Biopolitics has been a widely used concept during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, attention has been limited to practices of discipline and power imposed to safeguard public health and the resultant normalization of states of exception. This narrow reading of biopolitics, however, does not allow us to develop viable alternatives to the vicious circle of surveillance and protest. This blog post suggests viewing biopolitics as a slippery concept. It proposes a more nuanced reading of biopolitics, highlighting its affirmative potential that could help develop imaginaries to counter the current biopolitical impasse. The e-biopolitics of Estonia serves as an example.
The blogpost deals with an analysis of targets in Czech Covid-related digital humour. The material for the study are humorous memes, collected from Czech social media users from December 2019 till February 2021 within a university project, comprising about 1000 samples. The post maps what targets appear in the collected humorous memes, what role in the pandemic situation they are ascribed and what general discourse strategies the construction of targets reflects. The analysis reveals the capacity of humour to create in-group/out-group oppositions and the dominant tendencies of portraying the targets as the ones to blame, as threats, rivals and sheeples.
Many of the measures taken to fight the pandemic are based upon differentiations between social groups. The visibility and relevance of these groups, the groups themselves and the ‘knowledge’ about them, especially the inclusions and exclusions associated with them, however, do not represent objective realities but are discursively constructed. Based on a review of discourse analytical literature on inclusions and exclusions in Covid-19 discourses, the blog post discusses how these discourses reconfigure the political. It makes a plea for integrating the media aesthetics of the audiovisual image in order to account for the multimodality of discursively reinforced inclusions and exclusions.