The Center for the Humanities at Wesleyan University provides high level academic programming to energize the campus and promotes innovative research and scholarship through our faculty and visiting fellows program. Explore our website to learn more about our Monday night lecture series (6 p.m. in Daniel Family Commons), fellowships, Director’s blog, and the many other exciting endeavors emanating from the Center.

Fall 2017


This Fall we will explore necropolitics or the politics of the dead.  Necropolitics was initially defined by Achille Mbembe as a manifestation of sovereignty wherein "To exercise sovereignty is to exercise control over mortality and to define life as the deployment of manifestations of power." (2003) This can take the form of actual control over biological existence or that of social death, be it via exile or systematic exclusion from opportunity.  While not the immediate focus at its inception the issue can be turned to the question of "which lives matter" and which are to be considered excess or surplus. Reinhardt Koselleck provided a different though not unrelated understanding of the "politics of the dead" in his "War Memorials: Identity Formation of the Survivors" and in this light it could be argued that "necropolitics" is a more capacious category: one that applies to all disciplines concerned with the recovery of the past.  Extending beyond Koselleck or Mbembe, necropolitics can be seen as a positive means of constituting community through the practice of caring for the dead.  Here, burial, festival, memorials, and tradition play key roles.  This leads us to issues of memory and memorialization but also back to the question of who and what counts when counting the dead.  Over the course of this semester we will attempt to redefine the concept of necropolitics in light of recent work on questions of disposability(people but also things), extinction, fugivity, memory, animism, hauntology, retroactive ancestral construction, and post-mortem agency but also in relation to more traditional disciplinary approaches and issues