From the Balkan Wars to the current displacement of Syrians, the United States has taken part in the resettlement of hundreds of thousands of refugees. Because of this, the U.S. is often coined as “the melting pot.” However, miscommunication is inevitable when attempting to weave so many cultures together. This cross-cultural miscommunication is a complicating factor when engaging with American institutions. These complications are especially severe when dealing with life-saving institutions such as the hospital. When the dominant culture has control over these life-saving institutions, they can often exert power over those who are outsiders. Michel Foucault famously coined the term “biopower,” the power over life and death, and also discussed the idea of “necropolitics,” the institutionalized ability to control the functions of death. He discusses both issues in his book The History of Sexuality: An Introduction in his last chapter “Right of Death and Power Over Life.” Issues of power over life are very prevalent in the book The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down and can be analyzed through Foucault’s understanding of power over life. Power over Lia’s life is institutionally held by doctors and social workers because they have been given institutional biopower over Lia’s parents due to the fact that American doctors have supposedly “superior” knowledge that is informed by the Western period of Enlightenment. This ideology is dogmatic rather than an embodiment of progress.


Religions; Religions -- Philosophy; Religions -- History


Relics, Remnants, and Religion: an Undergraduate Journal in Religious Studies

Publication Date




Publication Place

Tacoma, Washington


The University of Puget Sound