Foucault Meets Novel Coronavirus: Biosociality, Excesses of Governmentality and the “Will to Live” of the Pandemicariat


  • Subhendra Bhowmick Sidho-Kanho-Birsha University
  • Mursed Alam University of Gour Banga



Foucault, Covid-19 pandemic, Governmentality, Biopolitical, Biosocial, Truncated sociality, Pandemicariat


This essay situates Foucault`s ideas of ‘biopower’ and ‘governmentality’ within the Indian context of the Covid emergency, analysing how the excesses of ‘biopolitical’ and the authoritarian forms of ‘governmentality’ evoke a radical re-reading of Foucault within Covid-infested India. We argue how pre-existing ‘discursive’ conditions of biomedical, digital, and neoliberal India facilitated more majoritarian and undemocratic forms of (bio)politics during the Indian experience of the pandemic, exposing the migrant workers in particular to tremendous ‘precarity’ and turning them into pandemicariat. To meet our theoretical ends, we investigate through forging links between Foucauldian theory – consisting of a set of concepts like biopolitics, anatomo-politics, governmentality etc— and ideas like transmuted biosociality, truncated sociality, will to live, pandemicariat etc.  Current conditions of truncated sociality render human bodies more ‘discursively’ available for ‘biomedical’ and ‘biopolitical’ interventions, disempowering people’s capacity to sustain the more synthetic biosocial substances of conviviality. However, following Agamben’s early controversial stance for braving the virus, we would like to envisage “life” to be more than “survival” alone. We would also argue that the hard times of the pandemic invoke a new grammar of the “will to live” that was practised by the pandemicariat against heavy odds.

Author Biographies

Subhendra Bhowmick, Sidho-Kanho-Birsha University

Subhendra Bhowmick works as an Assistant Professor of Sociology of Sidho-Kanho-Birsha University, Purulia in West Bengal, India. His main research area is space and culture with a focus on dirt and impurity in Bengal, social theory amidst the everyday contexts, postcolonial criticism and post-structuralist readings of social life. He has published articles and book reviews in journals such as History and Sociology of South Asia (Sage), Transnational Literature, Contemporary South Asia (Routledge), Kairos etc. He has authored and co-authored English and Bengali articles on themes such as: the critical appraisal of Swachh Bharat, genealogical studies on the Bengali concepts related to dirt, garbage and impurity, Derridean readings and critiques of The Mahabharata, death penalty, the idea of Swaraj and Ambedkar, on Vidyasagar as a public intellectual, Marxism in postcolonial India, critical animal studies, etc. In 2019, he attended Professor Etienne Balibar’s Seminar as a ‘Fellow’ at the Institute for Critical Social Inquiry (ICSI) in The New School, New York, USA. He is one of the founding members of Postcolonial Association of Global South (PSAGS) and an Editorial Advisory Board member of Kairos – A Journal of Critical Symposium.His contact is

Mursed Alam, University of Gour Banga

Mursed Alam teaches as Assistant Professor in the Department of English, Gour College, University of Gour Banga, India. He is currently the RACE.ED visiting research fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH), University of Edinburgh. His areas of research include subaltern studies, Islamic traditions in South Asia, decoloniality, literary and cultural history of Bengal Muslims, and minor intellectual traditions in South Asia, etc. He was awarded the Charles Wallace India Trust Fellowship in 2018 for archival work in the British Library. He is the managing editor of Kairos: A Journal of Critical Symposium and one of the founding members of Postcolonial Studies Association of the Global South (PSAGS). He is the Coordinator of the Ambedkar Centre for Social and Cultural Studies, Gour College and Director of Abid Ali Khan Centre for Digital Archive and Translation of Cultures, Gour College. He has contributed articles and book reviews in journals such as Postcolonial Interventions: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Postcolonial StudiesRethinking MarxismEconomic and Political WeeklySouth Asia ResearchContemporary South Asia etc. He can be reached at


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How to Cite

Bhowmick, S., & Alam, M. (2023). Foucault Meets Novel Coronavirus: Biosociality, Excesses of Governmentality and the “Will to Live” of the Pandemicariat . Foucault Studies, (35), 148–169.



Special Issue: Biopolitical Tensions after Pandemic Times