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Counting Species: Biopower and the Global Biodiversity Census

R. Youatt

Environmental Values 17(2008): 393-417. doi: 10.3197/096327108X343149


Biopolitical analyses of census-taking usually focus on human censuses and consider how human experience is shaped by the practice. Instead, this article looks at the proposed global biodiversity census, which aims to take inventory of every species on earth as a response to anthropogenic species extinction. I suggest that it is possible to extend and modify Foucault's concept of biopower to consider contemporary human-nonhuman interactions. Specifically, I argue that an ecologically-extended version of biopower offers a useful way to conceptualise how power circulates in the practices that surround the biodiversity census, and that it points us towards thinking about how analyses of power, authority, and community can consider ecological, rather than purely human, locations and networks.


Biodiversity, biopower, nonhuman agency, environmental governance

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