Necropolitics is the use of social and political power to dictate how some people may live and how some must die.
Achille Mbembe, author of On the Postcolony, was the first scholar to explore the term in depth in his article of the same name. Necropolitics is often discussed with biopower, the Foucauldian term for the use of social and political power to control people's lives.
Mbembe was clear that necropolitics is more than a right to kill (Foucault's droit de glaive), but also the right to expose other people (including a country's own citizens) to death. His view of necropolitics also included the right to impose social or civil death, the right to enslave others, and other forms of political violence. Necropolitics is a theory of the walking dead, namely a way of analysing how "contemporary forms of subjugation of life to the power of death" forces some bodies to remain in different states of being located between life and death. Mbembe uses the examples of slavery, apartheid, the colonisation of Palestine and the figure of the suicide bomber to show how different forms of necropower over the body (statist, racialised, a state of exception, urgency, martyrdom) reduce people to precarious conditions of life.
Jasbir Puar coined the term queer necropolitics to analyze the post-9/11 queer outrage regarding gay bashing and simultaneous queer complicity with Islamophobia. Many scholars use Puar's queer necropolics in conjunction with Judith Butler's concept of a grievable life. Queer necropolitics is the subject of an anthology from Routledge.
- Mbembe, Achille (2003). "Necropolitics". Public Culture. 15 (1): 11–40.
- Puar, Jasbir K. (2007). Terrorist assemblages : homonationalism in queer times. Durham: Duke University Press. pp. 32–79. ISBN 9780822340942.
- Butler, Judith (2004). Precarious life : the powers of mourning and violence. London: Verso. pp. 20–35. ISBN 978-1844670055.
- Haritaworn, Jin; Kuntsman, Adi; Posocco, Silvia, eds. (2012). Queer necropolitics. London: Routledge. ISBN 9780415644761.