Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Connor J. Cavanagh
Biopolitics, Environmental Change, and Development Studies, Forum for Development Studies, Vol. 41, Iss. 2, 2014, 273-294

This article proposes a Foucaultian, yet more-than-human, conceptual framework for scholars of both international development and biopolitics in our current historical–geographical conjuncture: the ostensibly nascent Anthropocene. Under these conditions, it is argued that biopower operates across three primary axes: first, between differently ‘racialized’ populations of humans; second, between asymmetrically valued populations of humans and nonhumans; and, third, between humans, our vital support systems, and various types of emergent biosecurity threats. Indeed, one can observe biopower at work in governmental programmes to encourage specific forms of environmental citizenship, or, alternatively, to ensure the conservation of certain ‘charismatic megafauna’ at the expense of marginal human communities. In addition, emerging campaigns to identify and contain both harmful pathogens and their vector species constitute a third axis of human–nonhuman–nonhuman biopolitics, wherein the international community increasingly seeks to eliminate or contain life-forms that threaten both human communities and the ecological systems from which we derive our prosperity. In short, each of these sets of interventions proposes a governmental vision for the forms of life that states and development institutions can and should support, while implicitly approving that others may be ‘let die’. Suggesting that these are the parameters of the empirical problematic with which a properly (bio)political approach to development studies must engage, the article concludes with a further elucidation of these arguments in relation to four ‘sectoral impacts’ of environmental change that the World Bank has recently identified: (i) agriculture, (ii) water resources, (iii) ecosystem services, and (iv) emerging infectious diseases.


development studies,
environmental change,

DOI: 10.1080/08039410.2014.901243

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