Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Parasites and Para-Sites

Oliver C. Speck.

My talk will trace discourses on parasites in film and the media and will link these discourses to the creation of para-sites. The paradox of the parasite (M. Serres, The Parasite) can be unfolded as follows: The modern state needs devices to transport people, goods and information, and simultaneously the state seeks to contain with biopolitical measures the emerging parasites: illegal immigrants, epidemic diseases, corruption and the noise that hinders the flow of information. However, the more perfect the control measures, the more opportunity for the parasite to latch onto the host. When opponents of universal health care and social aid see an incentive to abuse the system, it is not that the object of the gaze is a parasite, but the gaze itself is infected because it sees parasites everywhere. A dangerous paranoid projection is taking place: People imagine themselves under the gaze of a parasite, who looks at them as a host, while, in truth, they treat illegal immigrants, the unemployed, and drug addicts as parasites in the sociological and the biological sense: as less than human. Far from controlling biological or social parasites, the system that sees parasites everywhere produces parasites. Such a parasite is defined solely by its para-legal status as a “bare life” (G. Agamben, Homo Sacer) that needs to be controlled, confined and contained in sites that are equally para-sites (e.g. Guantanamo Bay). While a prison inmate still has certain rights, a camp inmate loses all rights, including the right to be regarded as human.


Oliver C. Speck  (United States)
Assistant Professor of German
Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures
University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Oliver C. Speck is Assistant Professor of German at UNCW. In September 1996, Oliver C. Speck completed his Ph.D. at the University of Mannheim, Germany, in German Languages and Literatures with an additional emphasis on English Studies, his project having been subsidized by a scholarship. He graduated summa cum laude. His dissertation, which was published as a book, is entitled "The Forbidden Look: The Problem of Subjectivity in Film" (Der unter-sagte Blick: Zum Problem der Subjektivität im Film. St. Ingbert: Röhrig, 1999).

  • Biopolitics
  • Parasites
  • Guantanamo Bay
  • Agamben
  • Serres
  • Homo sacer

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)