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Constructing Humanitarian Selves and Refugee Others: Gender Equality and the Global Governance of Refugees
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Political Science. Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Umeå Centre for Gender Studies (UCGS).ORCID iD: 0000-0002-2400-9144
2016 (English)In: International feminist journal of politics, ISSN 1461-6742, E-ISSN 1468-4470, Vol. 18, no 2, p. 270-290Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Contributing to ongoing debates about what happens when feminism is institutionalized in global governance, this article examines how gender equality is given meaning and applied in humanitarian aid to refugees, and what the implications are with regard to the production of subjectivities and their positioning in relations of power. Drawing on Foucauldian and postcolonial feminist perspectives, the analysis identifies two main representations of what it means to promote gender equality in refugee situations. Gender equality is represented as a means to aid effectiveness through the strategic mobilization of refugee women’s participation, and as a project of development, involving the transformation of “traditional” or “backward” refugee cultures into modern societies. The subject positions that are produced categorically cast refugees as either passive or problematic subjects who need to be rescued, protected, assisted, activated, controlled and reformed through humanitarian interventions, while humanitarian workers are positioned as rational administrators and progressive agents of social transformation. In effect, gender equality is used to sustain power asymmetries in refugee situations and to reproduce global hierarchies.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge , 2016. Vol. 18, no 2, p. 270-290
Keywords [en]
global governance, gender equality, refugees, humanitarian aid, governmentality, postcolonial feminism, Thailand, Bangladesh
National Category
Gender Studies Globalisation Studies
Research subject
Peace and Conflict Research; genusvetenskap
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-113507DOI: 10.1080/14616742.2015.1094245ISI: 000377046500006OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-113507DiVA, id: diva2:885751
Note

Originally included in thesis in manuscript form

Available from: 2015-12-21 Created: 2015-12-21 Last updated: 2018-06-26Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Governing Refugees through Gender Equality: Care, Control, Emancipation
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Governing Refugees through Gender Equality: Care, Control, Emancipation
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In recent decades, international feminist activism and research has had significant success in pushing gender issues onto the international agenda and into global governance institutions and processes. The goal of gender equality is now widely accepted and codified in international legal instruments. While this appears to be a remarkable global success for feminism, widespread gender inequalities persist around the globe. This paradox has led scholars to question the extent to which feminist concepts and goals can retain their transformative potential when they are institutionalized in global governance institutions and processes. This thesis examines the institutionalization of feminist ideas in global governance through an analysis of how, and with what effects, gender equality norms are constructed, interpreted and applied in the global governance of refugees: a field that has thus far received little attention in the growing literature on feminism, gender and global governance. This aim is pursued through a case study of humanitarian aid practices in refugee camps in Bangladesh and Thailand. The study is based on interviews with humanitarian workers in these two contexts, and its theoretical framework is informed by postcolonial feminist theory and Foucauldian thought on power and governing. These analytical perspectives allows the thesis to capture how gender equality norms operate as governing tools, and situate the politics of gender equality in refugee camps in the context of global relations of power and marginalization. The findings of this thesis show that in the global governance of refugees, gender equality is rarely treated as a goal in its own right. The construction, interpretation and application of gender equality norms is mediated and shaped by the dominant governing projects in this field. Gender equality norms are either advocated on the basis of their usefulness as means for the efficient management of refugee situations, or as necessary components of a process of modernization and development of the regions from which refugees originate. These governing projects significantly limit the forms of social change and the forms of agency that are enabled. Nevertheless, gender equality norms do contribute to opening up new opportunities for refugee women and destabilizing local gendered relations of power, and they are appropriated and used by refugees in ways that challenge and go beyond humanitarian agendas.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet, 2014. p. 113
Series
Statsvetenskapliga institutionens skriftserie, ISSN 0349-0831 ; 2014:3
Keywords
Global governance, feminism, gender equality, refugees, refugee camps, humanitarian aid, Bangladesh, Thailand, governmentality, postcolonial feminist theory
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalisation Studies)
Research subject
Peace and Conflict Research
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-96379 (URN)978-91-7601-150-8 (ISBN)
Public defence
2014-12-12, Hörsal D, Samhällsvetarhuset, Umeå, 13:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2014-11-21 Created: 2014-11-19 Last updated: 2018-06-26Bibliographically approved

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