The War on Terror and Ontopolitics: Concerns with Foucault’s Account of Race, Power Sovereignty

  • Falguni A. Sheth Hampshire College


In this article, I explore several of Foucault’s claims in relation to race, biopolitics, and power in order to illuminate some concerns in the wake of the post-9.11.01 political regime of population management. First, what is the relationship between sovereignty and power? Foucault’s writings on the relation between sovereignty and power seem to differ across his writings, such that it is not clear whether he had definitively circumscribed the role of sovereignty in relation to “power.” Second, while central sovereign authority, at least in ”Society Must Be Defended” has been displaced by Foucault’s analysis of power, the question still remains as to what drives or instantiates the exercise of power. I lay out an account of what I will call “ontopolitics,” as one that foregrounds the role of sovereign authority in ascribing racial divisions. Moreover, these divisions are driven by cultural, social, and moral criteria that complement—or circumscribe—biopolitics—and are inscribed at the level of the ontological, or onto-ethical.

Author Biography

Falguni A. Sheth, Hampshire College
Falguni A. Sheth is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Political Theory at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, US. Her research is located in the interstices of continental philosophy, political and legal theory, philosophy of race, and Asian American diaspora studies. She has published numerous articles and two books, Race, Liberalism, and Economics (coedited, U. Michigan Press, 2004) and Toward a Political Philosophy of Race (SUNY Press, 2009). Her current research is in several areas: hybrid subjectivity and race; Foucault’s biopolitics in the context of legal subjectivity; the emergence and legal construction of Punjabi-Mexicans at the turn of the 20th century; and the metaphysics of misrecognition. Sheth has served on the Immigrant Rights Commission of San Francisco, and is an organizer of the California Roundtable for Philosophy and Race. For more information, visit her website:
Special Issue on Foucault and Race