Contemporary social scientists have revisited the distinction made by the ancient Greeks between zoe, the biological fact of life, and bios, the manner in which life is lived, or biography shaped by speech and action. In particular, anthropologists have engaged with the work of philosophers such as Michel Foucault, Hannah Arendt, and Giorgio Agamben to show how the modern condition can be characterized as importing the biological into the realm of the political. The first part of this course examines Foucault’s notion of the biopolitical or a technology of power that controls the biological processes of the human, ensuring that they are regularized through a range of measures such as statistics and forecasts. We will focus on ethnographies that draw on and revise Foucault’s notion of biopolitics to focus on how colonial and post-colonial state practices value human life differently. Themes covered include practices of governance, the work of humanitarian organizations, and governing epidemics. The second part of the course draws on ethnographies that show how people who face violence, epidemics, deprivation, and humiliation draw on complex entanglements of custom, ritual, and religious practices to reclaim life and death in ways that escape regularization and are in tension with biopolitical regimes. In particular, the focus on the ethical and everyday demonstrates how people grapple with questions of the value of life that are grounded in practice.