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Bioeconomy and Migrants’ Lives in Libya

By Marthe Achtnich

Cite As:
Achtnich, Marthe. 2022. “Bioeconomy and Migrants’ Lives in Libya.” Cultural Anthropology 37, no. 1: 9–15.


This essay examines how a bioeconomy might be understood in a context of fragmented state authority in Libya, where mobilities are commodified by different actors, but not always tethered to a state-centric biopolitics of managing migration. It focuses on the unauthorized journeys of migrants moving through Libya and onward by boat to Europe. In this context, economies tapping into human vitality can be clandestine, where lines between state and criminal actors, as well as the value and disposability of life, become blurred. They are also contingent on intimate relations between migrants—proximities and labors of care through which mobile lives are reproduced and from which various predatory economic formations profit. Moving beyond the Foucauldian biopolitics that often inform studies of migration, security, and the state, ethnographic attention to value generation and extraction in the borderlands foregrounds economic relations as sets of intersecting practices in which mobile life and its disposability constitute a vital thread.


migration; mobility; bioeconomy; necropolitics; care; bodies; Libya