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Gender Equality and Neo-liberal Governmentality in Refugee Camps

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In recent decades, humanitarian aid to refugees has increasingly employed neoliberal forms of governing that are characterized by an emphasis on accountability, measurement of performance, and the decentralization of responsibility for welfare. This paper examines the implications of the neo-liberalization of the international refugee regime for humanitarian aspirations to promote gender equality, and argues that neo-liberal strategies and practices of government fundamentally shape the meaning of gender equality and the organization of its promotion in humanitarian aid to refugees. The analysis draws on a Foucauldian governmentality perspective, and, based on interviews with humanitarian workers, shows how neo-liberal technologies of government are employed in gender equality programmes in refugee camps in Thailand and Bangladesh. The paper concludes that neo-liberal forms of gender equality promotion have a number of problematic effects: the meaning of gender equality becomes superficial and instrumental, and international “expertise” is privileged at the expense of refugee ownership when gender equality is constructed as a technical, administrative issue rather than an issue of power and politics.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2013-05-01

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  • The St Antony's International Review (STAIR) is the only peer-reviewed journal of international affairs at the University of Oxford. Set up by graduate students of St Antony's College in 2005, the Review has carved out a distinctive niche as a cross-disciplinary outlet for research on the most pressing contemporary global issues, providing a forum in which emerging scholars can publish their work alongside established academics and policymakers. Past contributors include Robert O. Keohane, James N. Rosenau, and Alfred Stepan.
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