Research Talk by Ms. Vichitra K. S. Godamunne

“Biopolitics in science fiction films”

Date: Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Time: 3 p. m.

Venue: CNM Playroom, AS6 03-38


The purpose of this thesis is to analyse science fiction films from a biopolitics perspective, a distinctive philosophy taking into account how politics function in relation to human biological bodies. Science fiction often deals with issues which are too controversial for other mainstream genres.  In order to critique the prevailing political and economic ideologies of a society, science fiction incorporates certain philosophical ideas into its narratives.  A recent trend in this genre has been an increased focus on the ways in which the biological bodies of human beings exist in relation to power.  The philosophy which explores this connection between human biological life and political power is known as biopolitics.  Influential contemporary philosophers who have written about biopolitics are Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben and Roberto Esposito.  They offer dystopian views and are concerned with the processes through which the biological bodies of humans became an integral part of political power.

The four films that I have chosen to analyse for this thesis – The Island (Michael Bay; US; 2005), V for Vendetta (James McTeigue; UK/US/Germany; 2005), Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaron; UK; 2006) and 28 Weeks Later (Juan Carlos Fresnadillo; UK; 2007) – all deal with certain global issues which have underlying biopolitical connotations.  The endings of these films show the triumph of a few individuals over the authorities in power.  It is these humanistic alternatives to biopolitics that I want to problematise.  Even if there were humanist alternatives, wouldn’t this too, descend to inhumanity?  Isn’t this escapism from biopolitics impossible to achieve?  My analysis will focus on the ways in which certain science fiction films explore and critique biopolitics; and I will question the approach taken by these films.

Keywords: Biopolitics, science fiction, Foucault, Agamben, Esposito

About the speaker:

Ms. Vichitra K. S. Godamunne completed her BA (Hons) in Film Studies in London Metropolitan University in UK. After that she moved back to Colombo, Sri Lanka to work as a PR Executive. During this time, she also did some freelance promotional work for Sri Lankan art film directors. She started her MA in CNM in January 2009, and this is her final semester.

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