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Human security as power-knowledge: The biopolitics of a definitional debate

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Kyle Grayson


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The agenda of universities has moved on from a desire to simply increase the general education level of the population and the output of scientific research; there is now a greater concern to harness university education and research to specific economic and social objectives. Nowhere is this demand for specificity more clear than in the field of regional development. What contribution do universities make to the development of the regions they are located in? They certainly have passive impacts in terms of direct and indirect employment; yet, how can the resources of universities be mobilised to actively contribute to the development process? The challenge addressed in this book is how should higher education institutions respond to demands which are emanating from a set of actors and agencies concerned with regional development and thus help reach national objectives. This book is based on case studies presented at various conferences focusing on Australia, the Baltic States and Scandinavia, continental Europe, the United States and the United Kingdom. The case study material is supplemented by other sources of information about national higher education policy, including major national surveys of higher education in Australia, Finland and the United Kingdom each of which embrace the regional agenda. This article interrogates the parameters of the human security debate as a site of biopolitics in order to gain an understanding of how it has been possible to shape the debate in certain ways and not others. The role of cosmological realism in grounding knowledge claims within the debate is explored. By privileging objectivist claims to knowledge of human (in)security, it is argued that empiricism and rationalism, as forms of cosmological realism, foster the production of logics which facilitate forms of biopolitical intervention. The quest for precision, measurement, causality and policy relevance that define the production of human security knowledge is shown to have important political effects beyond the definitional debate itself in terms of agency, normalcy, and the scope for intervention. Therefore, this article demonstrates how the demarcation of human security as a field of knowledge is a process pregnant with relations of power that are important to understanding contemporary political dynamics.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Grayson KA

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Cambridge Review of International Affairs

Year: 2008

Volume: 21

Issue: 3

Pages: 383-401

ISSN (print): 0955-7571

ISSN (electronic): 1474-449X

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/09557570802253625


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