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Risky Bodies, Drugs and Biopolitics: On the Pharmaceutical Governance of Addiction and Other ‘Diseases of Risk’

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-76
Number of pages23
JournalBody and Society
Issue number3
Early online date8 Jun 2016
E-pub ahead of print8 Jun 2016
Published1 Sep 2016

King's Authors


While there has been a significant amount of scholarship done on health and risk in relation to public health and disease prevention, relatively little attention has been paid to therapeutic interventions which seek to manage risks as bodily, and biological, matters. This article elucidates the distinct qualities and logics of these two different approaches to risk management, in relation to Michel Foucault’s conception of the two poles of biopower, that is, a biopolitics of the population and an anatomo-politics of the human body. Using a case study of contemporary addiction biomedicine, the article examines the development and deployment of treatments for addiction that seek to reduce the risks of relapse to drug use, and relates this case to other risk-reducing (but non-curative) medications, particularly cholesterol-reducing medications. The notion of a ‘disease of risk’ is developed in order to identify a range of medical conditions that bear a family resemblance, insofar as they are pharmaceutically managed with risk-reducing medications, and bound up within what is described as a contemporary ‘risk anatomo-politics’.

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