At the intersection of the politics of art or literature or film and political theory, I’ve been thinking about disposable life through a number of lenses, particularly through work on the Holocaust and work that I’ve been doing with Max Silverman on a slightly different element of it called “concentrationary memory.”
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Disposable life. What comes to my mind is a set of dynamics, I think, that are marking the current period, that are marking a difference in the current period. And it is the multiplication of expulsions. And once something is expelled (and I’ll elaborate) it becomes invisible. And that is part of the tragedy, I think.
In the world of labor and work, the phrase “disposable life” refers to a new wrinkle in neoliberal capitalism. And that wrinkle is that it’s cheaper to dispose of workers in Europe and America than it’s ever been in the past.
It is very pertinent to talk associating this with the Zapatistas. Twenty years ago in January 1st, 1994, we had the beginning of the Zapatista uprising. And to understand it we need to see what was happening with these people before the uprising, how they came to that terrible decision of starting an armed uprising.
My approach to the question of disposable lives is this: In an age of late capitalism, advanced technology, and mass media, are lives easier to dispose of now than in the past? And my response is, unfortunately, yes it is easier now. And this isn’t simply because of the technology that is available today that simply wasn’t available in the past.
In usages of dispose, disposition, disposing, there is always a question of putting in order, and putting things in their place. Which also means of course having the power to do so.