May 4 2011 Colloquium: Info & Abstracts

“Governmentality and Vulnerable Populations”

Wednesday, May 4, 2011
CUNY Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue, Room 5409
New York, NY


Adrian Guta, MSW (U of Toronto): “Critically Reflecting on the Use of ‘Peer Researchers’ in Community-Based Participatory Research”

Kevin Jobe (Stony Brook U):  “The Biopolitics of Homelessness”

Moderator:  Ananya Mukherjea (College of Staten Island, CUNY)

Open to the public.  RSVPs are appreciated.  For more information or to RSVP, please send an e-mail to



Adrian Guta (University of Toronto)
“Critically Reflecting on the Use of  ‘Peer Researchers’ in Community-Based Participatory Research”
Co-authors: Sarah Flicker, PhD (York University) and Brenda Roche, PhD (Wellesley Institute).
Abstract:  The disappointing results of many public health interventions have been partially attributed to the lack of meaningful engagement of those most affected in the process of research and evaluation. Community-based participatory research (CBPR) has emerged as an alternative research paradigm which develops research questions from a community-identified need. Increasingly, CBPR projects directly involve community members in the research process (design, data collection, analysis, and dissemination). Through what has been termed “peer research”, community members are trained to participate as co-researchers alongside academics and clinicians. Peer researchers are understood to contribute expertise by providing lived experience, divergent perspectives, and facilitating entry into “hard to reach communities.” Their involvement is said to be an “empowering experience” which “builds their capacity.”
     This paper discusses findings from a recent qualitative study investigating the experiences of 18 peer researchers recruited for studies in Toronto, Canada. These individuals brought to their respective projects a lived understanding of homelessness, HIV, migration, transgender identity, and mental illness. Findings from these interviews will be discussed with an attention to Michel Foucault’s concept of “governmentality,” and situated within discourses of scientific citizenship. While peer researchers spoke about joining CBPR initiatives to provide ‘lived experience’ and improve conditions for their communities, these emancipatory goals were often subsumed within corporatist research environments. Overall, the integration of peer researchers into health sciences research serves as a site through which to explore the “will to empower” and its unintended potential as a tool for dominating and regulating vulnerable and marginalised communities.
Speaker bio: Adrian Guta, MSW, is a PhD Candidate in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, Joint Centre for Bioethics at University of Toronto.
Kevin S. Jobe (Stony Brook University)
“The BioPolitics of Homelessness”
Abstract: There is now little doubt that we are in the midst of a “growing tide” of hatred, prejudice and egregious violence directed against homeless populations across the United States. 1 2 The number of fatal crimes reported against the homeless in the last decade has grown to more than twice that of crimes committed against all groups currently protected under federal hate crime legislation combined. 3 This raises an important question: what lies behind this epidemic of killings and violence against homeless populations?  Towards this end, I’d like to turn our focus towards Foucault’s remarks on the modern biopolitical state in Society Must Be Defended, where we learn that the precondition of “killing” the other (exposing to the risk of death) is racism. Extending Foucault’s analysis of racism into The Birth of Biopolitics, I discuss two ways in which racism functions within a broader strategy of governmental naturalism: 1) a strategy of abandonment and exposure to the “elements” and “natural risks” of urban space, and 2) the “naturalization” and essentialization of these urban vectors of disease and risks of death within homeless bodies and populations themselves. I argue that by looking at the social logic behind hate crimes against the homeless, we discover that this logic mirrors a broader strategy of neoliberal government that “makes free by letting die.”
1 “Attacks on Homeless Bring Push on Hate Crime Laws.” The New York Times, August 7, 2009. In August of 2007, Maxim magazine ran a piece titled “Hunt the Homeless,” which poked fun at the annual Hobo Convention that was being held in Iowa at the time with a blurb that read, “Kill one for fun. We’re 87 percent sure it’s legal.”
2 ‘
“Killings of Homeless Rise to Highest Level in a Decade.” The New York Times, August 19, 2010.
3 Hate Crimes Against the Homeless: America’s Growing Tide of Violence. Report by the National Coalition for the Homeless, August 2010, p. 8
Speaker Bio: Kevin S. Jobe is a graduate student in the PhD program in Philosophy at Stony Brook University. He is the author of The Epistemology of Pathology: Essays on Mental Health from Plato to Foucault (VDM-Verlag 2009). His research interests lie at the intersection of political philosophy and the philosophy of race.

About the Colloquium Series:
The Foucault Society’s Colloquium Series provides a forum for both junior and senior scholars to share new research and works-in-progress with a friendly, supportive audience of colleagues.