Capitalizing on Bare Life: Sovereignty, Exception, and Gender Politics

By Jennifer Fluri:


The reduction of civilian lives (in conflict zones) to zoe may also be economized through death, such as the military collateralization of civilian bodies. Remittances paid to the families of civilians killed by US coalition forces exemplify the monetary value placed on death, in contrast to civilian life. This form of economic value acts as another reductive layer of civilian life to a mere sum of collateral-capital value. In conflict zones, women’s and children’s lives become the nucleus of life most basic and bare. Their deaths are highlighted in political actions by virtue of the apolitical framing as agent-less victims—while simultaneously politicizing their bodies as the corpus in need of protection by force at different politically constructed scales (local, national, or international). Their bare life is predefined through their vulnerability to violence and assumed lack of bios.


This article examines the capital value of bare life as part of aid/development in (post)Taliban Afghanistan. I argue that the political production and spatial fixity of homo sacer “as the object of aid and protection” within specific geographic locations subsequently territorializes gendered bodies as a site for capital accumulation and exchange value through aid/development allocation. This occurs through a continual discursive reduction of “full or proper” human life to the remnants of bare life. This subjective reduction subsequently elicits capitalist-modernity as a prime method for rescuing bare life and transferring it to an image (and imaginary) of western political and economic life. Gendered multiplicities of bare life emerge from variant forms of political and economic opportunity among aid/development workers and Afghan recipients. I argue that the discursive framing of bare life is situated as a site for (re)constructing rights through “western” frameworks infused with geopolitical and economic exchange value.

Source: Antipode – Jan/2012 –  vol. 44, nº 1

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: