The Right to Maim

Biopolitics deployed through its neoliberal guises is a capacitation machine; biopolitics seeks capacitation for some as a liberal rationale (in some cases) or foil for the debilitation of many others. It is, in sum, an ableist mechanism that debilitates.

Biopolitics as a conceptual paradigm can thus be read as a theory of debility and capacity. Addressing disability directly forces a new, discrete component into the living/dying pendulum that forms most discussions of biopolitics: the living dead, death worlds, necropolitics, slow death, life itself. These frames presume death to be the ultimate assault, transgression, or goal, and the biopolitical end point or opposite of life. I am arguing that debilitation and the production of disability are in fact biopolitical ends unto themselves, with moving neither toward life nor toward death as the aim. This is what I call “the right to maim”: a right expressive of sovereign power that is linked to, but not the same as, “the right to kill.” Maiming is a source of value extraction from populations that would otherwise be disposable. The right to maim exemplifies the most intensive practice of the biopolitics of debilitation, where maiming is a sanctioned tactic of settler colonial rule, justified in protectionist terms and soliciting disability rights solutions that, while absolutely crucial to aiding some individuals, unfortunately lead to further perpetuation of debilitation.

"Hands Up, Don't Shoot" an excerpt in The New Inquiry from Jasbir Puar's The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability forthcoming Duke University Press, November 2017.

Kyla Tompkins