Constructing Humanitarian Selves and Refugee Others: Gender Equality and the Global Governance of Refugees

Citation:

Olivius, Elisabeth. 2016. “Constructing Humanitarian Selves and Refugee Others: Gender Equality and the Global Governance of Refugees.” International Feminist Journal of Politics 18 (2): 270–90. doi:10.1080/14616742.2015.1094245.

Author: Elisabeth Olivius

Abstract:

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.

Keywords: global governance, gender equality, refugees, humanitarian aid, governmentality, postcolonial feminism, Thailand, Bangladesh

Topics: Coloniality/Post-Coloniality, Displacement & Migration, Refugees, Feminisms, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Governance, Humanitarian Assistance

Year: 2016

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