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

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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. © 2012 British International Studies Association.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)763-787
Number of pages24
JournalReview of International Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2013


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