5th International Winter School

24 February 2015

5th International Winterschool


The fifth International Winterschool took place from 8-14 February 2015 in Kääriku, Estonia. This year the topic of the school was “The State and the Body: Biopower, Biopolitics, and the Political Regime.” Students from Russia, Estonia as well as several other countries came to participate in the one-week event in the southern hillsides of Estonia.

The winterschool has been part of the international project “Escapes from Modernity” which organises winter and summer schools since 2007. As a collaboartive project between the University of Tartu and the Higher School of Economics, Moscow, the Kääriku winter school has been carried out since 2011 with previous schools dedicated to topics such as “Sports and Politics” and the different aspects of Transformation of Modern Statehood. In 2015 the focus was on biopolitical power, as exemplified by regulations for disciplining and constraining human bodies, from anti-gay and anti-abortion laws to food sanctions and Ebola quarantines. Biopolitics is understood along the lines of Michel Foucault as a relatively soft (but rather pervasive) technology of power and governance targeted at such areas as health, sanitation, education, demographic policy, and sexuality. For biopolitics, the human body, including the private life of the individual, is part of political calculations and mechanisms of power.

Throughout the human history, biopolitics was implemented in various eras and in different shapes, from birth control to hygienic policy. Such forms of biopolitics as juvenile justice, laws on smoking, age limitations in the mass media, the cult of healthy body and even noise laws are extensively used by many governments in Western democracies. Yet, as shown by the practices of totalitarian regimes (Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s USSR), in the absence of political pluralism and viable civil society, biopolitics turns into a series of repressive regulations like racial or class hygiene, or the repression of ‘deviant’ sexual practices. In this sense, uses of biopolitics are linked to the nature of the political regime.

Topics that were covered at the school sessions included:

  • Theoretical Foundations of Biopolitics
  • Historical Uses of Biopower
  • Totalitarian Practices of Biopolitical Regulation
  • Biopolitical Conservatism and Russia’s ‘Sexual Sovereignty’
  • Biopolitics of Migration
  • Biopolitics of Sport Mega-Events
  • Biopolitics of Global Epidemics

See here for the week’s programme