Just days after a train in Maharashtra mowed down fifteen migrant workers who fell asleep on a railway line, a speeding bus in Bihar ran over and killed six migrant workers on Wednesday. In both cases, the distressed workers were making the long journey back home on foot, as hundreds of thousands of migrant labourers across the country are desperate to get to their villages, stranded without food, shelter or wages in Indias big cities.
I saw the news of the six workers killed in Bihar as I finished a zoom conference call, closing my laptop on yet another productive(ish) work-from-home Thursday. Like most people I know, Ive settled into a lockdown routine - with my days neatly scheduled into blocks of work, work outs, meals and social time (IRL with family, virtually with friends).
That evening, as my mother and I stared at the oven waiting for our banana-oat bread to rise and our charcoal facepacks to dry, we spoke of how the pandemic has revealed the necropolitical underpinnings of the modern nation state. The visuals of migrants making their way back home on foot - caught between destitution and danger (from the virus itself, but also the journey to their villages) - compels us to revisit Achille Mbembes understanding of the use of social and political power to dictate who lives and who dies.
Mbembe was clear that necropolitics is not just the right to kill, but also to expose people (including a countrys own citizens) to death. A strict nationwide lockdown announced with just four hours notice is indicative of the states control over who lives and who dies, and the migrants trapped without a means of livelihood are the real-world embodiment of Mbembes theory of the walking dead - on how "contemporary forms of subjugation of life to the power of death" forces some bodies to remain in different states of being located between life and death.
As I write this, a whatsapp notification leads me to a harrowing video of an exhausted child, asleep on a suitcase that his mother drags as they make their way from Punjab to their village in Uttar Pradesh, a distance of over 800 km. Minutes later, a news alert informs me that a truck crammed with migrant labourers trying to reach their distant homes crashed in Uttar Pradesh. 23 of the migrants on board - mostly from Indias northern states of Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal - were killed. (This is followed by an alert on immunity boosting green juice recipes to get us through the pandemic, thank you Google algorithm).
Meanwhile, Indias top court rejected a petition seeking directions that district magistrates identify, shelter, feed and provide free transport to stranded migrant workers or those on the move. There are people walking and not stopping. How can we stop it? the court responded, thereby absolving the state of its duties to protect and shelter those left stranded.
The necropolitics of covid-19 has been analysed by several scholars. Christopher J. Lees article on the subject is particularly useful. In it, he writes: To be clear, these measures should be pursued. In contrast to normative conditions when such methods would be seen as authoritarian, they are essential for sustaining life in this instance. Taken together, they constitute a reactionary version of necropolitics concerned with the management of life and deathto reduce disease proliferation, mortality numbers, and the rate of infection more generally. However, this reactionary stance equally indicates an unevenness of state capacity, that not all governments are able to respond equally. COVID-19 has highlighted a long-term failure among some states to sustain public health, to sustain life, through their commitment to neoliberal agendas to end state welfare in favor of privatization.
This unevenness of state capacity is most apparent in India - where even a Rs. 20,000 lakh crore rescue package unravels when analysed, relying on loans and liquidity as opposed to fiscal benefits. This rescue package comes as many states in India relax labour laws. In Gujarat now, no overtime will be paid to labour. In Rajasthan, labour will now have to work for 12 hours every day for six straight days. Uttar Pradesh cleared a similar move, to extend working hours from 8 hours to 12 hours a day, passing an ordinance that abolished all 38 labour laws in the state. The states say these relaxations will attract investment and boost productivity. But who will live and who will die?
The unevenness is also apparent in our lockdown immobility. Ive managed to move my entire life into the physical space of my home. Google Drive and Zoom keep me connected to colleagues and friends. A guest room has been converted into a home office. And my ever-expanding home gym has kept my squat and deadlift numbers on track. Ive found a way to be productive while remaining immobile.
This is in sharp contrast to the hundreds of thousands of workers who do not have the luxury of a self-enclosed physical space, or the ability to control productivity in immobility.
As this article points out: For the middle classes there is self-enclosure to guarantee immobility. The anatomo-politics as Michel Foucault named the techniques of disciplining bodies to make them docile and manipulable of self-enclosure serves to curtail the mobility of the middle classes that travel for reasons of tourism, business, academic conferences, and trade relations. This segment of the population has the income to afford international flights and extreme experiences in the most remote places. But these same people are -we are- those who can work from the refuge of home using a virtual platform.
This entire stay-home-stay-safe mandate is a Foucauldian call to discipline. Foucault studied the interplay between discipline and social control, concluding that even as we resist discipline, our structures all conform to social control.
In the post covid era, we self-regulate with our work calls, Instagram-live workouts, and gluten-free low-sugar banana bread within the confines of our physical space -- without realising that we are perhaps in-training for a new world that doesnt question or alter the patterns of production and consumption, but instead, perpetuates inequality through a progressively efficient immobile elite that dictates the forces of production, and a mobile migrant workforce, that is increasingly exploited.
As I light a scented candle and lather on my hydrating night cream, my gratitude for my lockdown routine is tinged with disgust.
(Cover Photo: Maurizio Cattelans artwork Comedian - a banana taped to a wall, valued at USD 120,000. The artwork was insanely popular in the art world in 2019, and prompted debate beyond it - including protests highlighting the value of minimum wage labour)
Read this article:
Zoom Calls, Banana Bread and The Walking Dead - The Citizen
- Watch The Walking Dead Online - TV Fanatic - July 11th, 2021
- How The Walking Dead Season 11 Will Reference a Big Michonne Storyline from the Comics - Den of Geek - July 11th, 2021
- The Walking Dead will shuffle its way into The Sandbox metaverse - VentureBeat - July 11th, 2021
- The Walking Dead's Rick Grimes Returns in Skybound X #1 - ComicBook.com - July 11th, 2021
- Fear The Walking Dead boss teases crossover with main show - NME - July 11th, 2021
- Fear the Walking Dead boss teases untold Walking Dead crossover story - Digital Spy - July 11th, 2021
- TWD: The evolution of Eugene and his hair - Undead Walking - July 11th, 2021
- ICYMI: All Seasons of The Walking Dead Are Now on Disney+ - The Manual - July 11th, 2021
- Why Jon Bernthal Was Never The Same After The Walking Dead - Looper - July 11th, 2021
- Fear The Walking Dead, Survival Rule Of The Week: Little Things Get You - Undead Walking - July 11th, 2021
- The Walking Dead: Virgil carries an important piece of information - Undead Walking - July 11th, 2021
- Fear the Walking Dead star joins Zac Efron's Firestarter reboot - Digital Spy - July 11th, 2021
- The Walking Dead Season 11: Release Date, Cast, Plot And All Latest Update Here - Phil Sports News - July 11th, 2021
- The Walking Dead marches on blockchain UGC platform The Sandbox - Pocket Gamer.Biz - July 11th, 2021
- The Walking Dead Season 11: Will the Reapers Be the End of Alexandria? - Den of Geek - July 1st, 2021
- The Walking Dead: a closer look at the 2nd season 11 teaser - Undead Walking - July 1st, 2021
- Robert Kirkman reveals when The Walking Dead went too far - Winter is Coming - July 1st, 2021
- Fear the Walking Dead Season 7 "Biggest Reinvention" Yet; New Image - Bleeding Cool News - July 1st, 2021
- Fear the Walking Deads Sydney Lemmon will star in Firestarter reboot - Undead Walking - July 1st, 2021
- The Walking Dead's Jeffrey Dean Morgan missed out on One Tree Hill role - Digital Spy - July 1st, 2021
- Why David Morrissey Was Never The Same After The Walking Dead - Looper - July 1st, 2021
- Whatever 'Fear The Walking Dead' Is Paying Colman Domingo, Double It - UPROXX - July 1st, 2021
- "Fear the Walking Dead" Actress Sydney Lemmon Joins Stephen King's 'Firestarter' - Bloody Disgusting - July 1st, 2021
- The Walking Dead returns to comics with Clementine and Tillie Walden - Gamesradar - July 1st, 2021
- The Walking Dead: What Does Princess Mean To The Commonwealth? - Undead Walking - July 1st, 2021
- Fear the Walking Dead Showrunner Confirms Skidmarks Fate - ComicBook.com - July 1st, 2021
- The Walking Dead: 5 of Carols Best Scenes and 5 of her Worst - Undead Walking - July 1st, 2021
- Filming wraps on Season 2 of The Walking Dead: World Beyond, according to Nico Tortorella - Monsters and Critics - July 1st, 2021
- How Black Summer and Z Nation Tell Different Zombie Stories - Den of Geek - July 1st, 2021
- Is Fear the Walking Dead About to Collide With World Beyond? - TheWrap - June 14th, 2021
- Three New Images Preview the FINAL Season of "The Walking Dead" - Bloody Disgusting - June 14th, 2021
- Giveaway: Win The Walking Dead: World Beyond Blu-ray and a $100 Gift Card - Den of Geek - June 14th, 2021
- The Walking Dead Set Photo Leak Reveals Mercer in Iconic Red Armor - Den of Geek - June 1st, 2021
- Fear the Walking Dead 615 Sneak Peek: Teddys Willing to Die to Destroy It All - ComicBook.com - June 1st, 2021
- Fear the Walking Dead Mini-Marathon to Air in Place of New Episode Sunday - ComicBook.com - June 1st, 2021
- Fear the Walking Dead Star Teases Final Two Episodes of Season 6: Theyre Just Massive - ComicBook.com - June 1st, 2021
- Fear the Walking Dead 615: Showrunners Tease a Reunion "40 Years in the Making" - ComicBook.com - June 1st, 2021
- The Fear The Walking Dead and Deadwood Connection - TVOvermind - June 1st, 2021
- The Walking Dead set photo reveals first look at Mercer in his red armor - Gamesradar - June 1st, 2021
- Fear The Walking Dead: Revelation - Yahoo Entertainment - June 1st, 2021
- 'Fear the Walking Dead' Alum Garret Dillahunt Opens up About His Exit (Exclusive) - PopCulture.com - June 1st, 2021
- Fear the Walking Dead: Is another time jump coming? - Monsters and Critics - June 1st, 2021
- Fear the Walking Dead: Colman Domingo reveals Episode 15 will see everyone come together to stop Teddy - Monsters and Critics - June 1st, 2021
- Fear the Walking Dead: Opening minutes of Episode 15 reveal Teddy, Riley, and Dakota inside the submarine - Monsters and Critics - June 1st, 2021
- Funko Funkoween Reveals - Walking Dead, Brightburn, Carrie and More - Bleeding Cool News - June 1st, 2021
- The Walking Dead Boss Previews a Really Brutal and Very, Very Dark Final Season - ComicBook.com - May 21st, 2021
- The Walking Dead star Jon Bernthal explains why he stopped watching the show - Digital Spy - May 21st, 2021
- Andrew Lincoln Said It Would Be 'Painful' Directing Himself in 'The Walking Dead' Movies - Showbiz Cheat Sheet - May 21st, 2021
- The Walking Dead is moving to Disney+ in the UK - NME - May 21st, 2021
- How Fear The Walking Dead' May Play Into The Rick Grimes Movie - UPROXX - May 21st, 2021
- Fear The Walking Dead Theory: Will Dakota Betray Morgans Group? - Undead Walking - May 21st, 2021
- The Walking Dead: Andrew Lincoln Talks About Directing The Rick Grimes Movies! Says He Doesn't Want To At All! - FanFest - FanFest News - May 21st, 2021
- The Walking Dead fans angry as they'll have to pay to watch new season - Metro.co.uk - May 21st, 2021
- Jon Bernthal Reveals Why He Stopped Watching The Walking Dead - We Got This Covered - May 21st, 2021
- Fear TWD Introduces Us to Another Long-Lost Family Member (RECAP) - TV Insider - May 21st, 2021
- The Walking Dead: Jeffrey Dean Morgan Prefers TWD Over This Other Iconic Role! Seems Like Its Negan All The Way! - FanFest - FanFest News - May 21st, 2021
- Fear the Walking Dead: Story time, Once Upon a Time in the Apocalypse - Undead Walking - May 21st, 2021
- Fear the Walking Dead Newcomer Keith Carradine on Playing Dad Dorie Without Garret Dillahunt's John Dorie - ComicBook.com - May 21st, 2021
- Fear the Walking Dead Cast Spins Truly Twisted Tale of the Apocalypse - Bleeding Cool News - May 21st, 2021
- SnakePit Round Table: Fear the Walking Dead - AZ Snake Pit - May 21st, 2021
- The Walking Dead: Clementine Lives in First Look at Her Comic Book Debut - ComicBook.com - May 21st, 2021
- The Walking Dead star Tom Payne's TV series Prodigal Son axed after two seasons - Digital Spy - May 21st, 2021
- From Fear The Walking Dead to Army of the Dead, Garret Dillahunt Is Still Fighting Zombies - TV Insider - May 21st, 2021
- Fear The Walking Dead 613 Recap: J. D. - The Series Regulars - May 21st, 2021
- Fox Channel To Close In The UK, With Shows Like War Of The Worlds Moving To Disney+ - Deadline - May 21st, 2021
- Its Time for Alicia Clark to Lead on Fear the Walking Dead - TV Insider - May 8th, 2021
- Why Negan Must Die In The Final Season Of 'The Walking Dead' - UPROXX - May 8th, 2021
- The Walking Dead Scene That People Think Went Too Far - Looper - May 8th, 2021
- Fear the Walking Dead Reveals Morgan and Graces Future Daughter - Den of Geek - May 8th, 2021
- The Walking Dead's Andrew Lincoln could join Invincible - Digital Spy - May 8th, 2021
- Jeffrey Dean Morgan Teases More From Negan After The Walking Dead Ends - We Got This Covered - May 8th, 2021
- Fear The Walking Dead Season 6 Ep.12 In Dreams Review I Am Negan - The Koalition - May 8th, 2021
- Fear the Walking Dead: Big Reveal by the Showrunner for next episode - Daily Research Plot - May 8th, 2021
- Fear the Walking Dead: Grace will be tested to the core in Episode 12 - Monsters and Critics - May 8th, 2021
- Did you see The Walking Deads Lauren Ridloff in the Marvel sizzle reel? - Undead Walking - May 8th, 2021
- 25 biggest TV shows getting canceled or ending in 2021: The Walking Dead, NCIS, Conan and more - Tom's Guide - May 8th, 2021
- Steven Yeun Begged The Walking Dead to Let Glenn Kill Somebody - Vulture - March 9th, 2021
- AMC Reportedly Wants The Walking Dead To Be As Big As Star Wars - We Got This Covered - March 9th, 2021
- Latest The Walking Dead casting news confirms the final major comic storyline is coming to TV - SYFY WIRE - March 9th, 2021
- Sunday Ratings: The Walking Dead Dies a Little More Loses Another 500K Viewers - Showbiz411 - March 9th, 2021
Reviewed and Recommended by Erik Baquero