lunes, 8 de diciembre de 2014


One of the key concepts on my dissertation is bioactant, and hence, the topic I talk today is about it.
Bioactant is a new concept I thought one year ago, when I was beginning to read some ideas from Lakoff, Rabinow, Collier and others anthropologists, as well as I was also deepening in the Actor-Network Theory. Product of both of these studies, I started to fit the jigsaw and I considered this concept was helpful in order to understand certain current issues about biopolitics and the bios management.

Thus, in short, bioactant can be defined as whatever equipment which action implies a reorganization or a shift in the biotic. I am aware is a general definition, but I prefer it that way because the same nature of the concept comes from a global-scale that can be grounded or located, but otherwise, starting on the local is quite difficult to find common elements.

On the other hand, when I point out the biotic I am referring to any kind of life, taking into account that life never is just one animal, person, cell or bacterium (as I wrote about ebola). Rather I conceive it as an entanglement which result is a living-being, where living is the feature given to this being (i.e. we live with millions of bacteria over our skin, and there are one of the equipment that allows us to be understood as a living being). With this example, we can conceive bacteria as a bioactant that grants any feature to other thing within a biotic realm.

Equipment should be understood in a Actor-Network Theory, as an plug-in that is attached with us. Latour wrote about it in Reassembling the Social. For sure, I don't have totally clear this idea, but is true that there is something about the notion of paraskeue that Foucault puts forward in The Hermeneutics of the Subject.

Nevertheless, there are also bioactants that give a negative feature or that take away some feature to the thing that is assembled. Considering the traditional difference between bíos and zoé at the Greek age, pointed out by Agamben, some bioactants can transform a bíos, the valuable life in Rose terms in a merely zoé, non-valuable life. This shift can be investigated under a thanatopolitics view, the management of death.

Finally, within the Actor-Network Theory, a bioactant is an actant in the Greimàs sense and defined by Latour as be anything provided it is granted to be the source of an action, with the incorporation of a biotic sense or with some direct or indirect biotic implication.

Agamen, G. (1996). Homo Sacer. Sovereign Power and Bare Life. California: Standford University-Press.
Foucault, M. (2005). The Hermeneutics of the Subject. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.
Greimas, A.L. y Courtès, J. (1982) Semiótica. Diccionario razonado de la teoría del lenguaje. Madrid: Gredos
Latour, B. (1996). On actor-network theory. A few clarifications. Soziale Welt, 47, 1996, p. 369-382
Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the Social. New York: Oxford.
Rabinow, P. Rose, N. (2006). Biopower Today. BioSocieties, 1, 195-217.

Photocredit: taken by myself.