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Stuart J. Murray

Postes occupés

2015-2016 Chercheur-e invité-e,

Participations aux événements du CRÉ

17 mai 2016 Toward an Elegiac (Bio)Ethics: The Case of Makayla Sault
14 avril 2016 Rencontre annuelle Toronto/Montréal


Page institutionnelle



Stuart J. Murray est titulaire de la Chaire de recherche du Canada en rhétorique et éthique et professeur agrégé aux départements de Langue et littérature anglaises et des Sciences de la santé de l’Université Carleton à Ottawa. Il est aussi directeur du laboratoire de recherche Digital Rhetorics + Ethics. Ses travaux de recherche gravitent autour de la construction de la subjectivité humaine et des liens entre la rhétorique et l’éthique de la « vie ». Ses recherches, financées par le CRSH et les IRSC, s’articulent autour des aspects éthiques en psychiatrie légale (prisons) et de l’expérience en salle d’isolement psychiatrique. Il travaille sur un projet d’ouvrage d’orientation néo-foucaldienne traitant des dimensions rhétoriques en regard de la biopolitique et la bioéthique intitulé, The Living From the Dead: Disaffirming Biopolitics. URL: http://stuartjmurray.com/

Stuart J. Murray is Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Rhetoric & Ethics in the Department of English Language & Literature and the Department of Health Sciences at Carleton University in Ottawa. He is also Director of the Digital Rhetorics + Ethics Lab. His work is concerned with the constitution of human subjectivity and the links between the rhetoric and ethics of “life,” in the multiple ways in which this term is deployed. Current SSHRC- and CIHR-funded research involves a study of ethics in forensic psychiatry settings (prisons) as well as a phenomenological study on the ethics of seclusion in mental health. He is currently completing a book-length project on the rhetorical dimensions of biopolitics and (bio)ethics after Foucault, tentatively titled, The Living From The Dead: Disaffirming Biopolitics.  URL: http://stuartjmurray.com/

Projet de recherche

My project responds ethically to contemporary biopolitical and neoliberal forms of governance, first described by Foucault in his 1978–1979 lecture course at the Collège de France. Foucault defines biopolitics as follows: “the endeavor, begun in the eighteenth century, to rationalize the problems presented to governmental practice by the phenomena characteristic of a group of living human beings constituted as a population: health, sanitation, birthrate, longevity, race….” Here, Foucault claims that in modernity the “life” of the population increasingly comes to inform the ways that individuals are governed—as collectivities or populations whose very lives and vital well-being are increasingly subject to governmental control, surveillance, regulation, segregation, health and welfare, pro-life policies, and improvement programs, through forecasts, education, risk-management, and statistical measures.

Today, however, Foucault’s early characterization of biopolitics as “the power to ‘make’ live and ‘let’ die” must be understood as neoliberal—comprising a vast and anonymous global network that defines, regulates, counts, exposes, and encloses human life on our planet, from Davos to Darfur: “information” economies, “creative” economies, austerity, surveillance, big data, high-frequency electronic trading and transactional capitalism, the global debt market, the petroleum industry, war and the military-industrial complex, human migration, famine, HIV, Ebola, the pharmaceutical industry, cloning and genomics. Neoliberal biopolitics thus constitutes a way of life, a normalized onto-logic, that is beyond the state, “in excess of sovereign right,” as Foucault remarks, but more than this, he warns, “beyond all human sovereignty.”

My project’s objective is to think rhetorically—and thus ethically—about neoliberal biopolitics and the kinds of political subjects it produces. I challenge current biopolitical theorists who cede to the inevitability of our increasingly biopolitical and neoliberal futures. Esposito suggests that this trend is “irreversible,” but this does not mean, he claims, “that another kind of democracy is impossible, one that is compatible with the biopolitical turn.” Indeed, he argues that we have no choice but to choose between biopolitics and totalitarianism, and that biopolitics is the only “democratic” option. Esposito is not alone in embracing an “affirmative biopolitics” (e.g., Hardt & Negri, Rose, Campbell, Santner). However, I remain somewhat less sanguine, unconvinced that an affirmative biopolitics could affirm what we call human life, or what answers that call, democratically or otherwise. To affirm biopolitics is to affirm a politics whose project mobilizes the power to “make live” and “let die”—to accept that killing, however indirect, is the condition and the consequence of biopolitical life. These theorists have overlooked the rhetorical conditions in and through which we must pose the question of ethical life. My research project addresses this oversight and seeks to disaffirm biopolitics as a rhetorical and ethical endeavour.