Bodily fluids and a queerfeminist curiosity: exploring the distribution of life-death in biopolitical security assemblages

  • Jennifer Hobbs

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis addresses the central question of how bodily fluids are made to matter in assemblages of international security, arguing that bodily fluids are made to matter through the distribution of life-death between bodies. In doing so, the thesis contributes to two central debates in security studies: what should we study, and how should we study it? Firstly, this thesis argues in favour of studying bodily fluids. The thesis argues that bodily fluids are vital to understanding biopolitical governance. Bodily fluids demonstrate how life-death is distributed in international security through mundane, daily encounters between loose groupings of assemblages; bodily fluids, bodies, sex, gender, biopolitics, technologies, race and security. Secondly, the thesis contributes a fluid method/ology to study international security with. Studying international security through bodily fluids allows us to bring relationships of life-death and practices of biopolitical governance uniquely into view. By making use of a queerfeminist curiosity, this thesis demonstrates that bodily fluids are productive objects to think international security ‘with’ (Lather, 2001, p. 217). Bodily fluids constitute a useful model to develop ‘fluid’ ways of thinking which aim to produce experimental, contingent and changeable forms of knowledge. To unpack these arguments, this thesis considers three particular bodily fluids in turn; plasma donation along the U.S./Mexico border; vomit at the airport during the 2013-16 Ebola outbreak; and the semen of U.S. service members with genitourinary injuries. This thesis demonstrates that biopolitical security assemblages attempt to govern fluid relationships between bodies. The thesis contributes an understanding of life and death not as binary terms, but instead analyses biopolitical assemblages through the production and governance of particular, qualified relations of living and dying. The thesis argues that it is through the management of these relationships that biopolitical security assemblages attempt to govern the distribution of life-death between bodies. The thesis demonstrates that within these sites, bodily fluids have the potential to both (re)produce and challenge gendered, sexed and racialised relationships of life-death.
Date of Award31 Dec 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorCristina Masters (Supervisor) & Laura Mcleod (Supervisor)


  • critical international relations
  • embodiment
  • feminist technoscience
  • bodily fluids
  • critical security studies
  • queer theory
  • feminist security studies
  • biopolitics

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