Giorgio Agamben  

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"...this eyeless animal finds the way to her watchpoint [at the top of a tall blade of grass] with the help of only its skin’s general sensitivity to light. The approach of her prey becomes apparent to this blind and deaf bandit only through her sense of smell. The odor of butyric acid, which emanates from the sebaceous follicles of all mammals, works on the tick as a signal that causes her to abandon her post (on top of the blade of grass/bush) and fall blindly downward toward her prey. If she is fortunate enough to fall on something warm (which she perceives by means of an organ sensible to a precise temperature) then she has attained her prey, the warm-blooded animal, and thereafter needs only the help of her sense of touch to find the least hairy spot possible and embed herself up to her head in the cutaneous tissue of her prey. She can now slowly suck up a stream of warm blood."--The Open: Man and Animal (2002) by Giorgio Agamben

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Giorgio Agamben (born 22 April 1942) is an Italian philosopher best known for his work investigating the concepts of the state of exception, form-of-life (borrowed from Ludwig Wittgenstein) and homo sacer. The concept of biopolitics (carried forth from the work of Michel Foucault) informs many of his writings.



Agamben was educated at the University of Rome, where he wrote a thesis on the political thought of Simone Weil. Agamben participated in Martin Heidegger's Le Thor seminars (on Heraclitus and Hegel) in 1966 and 1968. In the 1970s he worked primarily on linguistics, philology, poetics, and medievalist topics, where he began to elaborate his primary concerns, though without as yet inflecting them in a specifically political direction. In 1974–1975 he was a fellow at the Warburg Institute, due to the courtesy of Francis Yates (whom he met through Italo Calvino), where he developed part of the volume Stanzas (1977).

Close to the italian writer Elsa Morante, on whom he has written, and with the poets Giorgio Caproni and José Bergamín, he developed friendships, relations and collaborations with eminent figures of our times as Pier Paolo Pasolini (in whose The Gospel According to St. Matthew he played the part of Philip), Italo Calvino (with whom he collaborated, for a short while, as counsellor of the publisher house Einaudi and developed a project for a magazine), Ingeborg Bachmann, Pierre Klossowski, Guy Debord, Jean-Luc Nancy, Jacques Derrida, Antonio Negri, Jean-François Lyotard and so many others.

His strongest influences include Martin Heidegger and Walter Benjamin, whose complete works he edited in Italian translation (until 1996), and which was for him a kind of antidote to the strong influence Heidegger. Of Benjamin, he discovered several important manuscripts, some at the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Within these, and of great relevance, were found the manuscripts of the thesis On the Concept of History. Since the nineties, he was mainly concerned with: the political writings of the German jurist Carl Schmitt, of whom we can read extensively in his Stato di eccezione (2003); and with Michel Foucault, from whom, in the last years, he confesses to have «had the opportunity to learn so much».

Agamben's political thought - which started mainly as a revisitation, with rare deepness, of Aristotle's Politics, the Nicomachean Ethics and the short treatise On the Soul, and the exegetic late-antiquity and medieval tradition around them - draws on Hannah Arendt's and Foucault's studies and on the wide discussion initiated with the publication of Nancy's article La communauté désoeuvrée (1983), and the immediate response to it by Maurice Blanchot, La communauté inavouable (1983); all these concerned with the notion of community at a time when the European Community was under a main debate. From such thoughtful texts and discussions, came, a few years later, his own proposal - La comunità che viene (1990/ translated in english in 1993), at a time when he was working around the ontological condition and «political» attitude of Bartleby (from Herman Melville's short story) — a scrivener who does not react, and «prefers not» to write.

Statements on COVID-19

Agamben, in an article published by Il Manifesto on 26 February 2020, wrote that the COVID-19 pandemic was an "invention": "In order to make sense of the frantic, irrational, and absolutely unwarranted emergency measures adopted for a supposed epidemic of coronavirus, we must begin from the declaration of the Italian National Research Council (NRC), according to which 'there is no SARS-CoV2 epidemic in Italy.' and 'the infection, according to the epidemiological data available as of today and based on tens of thousands of cases, causes light/moderate symptoms (a variant of flu) in 80-90% of cases. In 10-15%, there is a chance of pneumonia, but which also has a benign outcome in the large majority of cases. We estimate that only 4% of patients require intensive therapy.


Agamben's major books are listed in order of first Italian publication (with the exception of Potentialities, which first appeared in English), and English translations are listed where available. There are translations of most writings in German, French, Portuguese, and Spanish.

  • L'uomo senza contenuto (1970). Translated by Georgia Albert as The Man without Content (1999). 0-8047-3554-9
  • Stanze. La parola e il fantasma nella cultura occidentale (1977). Trans. Ronald L. Martinez as Stanzas: Word and Phantasm in Western Culture (1992). 0-8166-2038-5
  • Infanzia e storia: Distruzione dell'esperienza e origine della storia (1978). Trans. Liz Heron as Infancy and History: The Destruction of Experience (1993). 0-86091-645-6
  • Il linguaggio e la morte: Un seminario sul luogo della negatività (1982). Trans. Karen E. Pinkus with Michael Hardt as Language and Death: The Place of Negativity (1991). Template:ISBN
  • Idea della prosa (1985). Trans. Michael Sullivan and Sam Whitsitt as Idea of Prose (1995). Template:ISBN
  • La comunità che viene (1990). Trans. Michael Hardt as The Coming Community (1993). Template:ISBN
  • Bartleby, la formula della creazione (1993, contains Bartleby, or the Contingency, an essay included in Potentialities, (1999). Template:ISBN and a text by Gilles Deleuze from 1989, Bartleby ou la formule, also in Deleuze, Essays Clinical and Critical (1997). Template:ISBN
  • Homo Sacer. Il potere sovrano e la vita nuda (Homo sacer, I) (1995). Trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen as Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (1998). Template:ISBN
  • Mezzi senza fine. Note sulla politica (1996). Trans. Vincenzo Binetti and Cesare Casarino as Means Without End: Notes of Politics (2000). Template:ISBN
  • Categorie italiane. Studi di poetica (1996). Trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen as The End of the Poem: Studies in Poetics (1999). Template:ISBN
  • Quel che resta di Auschwitz. L'archivio e il testimone (Homo sacer, III) (1998). Trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen as Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive. Homo Sacer III (1999). Template:ISBN
  • Potentialities: Collected Essays in Philosophy. (1999). First published in English translation and edited by Daniel Heller-Roazen. Template:ISBN. Published in the original Italian, with additional essays, as La potenza del pensiero: Saggi e conferenza (2005).
  • Il tempo che resta. Un commento alla Lettera ai Romani (2000). Trans. Patricia Dailey as The Time that Remains: A Commentary on the Letter to the Romans (2005). Template:ISBN
  • L'aperto. L'uomo e l'animale (2002). Trans. Kevin Attell as The Open: Man and Animal (2004). Template:ISBN
  • Stato di eccezione (Homo sacer, II, 1) (2003). Trans. Kevin Attell as State of Exception (2005). Template:ISBN
  • Profanazioni (2005). Trans. Jeff Fort as Profanations (2008). Template:ISBN
  • Che cos'è un dispositivo? (2006). Trans. David Kishik and Stefan Pedatella in What is an Apparatus? and Other Essays (2009). Template:ISBN
  • L'amico (2007). Trans. David Kishik and Stefan Pedatella in What is an Apparatus? and Other Essays (2009). Template:ISBN
  • Ninfe (2007). Trans. Amanda Minervini as "Nymphs" in Releasing the Image: From Literature to New Media, ed. Jacques Khalip and Robert Mitchell (2011). Template:ISBN
  • Il regno e la gloria. Per una genealogia teologica dell'economia e del governo (Homo sacer, II, 2) (2007). Trans. Lorenzo Chiesa with Matteo Mandarini as The Kingdom and the Glory: For a Theological Genealogy of Economy and Government (2011). Template:ISBN
  • Che cos'è il contemporaneo? (2007). Trans. David Kishik and Stefan Pedatella in What is an Apparatus? and Other Essays (2009). Template:ISBN
  • Signatura rerum. Sul Metodo (2008). Trans. Luca di Santo and Kevin Attell as The Signature of All Things: On Method (2009). Template:ISBN
  • Il sacramento del linguaggio. Archeologia del giuramento (Homo sacer, II, 3) (2008). Trans. Adam Kotsko as The Sacrament of Language: An Archaeology of the Oath (2011).
  • Nudità (2009). Trans. David Kishik and Stefan Pedatella as Nudities (2010). Template:ISBN
  • Angeli. Ebraismo Cristianesimo Islam (ed. Emanuele Coccia and Giorgio Agamben). Neripozza, Vicenza 2009.
  • La Chiesa e il Regno (2010). Template:ISBN. Trans. Leland de la Durantaye as The Church and the Kingdom (2012). Template:ISBN
  • La ragazza indicibile. Mito e mistero di Kore (2010, with Monica Ferrando.) Template:ISBN. Trans. Leland de la Durantaye and Annie Julia Wyman as The Unspeakable Girl: The Myth and Mystery of Kore (2014). Template:ISBN
  • Altissima povertà. Regole monastiche e forma di vita (Homo sacer, IV, 1) (2011). Template:ISBN. Trans. Adam Kotsko as The Highest Poverty: Monastic Rules and Form-of-Life (2013). Template:ISBN
  • Opus Dei. Archeologia dell'ufficio (Homo sacer, II, 5) (2012). Template:ISBN. Trans. Adam Kotsko as Opus Dei: An Archaeology of Duty (2012). Template:ISBN.
  • Pilato e Gesú (2013). Template:ISBN Trans. by Adam Kotsko as Pilate and Jesus (2015) Template:ISBN
  • Il mistero del male: Benedetto XVI e la fine dei tempi (2013). Template:ISBN Trans. by Adam Kotsko as The Mystery of Evil: Benedict XVI and the End of Days (2017) Template:ISBN
  • "Qu'est-ce que le commandement?" (2013) Template:ISBN (French translation only, no original version published.)
  • "Leviathans Rätsel" ('Leviathans Riddle') (2013) Template:ISBN. English trans. Paul Silas Peterson
  • Il fuoco e il racconto (2014). Template:ISBN Trans. by Lorenzo Chiesa as The Fire and the Story (2017) Template:ISBN
  • L'uso dei corpi (Homo sacer, IV, 2) (2014). Template:ISBN. Trans. Adam Kotsko as The Use of Bodies (2016). Template:ISBN
  • L'avventura (2015). Template:ISBN Trans. by Lorenzo Chiesa as The Adventure (2018) Template:ISBN
  • Stasis. La guerra civile come paradigma politico (2015). Template:ISBN. Trans. Nicholas Heron as Stasis: Civil War as a Political Paradigm (2015). Template:ISBN
  • Pulcinella ovvero Divertimento per li regazzi in quattro scene (2015). Template:ISBN Trans. by Kevin Attell as Pulcinella: Or Entertainment for Children (2019) Template:ISBN
  • Che cos'è la filosofia? (2016). Template:ISBN Trans. by Lorenzo Chiesa as What Is Philosophy? (2017) Template:ISBN
  • Che cos'è reale? La scomparsa di Majorana (2016). Template:ISBN Trans. by Lorenzo Chiesa as What Is Real? (2018) Template:ISBN
  • Creazione e anarchia (2017) Trans. Adam Kotsko as Creation and Anarchy (2019) Template:ISBN
  • Karman. Breve trattato sull'azione, la colpa e il gesto (2017) Template:ISBN Trans. by Adam Kotsko as Karman: A Brief Treatise on Action, Guilt, and Gesture (2017) Template:ISBN

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Giorgio Agamben" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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