics and which bodies are privileged in Canada and the ones that we expel out and the issue of Islamophobia.”

Bill C51, also known as the Anti-Terrorism Act, is an act from the Parliament of Canada that broadens the authority of the national government agencies to easily share information about individuals.

According to Bird, biopolitics is the way in which the human body and life becomes political.

“The easiest way of describing biopolitics is the way in which life itself becomes a political issue in modern contemporary society … How politics actually becomes about governing life and lifestyles; the way people live and how people live,” Bird said.

Bird also explained the importance of the conference is to learn more about this topic and the ways in which we can think critically about this information.

“Part of the event is to teach other students about the problems that we are dealing with and start looking at the world and questions of life and how it’s significant to how politics is done … another part of it is promoting the area of research to teach people about it,” he said.

The conference is set up in a way that is not necessarily for experts, but for a general audience and especially for people who want to learn more and expand their knowledge around the topic of biopolitcs.

“I wouldn’t want to privilege one sort of faculty to go to the event but it’s just for anyone who is open to multiculturalism, diversity, equality, gender, anti-racism. It’s a broad spectrum and speaks to the idea of inclusivity which is really important because Canada is all about being united and diverse,” said Bangura.

“There are a bunch of professors involved at Laurier, all of us have been doing research in biopolitcs for a while, so we kind of decided that we wanted to form our own research group so this event is kind of like an inauguration for our group.”

The biopolitics research group wants to continue to host conferences and events similar to this in the future.

This is the first event of its kind that the group has hosted.

“I think that the way that the event is set up is really good. [Bird] has people coming in from Italy who really know what they are talking about. It’s really good to get an international perspective on these issues that are happening right now,” Bangura explained.

Bird explained how the event will make learning more accessible for students.

“[The event] is open to all students. I know various student groups are coming like LSPIRG and Aboriginal Students Centre and any student that is interested in some of the stuff we are talking about and students involved in the social science and humanities are encouraged to attend,” Bird said.

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