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Dementia and the paradigm of the camp: thinking beyond Giorgio Agamben's concept of 'bare life'

Burke, Lucy (2019) Dementia and the paradigm of the camp: thinking beyond Giorgio Agamben's concept of 'bare life'. Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, 16 (2). pp. 195-205. ISSN 1176-7529

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Abstract

This essay discusses the use of analogies drawn from the Holocaust in cultural representations and critical scholarship on dementia. The paper starts with a discussion of references to the death camp in cultural narratives about dementia, specifically Annie Ernaux’s account of her mother’s dementia in I Remain in Darkness. It goes on to develop a critique of Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben’s work on biopolitics and “bare life,” focusing specifically on the linguistic foundations of his thinking. This underpins a consideration of the limitations of his philosophy and ontologically derived notions of weakness and passivity in imagining life with dementia as a potential site of agency or as the locus for transformative ideas about care, community, and non-instrumentalist conceptions of human value.

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