Written for magazine Diagonal in February, 2005
Previously published on-line at
In the present context, the logic of security is the principal form of taking charge of bodies and organizing them around fear, contention, control, and management of unease. This article is a first approach and analysis of the concept of the body managed through securitarian logic, in order to see forms of regulation that are being used and to feed practices that take root in the politically radical character of care. The logic of care that we propose recognizes interdependence, wagers upon cooperation, and articulates itself as a social ecology.
The modern conception of the body is founded on the division and hierarchization of mind/body and on the construction of the body as an individual self-regulating machine. This schema, though still in force, is not enough for us in order to understand how our bodies function nowadays, many of them urban bodies, rapid, and rather stressed. Today, the slogan ‘biology is not destiny’ is in effect; the body has become a place of construction where one canintervene, to make the body and negotiate with materiality itself.
We want to note two ideas that network within the mechanisms of regulation of bodies today. First off, the hypervisibility of the body within the securitary regime and secondly the pendular movement that takes place between the obsession for the self-cared-for (autocuidado) and (self)exploitation. The regime of security is the regime of vision; videovigilance is a good example of this; a secure place has security cameras; those strategically situated cameras send a continuous image of the guarded place, a fixed image with variations over the long term, that only make sense in the speed of a rewind. The same thing happens with the image that the media offers of bodies and of feminine presence; we find a fixed, stereotyped scene, in which the velocity of the autumn-winter-spring-summer fashions permits us to see the argumental futility of supposedly transgressive or feminist attitudes (look at the case of Nikewomen) and how finally there only remains the fixed and homogeneous frame, white and heteronormative,
disposible and disposed toward the consumer.
In second place, we can say that in Western societies there is a growing interest, along with the investment of time and money, in care for oneself. If this phenomenon is related to the processes of medicalization of populations that began in the second half of the 18th century, now it is no longer only the medical institution that inspects the body but rather this function has been
interiorized by each individual. This displacement is accompanied by another important fact: obtaining care has passed to the consumer, far from any social conception of health and illness. Care, to the degree that it appears in the media, is a demand to maintain presence. In order to be healthy one must go to the gym, take riboflavin, and turn to private medicine. But we simultaneously receive messages on how to profit from and improve the body, that is, how to yield more, how to overcome age, how to avoid catching a cold each winter, how to be more efficient on the job and in the home. That is to say, first we hypervitamin ourselves in order to later be able to put out extra hours, race across the city in order to collect the kids from school and be the coolest at the office party. Anxiety and unease arise when one insistently crosses the limits of the body.
If the body struggles, with the help of a whole gamut of products and specialists, against “free radicals” that make it grow old, the social body struggles in the same way against that other threat that debilitates and frightens it: terrorism. That the social body can age and sicken, that enemy remains hidden and lying in wait in the very center of the social, is something that no one is inclined to tolerate, something that merits aesthetic treatments, armored borders and all kinds of social liposuctions (progressive privatizations and shortages of public space or the trimming of rights and liberties), all this in order to permit normalized bodies to continue their bittersweet movement toward the commercial center. In the course of the derives , we heard accounts of many bodies, authentic places of resistance, that are confronted everyday with new forms of regulation: the body as a uniformed presence, in that the uniform marks the border that separates the domestic employee from the family in domestic work, the body of the prostitute as exotic and a tourist attraction, the body as a source of fatigue for the nurse, the body as voice, as a physical and tangible interface for the client-firm relationship in its supposedly “most human” side in the case of the telephone operator, the nearly adolescent body, necessarily easy-going in the fast food chain, the body exposed to work twenty four hours per day, all of them fragmented, with superimposed identities, always changing, in continuous learning and transformation through experience, through love, through age, through life definitively.
The body is presence, but it is not only that, it is also a vehicle and a depository of all vital information, to normalize the body can so we are all the same size 36, or what is worse, that we all think and act in a manner foreseeable by the globalized market. But we already know that the forms of domination do not consist only in the exercise of violence but also in the active production of submission, and with our bodily uprisings we do not fit into these confining spaces, right?
1. The body that capitalism produced in its beginnings was a closed and finite circuit of energy whose econmy was sustained thanks to self-control, which assured the equilibrium of fluids. It
was a body destined to produce in the factory and in reproductive heterosexual exchange. In this schema the living body was a commodity that functioned inside a restrictive economy, in respect to market exchanges as much as to the corporeal fluids. In the dawn of colonialism, the same economy of energetic regulation was entrusted with the conservation of the body as much as with the conservation of the European nation-states. In these configurations of the body and of
the social, health was understood as a virtue cultivated to the degree that one participated in the circuits of normality.
2. When we speak of heteronormativity, heterosexuality is considered, not so much as as a sexual practice but rather as a political regime. As a biopolitical technology aimed at the production of heteo bodies and ‘unifamiliar’ models of life, with their gendered distribution of
tasks and assignments, fundamental to the sustainibility of the capitalist system up to now.
3. For more information on the derives, consult the book by Precarias a la Deriva, A la deriva (por los circuitos de la precariedad femenina), Traficantes de sueÒos, Madrid, 2004, or the
4. The phrase ‘a la deriva’ in the name Precarias a la deriva means ‘adrift’. The noun ‘deriva’ is translated in this article as ‘derive’ in order to preserve a common heritage with the reference to the theory and practice of the derive used by the Situationist International. Precarias a la Deriva take up the practice of the derive in a transformed fasion, as noted in “First Stutterings of
Precarias a la Deriva”, where the Precarias write, “[i]n the Situationist version of the drift, the investigators wander without any particular destination through the city, permitting that
conversations, interactions and urban micro-events guide them. This permits them to establish a psycho-cartography based on the coincidences and correspondences of physical and subjective flows: exposing themselves to the gravitation and repulsion of certain spaces, to the conversations that come up along the way, and, in general, to the way in which the urban and social environments influence exchanges and attitudes. This means wandering attentive to the billboard that assaults you, the bench which attracts, the building which suffocates, the people who come and go. In our particular version, we opt to exchange the arbitrary wandering of the flaneur, so particular to the bourgeois male subject with nothing pressing to do, for a situated drift which would move through the daily spaces of each one of us, while maintaining the tactic’s multi-sensory and open character. Thus the drift is converted into a moving interview, crossed through by the collective perception of the environment.” For more information on the Situationist International and their version of the derive see Debord’s “Theory of the Derive”, available online at https://library.nothingness.org/articles/SI/en/display/314.
For more texts in English by the Precarias a la Deriva see the following texts:
“First Stutterings of Precarias a la Deriva”, at
“Introduction to Precarias a la Deriva”, at
and “Close encounters in the second phase – the communication
continuum: care-sex-attention “, at