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Title: Biopolitics of humanitarianism : 'caring' for the populations of Afghanistan and Belarus
Author: Piotukh, Volha
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2013
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The post-Cold War international environment presented the humanitarian world with challenges and opportunities, and a new humanitarianism emerged as a response to them. The changes in the nature of humanitarian action were complex and profound, as it expanded in terms of actors, agendas and resources and gained unprecedented prominence. The need to understand this new humanitarianism calls for an original approach, capable of accounting for complex power relations and their effects at different levels, from the global to the local. The thesis uses Michel Foucault's later theorising on biopolitics and governmentality, positioned within his wider thinking on power, to interpret the policies and practices associated with the new humanitarianism in general, as well as the dynamics of two specific international assistance efforts: the post-200l conflict-related assistance effort in Afghanistan and the post-2000 Chernobyl-related assistance effort in Belarus. With a view to understanding how biopolitics as a life-promoting power can produce negative effects or turn lethal, the thesis discusses Foucault's thinking in conjunction with alternative accounts offered by Agamben and Esposito. This discussion informs the theory application exercise, which offers a productive way of operationalising Foucault's theorising and concludes that the new humanitarianism, and specific assistance efforts informed by it, can be understood as neoliberal regimes of governing, reliant on biopolitics, discipline and sovereignty. The empirical studies in this thesis show that, while negative biopolitics of containment, abandonment and invisibility characterise both assistance efforts, the purposes of biopolitical governing are specific to particular contexts. In challenging the dominant problematisations and considering their implications for the assistance provision in Afghanistan and Belarus, it contributes to opening up possibilities for resistance and for alternatives ways of addressing humanitarian needs.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available