Biopolitical Violence and Affective Force:
Michael Haneke’s Code Unknown
A Talk By Elena del Río
Thur, April 30th | 4:00 – 6:00 PM | 126 Voorhies
This talk will examine the points of convergence and divergence between Foucault/Agamben’s biopolitics and Deleuze/Spinoza’s vitalism via a reading of Michael Haneke’s Code Unknown (2002). A central aspect of Haneke’s film is its intense concern with issues of biopolitical violence—the violence produced in the intersection between the political sphere and the biological necessities of life. While Code Unknown exactly captures what Deleuze calls the “powerful organization of poverty and oppression” (with its particular stress on 21st-century European politics of immigration), the forms of violence it displays resist the calculations of both biopower and cinematic representation. As taken up by the film, the notion of the code works both in the sense of a controlling mechanism of biopower (one that transforms subjects into dividuals—digitized economic and political functions) and in the sense of incalculable affects that cannot be matched with signifiers or contained via representation. Haneke thus pursues the incalculability of affective life as a means to resist biopolitical violence. His film renders violence a matter of volatile forces that cancel out the secure demarcation between full-fledged citizens and excluded subjects. The violence here never gets resolved in a closed circuit of action/counteraction, but, instead, it goes on to produce other violent effects that suspend logical causality or rational justification. It is precisely the film’s refusal to act upon or counter-act the circuit of violence that constitutes the most effective basis for its shock-politics.
Elena del Ríois Associate Professor of Film Studies at the University of Alberta, Canada. Her essays on the intersections between cinema and philosophies of the body in the areas of technology, performance, and affect have been featured in journals such as Camera Obscura, Discourse, Science Fiction Studies, Studies in French Cinema, Quarterly Review of Film and Video, Film-Philosophy, The New Review of Film and Television Studies, Canadian Journal of Film Studies, SubStance, and Deleuze Studies. She has also contributed essays to volumes on the films of Atom Egoyan, Rainer W. Fassbinder, and on the philosophy of film, and Deleuze and cinema. She is the author of Deleuze and the Cinemas of Performance: Powers of Affection (Edinburgh, 2008), and The Grace of Destruction: A Vital Ethology of Extreme Cinemas (Bloomsbury, forthcoming 2016).