Farmer Suicides and the Function of Death in Neoliberal Biopolitics

Suvi Alt*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    1 Citation (Scopus)


    The farmer suicides that have taken place in India since the 1990s constitute the largest wave of recorded suicides in human history. While existing research largely focuses on explaining the causes that lead farmers to take their own lives, this paper examines the biopolitical governing function that the suicides have. The paper argues that the farmer suicides have functioned to legitimate intervention into the lives of those who remain by either treating them as subjects with mental health problems or educating them on how to embrace a neoliberal entrepreneurial mentality. The farmer suicides arguably also function to dispose of a population that has become surplus in the contemporary developmental vision of the Indian state. Furthermore, the paper contests biopolitical theorization that views suicide or death as resistance to biopower, arguing that it fails to recognize both the particularity of biopolitics in a context where the presence of death is ubiquitous and the way in which the death of some may reinforce the biopolitical governing of life of others. The farmer suicides express rather than contest the devaluation of ‘unproductive’ lives in neoliberal capitalism.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)37-52
    Number of pages16
    JournalInternational Political Sociology
    Issue number1
    Early online date29-Nov-2018
    Publication statusPublished - Mar-2019


    • DEATH
    • INDIA
    • TERROR
    • STATE

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