Think Tank #23 – Brussels: a poor people’s necropolis?

With Gabor Tverdota, research fellow at ARC ASBL.

In the fight against destitution, human dignity is often invoked as a leading, unifying concept. But whereas the indignity of certain situations and people is the leitmotif of an increasing number of problems which have gained widespread recognition (ranging from the duty of remembrance to animal welfare), in terms of destitution it rarely rises above the waves of social indifference. Perhaps because destitution sheds light on a daily indignity, less spectacular than that of stories of torture or concentration camp survivors, but no less devastating.

Furthermore, this daily indignity of destitution is the product and/or the consequence of the arrangements put in place by the State to manage people’s lives, what Foucault calls biopolitics. Its flipside, thanatopolitics, concerns the arrangements for managing the execution of undesirable and/or dangerous population groups for the survival and/or reproduction of the State. But to adequately describe this daily indignity we require a third governance concept, that of necropolitics (a concept devised by Norman Ajari), which specifically concerns the management of the space occupied by those considered unworthy. This space is situated neither in the land of the living, nor the land of the dead, but between the two. If the production of this intermediate space between life and death is the aim of necropolitics, its tools are arrangements and institutions creating living conditions which are unlivable, where life and death merge.

Each year, Brussels sees a rise in the number of destitute people who, from one space to another, show us this active necropolitics of the State. What can an analysis of Brussels as a necropolis of the poor show us? On this basis, how can we rethink the problem of dignity?

What should we think of a State which produces the living dead? That is the question we shall address in this Think Tank.

Tuesday 18 July from 12.00 to 14.00
DoucheFLUX, rue des Vétérinaires/Veeartsenstraat 84, 1070 Brussels.
Prior registration preferred (free sandwiches provided): marionnicolas[at]