Abstract

This essay brackets the history of the modern subject between the moment of its formation in the seventeenth century and that of its postmodern demise in the latter part of the century just past. These brackets also mark two ages of the plague: bubonic in the first, and (among others, present and pending) the "plague" of AIDS in the second. Can we understand the relation between these two histories as more than a chronological coincidence? Personhood—whether regarded as the integrity of a somatic body or as a function of that body's incorporation in the political or natural order of things—is put under special pressure by the crisis of plague. Furthermore, recognizing an affinity between the construction and deconstruction of the modern subject on the one hand, and plague times on the other reveals the prehistory of our own posthumanist engagement with epidemic disease. This essay thus addresses the subject of the plague "subject" then and now. Finally, the essay frames the plague subject in terms of biopolitical theory while arguing that the historical claims of biopolitics must be adjusted to account for the history of the plague.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1553-3786
Print ISSN
1531-0485
Pages
pp. 23-44
Launched on MUSE
2011-06-19
Open Access
No
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