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Governmentality at the limits of the international: African politics and Foucauldian theory

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 December 2012

Abstract

The ability of International Relations theory to ‘travel well’ to other parts of the world has become one of the central questions within the discipline. This article argues that a Foucauldian-derived ‘analytics of government’ framework has particular advantages in overcoming some of the difficulties IR theory has faced abroad. These advantages include a methodological focus on specific practices of power at their point of application; attention to similarities between practices of power that cut across perceived binaries such as the domestic and international, and public and private; and an illumination of the ways in which practices of freedom are combined and interrelate with forms of coercion and violence. This argument is illustrated in the context of debates about the applicability of Foucauldian theory to African politics, through examples drawn from Bayart's work on globalisation, the power of development partnerships, and violence and civil war. It argues that deploying governmentality as an analytical framework, rather than seeing it as a specifically neoliberal form of power relation, can not only facilitate the application of IR theory outside Europe and North America but can also help develop a broader perspective on genuinely world politics.

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Articles
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Copyright © British International Studies Association 2012 

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47 Ibid.

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72 Ibid., pp. xiii, xxiii, p. 208, pp. 250–3. On Bayart's differences with Foucault, see Ibid., pp. li and lxxxvii. Bayart's analysis could not be described as purely Foucauldian (whatever that might mean), and he does not spend much time discussing the literature on governmentality. Many of the categories he employs throughout his analysis are borrowed from Gramsci (chap. 7) and Deleuze and Guattari (pp. 220–1). Yet he concludes that that the concept of governmentality – in contrast to other concepts such as hegemony, historical bloc, and culture – ‘is more likely to avoid the trap of unwarranted totalisation’ (p. 271).

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83 Joseph, ‘The limits of governmentality’, p. 224; see also Selby, ‘Engaging Foucault’, p. 326.

84 Selby, ‘Engaging Foucault’, p. 337.

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97 See Whitfield, The Politics of Aid.

98 Abrahamsen, ‘The power of partnerships’, p. 1454.

99 Harrison, The World Bank and Africa. See also Engel and Olsen, ‘Authority, sovereignty and Africa’.

100 Abrahamsen, ‘The power of partnerships’, p. 1459; Harrison, The World Bank and Africa, chaps 4 and 5; Löwenheim, ‘Examining the state’; Tosa, ‘Anarchical governance’, pp. 418–20.

101 For example, see Assey et al., Environment at the heart of Tanzania's Development; Dalal-Clayton and Bass, The Challenges of Environmental Mainstreaming.

102 Harrison, The World Bank and Africa, p. 90.

103 For example, see Nord, Roger, Sobolev, Yuri, Dunn, David, Hajdenberg, Alejandro, Hobdari, Niko, Maziad, Samar, and Roudet, Stéphane, Tanzania: The Story of an African Transition (Washington DC: IMF, 2009)Google Scholar.

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108 Neumann and Sending, Governing the Global Polity.

109 Joseph, ‘The limits of governmentality’, pp. 238–9.

110 Joseph, ‘Governmentality of what?’ p. 427.

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112 Fougner, ‘Neoliberal’.

113 Jaeger, ‘UN reform’; Zanotti, ‘Governmentalizing’.

114 Abrahamsen, ‘The power of partnerships’.

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117 Miller and Rose, Governing the Present, p. 71.

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121 Abrahamsen and Williams, Security beyond the state, pp. 220–21; Chatterjee, The Politics of the Governed; Dean, Governing Societies; Dean, ‘Liberal government’; Hindess, ‘Politics as Government’, pp. 402–3; Nadesan, Governmentality, Biopower and Everyday Life.

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124 Joseph, ‘The limits of governmentality’, p. 236.

125 Duffield, ‘Governing the borderlands’; Duffield, Mark, Development, Security and Unending War: Governing the World of Peoples (Cambridge: Polity, 2007)Google Scholar; Nordstrom, ‘Out of the shadows’; Richards, Fighting for the Rain Forest.

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130 Dean, Governmentality, pp. 131–9; ‘Liberal government’.

131 Chatterjee, The Politics of the Governed, pp. 7 and 36.

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133 Neumann and Sending, Governing the Global Polity, p. 11.

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137 Jackson, ‘The State Didn't Even Exist’.

138 Ferguson, Global Shadows.

139 Abrahamsen and Williams, Security beyond the state.

140 Richards, Fighting for the Rain Forest, pp. 30–1.

141 Joseph, ‘The limits of governmentality’, p. 242.

142 Harrison, Neoliberal Africa; Mamdani, Mahmood, Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism (London: James Currey, 1996)Google Scholar.

143 Abrahamsen, Disciplining Democracy; Bayart, The State in Africa; Ferguson, Global Shadows.

144 Harrison, Neoliberal Africa, p. 143.

145 Barnett and Duvall, ‘Power in International Politics’.

146 Engel and Olsen, ‘Authority, sovereignty and Africa’, p. 63.

147 As such this article echoes the conclusions of Brown and Lemke in this journal regarding the applicability of many insights derived from politics in Africa for the study of politics elsewhere. Brown, ‘Africa and International Relations’; Lemke, ‘Intra-national IR in Africa’. See also Comaroff and Comaroff, Theory from the South, p. 7; Cornelissen et al., ‘Introduction’, pp. 12–13; Harrison, Neoliberal Africa, p. 116.

148 Abrahamsen and Williams, Security beyond the state, pp. 218–19. See also Rosenow, ‘The merits of a Foucauldian approach’, p. 500.

149 Bayart, The State in Africa, p. 268. See also Comaroff and Comaroff, Theory from the South.

150 Nadesan, Governmentality, Biopower and Everyday Life, p. 6.

151 Dean, Governing Societies, p. 103.

152 Comaroff and Comaroff, Theory from the South, p. 48.

153 Ahluwalia, Out of Africa, p. 6.

154 Dean, Governing Societies, p. 83. Similar arguments are advanced by Joseph, ‘The limits of governmentality’, p. 224; Tosa, ‘Anarchical governance’, p. 417.

155 Mbembe, On the Postcolony; Miller and Rose, Governing the Present.

156 David Chandler's discussion and critique of governmentality-inspired analyses of development partnerships relies on questioning the motivation of donor institutions. This is a subject on which an analytics of government approach is not particularly well-suited to conducting research. Chandler, Empire in denial, pp. 15–18.

157 Dean, Governing Societies, pp. 50–1.

158 Foucault, Michel, ‘On the Genealogy of Ethics: An Overview of Work in Progress’, in Rabinow, P. (ed.), Ethics, Subjectivity and Truth: Essential Works of Foucault 1954–1984, Vol. 1, trans. Hurley, R.et al., (New York: The New Press 1997), p. 256Google Scholar. See also Abrahamsen, ‘African Studies and the Postcolonial Challenge’, p. 210.

159 Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics, p. 313.

160 Ibid.

161 Rose, Powers of Freedom, p. 60.

32
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Governmentality at the limits of the international: African politics and Foucauldian theory
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Governmentality at the limits of the international: African politics and Foucauldian theory
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Governmentality at the limits of the international: African politics and Foucauldian theory
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