Graduate Student Brown Bag


WGS Graduate Student Brown Bag
Spring 2012
Conklin Rm 246 
2:30p (Free Period)

Julian Gill-Peterson, PhD Student in the American Studies program, will be presenting "Growing Up in the Society of Control: Learning and the Un/Making of Adults"


The making of adults, of capitalizable bodies and neoliberal subjects, is one way of defining the process captured by the idiom “growing up”—the educational and maturational protocols in which are invested the total organization and reproduction of: contemporary neoliberal capitalism (cultivating bodies and minds for “today’s economy”), institutions of socialization (schools, universities, and prisons for housing young people), and molar identitarian stratifications that engineer the distinction between children and adults (the family form, increasingly flexible in its composition, but only in the service of optimizing its children as society’s futurity).  Foucault tracks the modern emergence of this “family-child complex” around the coalescing of a discourse on the politics of health and population in Europe of the eighteenth century; however, in the ongoing transition from a disciplinary society to what Deleuze productively terms “the societies of control,” the simultaneously capitalist, institutiontalist, and socially normative organization and operation of “growing up” requires a careful reframing in order to leave behind the limiting concept of difference between child and adult.

           This paper therefore asks after the emergent and dynamic contemporary protocols of growing up along the triple axes of neoliberal capital’s precarity, institutions for dispensing learning, and the psychopolitical subjectivization of human bodies in the movement from child to adult in the society of control.  At issue in this nexus of biopower are: the corporatization of schools and universities, the shift towards life-long learning as a form of control, the “crisis ordinary” of youth unemployment and indebtedness, contemporary cognitive psychology and the intensifying precarity of Oedipal narratives for guaranteeing adult subjectivity, the subsequent deterritorialization of molar age-based identities, and the reterritorialization of bodies activated along ever finer gradations of capacity and debility.  By first examining how bodies are increasingly socially modulated and capitalized along ever finer differences than the classical child that is disciplined and Oedipalized into an adult by age eighteen, I argue for the utility of the irreducible difference of age as the engine of feminist, queer and critical race theories’ consideration of the contemporary and emergent child.