[SydPhil] Critical Antiquities Workshop - Sara Brill, ‘Aristotle, Biopolitics, and the Iliad.’

Tristan Bradshaw tristan.bradshaw at sydney.edu.au
Mon Mar 29 11:36:04 AEDT 2021

Dear all,

At the next Critical Antiquities Workshop, Professor Sara Brill (Fairfield University) will be presenting her paper, ‘Aristotle, Biopolitics, and the Iliad.’ The meeting will take place on Friday, April 9 10-11:30am Sydney time (that’s Thursday, April 8 8-9:30pm in the eastern US). The abstract is posted at the end of this email.

To receive a Zoom link, please sign up for Critical Antiquities Network announcements here<https://protect-au.mimecast.com/s/MGsZCxngwOf1LqKOrF8uNO7?domain=signup.e2ma.net>. Please note, if you have already subscribed to the mailing list, you will receive the Zoom link and need not sign up again.

Best wishes,
Tristan Bradshaw and Ben Brown


Aristotle’s emphasis in Politics 7 on engineering the bodily as well as psychical character of

citizens recommends comparison with contemporary theories of biopolitics, a comparison Mika Ojakangas

has drawn with particular clarity (Ojakangas 2016). To be sure, Aristotle’s eugenics legislation is designed

to hold the generation of life under the harness of the political partnership. But it is far from clear that bios

is the sole, or even main, target here and, as Brooke Holmes has pointed out (Holmes, 2019), we should

guard against assuming too quickly the synonymy of the Greek bios and the prefix “bio-.” When, in the

central books of the Politics, Aristotle considers the various forms that collectives of humans may take, he

does so precisely in order to observe the differences both between and within kinds, and the work these

differences do in forming communities with very particular characters. Aristotle’s emphasis on different

kinds of human collectives connects his political theorizing with his zoological research, and with broader

cultural tropes that treat vitality in close proximity to vividness. That is to say, while the specific legislation

Aristotle designs invites comparison with biopolitical concerns, the end at which this legislation aims is

determined within a conception of zoˉ eˉ whose political valence has not yet been fully charted.

This paper develops a genealogical lens for viewing Aristotle’s thinking about the nature of the human

multitude. The examples of political animals Aristotle offers in the History of Animals—bees, wasps, ants,

and cranes (1.1.487b33)—figure prominently in the Iliad’s depictions of Achaean and Trojan forces, who

are likened to swarms and flocks and herds of all kinds. When we examine the imagery Homer employs to

depict the actions of the collective Achaean and Trojan forces, we encounter an iconography of shared life

that profoundly shaped how Aristotle thinks about the work of the polis. My primary claim is that Aristotle’s

sense of the sharing of the perception of justice as the common deed that comprises human political life is

informed by an Iliadic model, the harnessing of aisthesis and logos alike for the pursuit of a common task.

And, as with Aristotle, the root of this model is found in the very conception of living as it is accomplished

by a variety of animal kinds. In both cases, living emerges as a collectively pursued enterprise requiring

fluid combinations of coalescences and diffusions of force and capacity, a variety of “organizations” in a

very particular sense. Prior to the reduction of people to things so powerfully observed by Simone Weil,

armies have become packs and swarms, heroes have become walls and rivers, peoples have become

sand and stars. I aim, then, to trace the model of political power—as the power to generate what Homer

calls the “boundless people [demos apeiron]” (24.776)—that emerges from out of the animal imagery for

human collective action employed throughout the Iliad, in order to illuminate the conception of zoe that

undergirds Aristotle’s understanding of the formation of people and that complicates our assessment of the

“biopolitical” character of Aristotle’s thought.

Tristan Bradshaw
Postdoctoral Research Fellow | Co-director, Critical Antiquities Network
The University of Sydney
Department of Classics and Ancient History
School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Office: H606, Main Quadrangle | The University of Sydney | NSW | 2006
 +61 406 747 955
tristan.bradshaw at sydney.edu.au<mailto:tristan.bradshaw at sydney.edu.au>  | fass.can at sydney.edu.au<mailto:fass.can at sydney.edu.au>

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://mailman.sydney.edu.au/pipermail/sydphil/attachments/20210329/dd174913/attachment-0001.html>

More information about the SydPhil mailing list