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Governing populations through the humanitarian government of refugees: Biopolitical care and racism in the European refugee crisis

Mavelli, Luca (2017) Governing populations through the humanitarian government of refugees: Biopolitical care and racism in the European refugee crisis. Review of International Studies, 43 (5). pp. 809-832. ISSN 0260-2105. E-ISSN 1469-9044. (doi:10.1017/S0260210517000110) (KAR id:60769)


The notion of humanitarian government has been increasingly employed to describe the simultaneous and conflicting deployment of humanitarianism and security in the government of ‘precarious lives’ such as refugees. This article argues that humanitarian government should also be understood as the biopolitical government of host populations through the humanitarian government of refugees. In particular, it explores how the biopolitical governmentality of the UK decision to suspend search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean in 2014, and the British rejection and German welcoming of Syrian refugees primarily concern the biological and emotional care of the British and German populations. To this end, the article analyzes how dynamics of inclusion/exclusion of refugees have been informed by a biopolitical racism that redraws the boundary between ‘valuable’ (to be included) and ‘not valuable’ (to be excluded) lives according to the refugees’ capacity to enhance the biological and emotional well-being of host populations. This discussion aims to contribute to three interrelated fields of research – namely, humanitarian government, biopolitical governmentality, and responses to the European refugee crisis – by exploring how biopolitics has shaped the British and German responses to the crisis and how it encompasses more meanings and rationalities than currently recognized by existing scholarship on humanitarian government.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1017/S0260210517000110
Uncontrolled keywords: Humanitarian government, biopolitical governmentality, emotional care, European refugee crisis, United Kingdom and Germany
Subjects: J Political Science > JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
Depositing User: Luca Mavelli
Date Deposited: 08 Mar 2017 15:52 UTC
Last Modified: 04 Mar 2024 17:06 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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