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Wesleyan University | Center for the Humanities



(White) Civilization and the Antinomies of the Will


Kerwin Kaye • Wesleyan University

December 6 @ 6 PM via Zoom 

With the rise of liberalism and the bourgeois order, "civilized society" has relied upon overlapping notions of property, propriety, white supremacy, and individual will. Excessive or inappropriate drug use, beginning with alcohol consumption, would come to be seen as threatening all of these foundational elements. This talk examines the ways in which contemporary discourses of addiction reposition these themes within the context of a racist “war on drugs,” as well as the more lenient approach increasingly adopted in relation to a white-identified opioid “epidemic.” Within the logic of addiction discourse, racial meanings define one’s capacity to act as a liberal subject - to properly govern the always-already gendered and sexed body one possesses - justifying both imprisonment, or alternatively, medicalized support for those suffering from a temporary "failure of whiteness." This exploration reveals not only the ways in which race shapes the social definition of drug use, but the means by which liberalism relies upon these racialized rhetorics in order to discipline the will and to define and enforce biopolitical membership and exclusion within society more generally.

Consent & Subjection
View Fall 2021 Lecture List

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