Greetings, with a broad introduction


Over the next month, I will share research from my book in progress, New Metaphors for Global Living. This research, through the hermeneutic potential of the life sciences and the theoretical insights of science, technology and society studies (STS) and new materialism, gestures toward an idea of connectedness of diverse bodies that broadens understandings of relationality, both as bodies in states, and as states in the international community. Specifically, I borrow genomic and immunological theory, as understood by new scientific research, to argue that heterogeneity is the condition of possibility for the production of new subjectivities and communities.  This is applied through metaphorical frames like the body politic and biomimicry.

A specific and central aim of this research is to apply sustained critical pressure to the individual and the state as currently defined in International Relations.  To aid in this critique, I create an analytical structure able to identify and celebrate plurality without erasing internal diversity, or coding the external as strange and dangerous to a perceived unity within.  I propose a pair of novel metaphorical framings to build a different conception of humanity’s myriad ties to world: Lively vessels and contaminated states provide new metaphors named for the processes that intertwine multiple bodies into composite ones.   These metaphorical conceits recognize that human agency is part of an assemblage of multiple actors, and called attention to the nonhuman beings that aid in keeping the human body, and its biosphere, alive.

International Relations joins in the dialogue between bodies and science by bringing the latter half its title to bear on the discussion: “relations” trumps the “inter-national” through the body politic as a nested set of permeable bodies rather than hard-shelled nation-states competing in anarchical conditions ruled by fear and exclusion. These metaphorical techniques, aided by STS and new materialism, create a language to discuss the processes that intertwine multiple bodies, both the social and the political.  It is crucial to rethink the politics that follow from these entanglements. The question then becomes: What kind of life is possible—what kind of body politic is neededif we think about “nestedness” and symbiosis rather than exclusion, competition, and purity?

8 thoughts on “Greetings, with a broad introduction

  1. I never thought of body politics as something we select; Foucault always made me feel as though it was selected ‘for us’. What sort of body politic is needed?


    • One of my provocations for this work is a quote from Foucault in Quel Corps (1975) “One needs to study what kind of body the current society needs…” Hence, the body as multiple, contaminated, and shared rather than singular, atomistic, and individual. I do believe that there is a productive relationship between the body, the social body and the body politic, and, importantly, that the relationships (and possibilities for change) travel in both directions.


    • Could be any number of things, I suppose. It is a common metaphor for public institutions, both domestically and internationally. I have found medical anthropology literature quite helpful in defining the tripartite idea of bodies (Scheper-Hughes and Lock, especially). While we have a personal body, there are also notions of social bodies that affect us. The body is symbolic, and offers up rich metaphors for social relations (Douglas, 1970), both orderly and disorderly. The body is “good to think with”, as anthropologists say.


      • Okay, okay. This I get! “The body is good to think with” makes more sense. From this perspective, of course, the body multiple feels even a little more multiple than even Mol depicted from that perspective. You might have to unpack it a little slower for the rest of us, though, when you write about it because I was so busy thinking about multiplicity from the Mol perspective that I could not see it from your perspective without some help to remember “Oh, yeah, we’ve been thinking this way for a long, long time…”


  2. The “body is good to think with” is from an essay by Hertz (a student of Durkheim) from 1973. “The pre-eminance of the right hand: a studyin religious polarity.” In Right and Left: Essays on Dual Symbolic Classification, Univ. Chicago Press. Leslie Sharp in her book on organ transplants, Strange Harvest, focuses on the how the human body can offer a symbolic framework for examining a host of larger social questions and cultural assumptions.


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