On biocoloniality and 'respectability' in contemporary London.

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Narayan, Yasmeen (2015)

This essay is framed by discussions on the civil unrest in British cities in 2011, the politics of austerity, the mass unemployment of the young, ‘the war on terror’ and ‘radicalisation’ and the vulnerability of the poor and ‘unrespectable’. It advances a concept of biocoloniality and explores ‘respectability’, class and transnational postcolonial urban cultures in contemporary London. The essay argues for a theorisation which can account for how a divided subject produces the effect of an undivided and self-governing ‘core self’ who ‘possesses’ distinguishing ‘biological’ ‘capacities’, ‘psychological’ attributes’ and cultural ‘characteristics’. It considers how this is accomplished through our daily practical activity such as our ‘imaginable’, ‘possible’ sexual desires, everyday practices of reflection, our bodily demeanour and bodily significations. This concept of biocoloniality is composed of two theoretical strands. In ‘on inscription and creolisation’ and in dialogue with a single respondent on ‘respectability’ and ‘beauty’, I entwine disparate theoretical threads from work on biopolitics and governmentality, racialisation, psychoanalysis and postcoloniality and performativity, sexualisation and intersectionality together. I forward a formulation of inscription that can reveal how we inscribe and sculpt our own and other bodies with different ‘capacities’ and ‘qualities’. I then tie strands of work on repetition together and advance a theorisation of reiteration. I consider how we struggle with, overcome and are defeated by ourselves as we reinscribe our own and other bodies. The essay thus considers how it is through in part our daily biocolonial practice that different bodies that are closer to and more distant from notions of the human, the un/respectable, un/desirable, ab/normal, ir/replaceable and expendable come into being and how this unsettles clear distinctions between coloniality and postcoloniality.
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