The Biopolitics of the Android: Channel 4's Humans (2015-8)

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Critical discussions on fictions of the ‘double’ tend to follow theoretical trajectories that rely on theories such as psychoanalysis and Freud’s concept of the uncanny, postmodern theory and Baudrillard’s concept of the simulacrum, or on cultural theories of identity and representation that view the double as a metaphor for the marginalised Other. This paper seeks to complement these approaches by urging for more critical attention to theories of biopower and biopolitics in the above field. Biopolitical theory mainly originates in the work of French philosopher Michel Foucault, but it has also been developed further by theorists such as Giorgio Agamben, Judith Butler, Nikolas Rose, Roberto Esposito, Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt, among others. Foucault’s work initiates a theory of political governance that explores the historical transmutation of power during modernity, from a mode of power exercised through repression, coercion, violence and fear of death to one exerted through monitoring, management and optimisation of health and life itself. At first, it may seem inappropriate to introduce this theory in readings of fictions about mechanical life, about technology rather than biology. But Foucault’s work itself illuminates the relevance since he underscores the extent to which the human body itself is perceived as a machine to be designed, regulated and optimised within biopolitical discourses. Relying on his theory, this paper explores the ways in which these imaginary creatures may be read as metaphors for the human and social body subjected to the operations of biopolitical mechanisms and institutions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-43
JournalFoundation: The International Review of Science Fiction
Issue number137
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2020


  • biopolitics
  • biopower
  • android
  • science fiction
  • dystopia
  • television
  • Channel 4


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