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Displacing Equality?: Women’s Participation and Humanitarian Aid Effectiveness in Refugee Camps
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Political Science. Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Umeå Centre for Gender Studies (UCGS).
2014 (English)In: Refugee Survey Quarterly, ISSN 1020-4067, E-ISSN 1471-695X, Vol. 33, no 3, 93-117 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In humanitarian aid policy and practice, the importance of women’s participation is strongly emphasised. However, this article argues that women’s participation has become an instrument for optimising the efficiency and effectiveness of humanitarian operations rather than a tool for the promotion of gender equality. Drawing on the Foucauldian concept of governmentality, the article examines how women’s participation is represented and employed as a means to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of humanitarian aid in two refugee camp contexts, in Bangladesh and in Thailand, and asks how such strategies affect the gendered relations of power that shape women’s lives in the camps. Based on interviews with humanitarian workers, the analysis shows that programmes that promote women’s participation as a means for the achievement of other goals can reinforce existing gender inequalities, but also, despite their constraining effects, contribute to open up new opportunities for women. However, equality is treated as a side effect, not a goal in its own right. In conclusion, the article suggests that renewed engagement with the political project of feminism is needed to counter the de-politisation and instrumentalisation of gender in humanitarian aid, and bring the goals of equality and justice back in.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. Vol. 33, no 3, 93-117 p.
Keyword [en]
Women's participation, refugee camps, humanitarian aid, governmentality, neo-liberalism, Bangladesh, Thailand
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)
Research subject
Peace and Conflict Research
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-92030DOI: 10.1093/rsq/hdu009OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-92030DiVA: diva2:739293
Available from: 2014-08-20 Created: 2014-08-20 Last updated: 2017-10-30Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Governing Refugees through Gender Equality: Care, Control, Emancipation
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Governing Refugees through Gender Equality: Care, Control, Emancipation
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In recent decades, international feminist activism and research has had significant success in pushing gender issues onto the international agenda and into global governance institutions and processes. The goal of gender equality is now widely accepted and codified in international legal instruments. While this appears to be a remarkable global success for feminism, widespread gender inequalities persist around the globe. This paradox has led scholars to question the extent to which feminist concepts and goals can retain their transformative potential when they are institutionalized in global governance institutions and processes. This thesis examines the institutionalization of feminist ideas in global governance through an analysis of how, and with what effects, gender equality norms are constructed, interpreted and applied in the global governance of refugees: a field that has thus far received little attention in the growing literature on feminism, gender and global governance. This aim is pursued through a case study of humanitarian aid practices in refugee camps in Bangladesh and Thailand. The study is based on interviews with humanitarian workers in these two contexts, and its theoretical framework is informed by postcolonial feminist theory and Foucauldian thought on power and governing. These analytical perspectives allows the thesis to capture how gender equality norms operate as governing tools, and situate the politics of gender equality in refugee camps in the context of global relations of power and marginalization. The findings of this thesis show that in the global governance of refugees, gender equality is rarely treated as a goal in its own right. The construction, interpretation and application of gender equality norms is mediated and shaped by the dominant governing projects in this field. Gender equality norms are either advocated on the basis of their usefulness as means for the efficient management of refugee situations, or as necessary components of a process of modernization and development of the regions from which refugees originate. These governing projects significantly limit the forms of social change and the forms of agency that are enabled. Nevertheless, gender equality norms do contribute to opening up new opportunities for refugee women and destabilizing local gendered relations of power, and they are appropriated and used by refugees in ways that challenge and go beyond humanitarian agendas.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet, 2014. 113 p.
Series
Statsvetenskapliga institutionens skriftserie, ISSN 0349-0831 ; 2014:3
Keyword
Global governance, feminism, gender equality, refugees, refugee camps, humanitarian aid, Bangladesh, Thailand, governmentality, postcolonial feminist theory
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)
Research subject
Peace and Conflict Research
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-96379 (URN)978-91-7601-150-8 (ISBN)
Public defence
2014-12-12, Hörsal D, Samhällsvetarhuset, Umeå, 13:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2014-11-21 Created: 2014-11-19 Last updated: 2015-05-26Bibliographically approved

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Olivius, Elisabeth

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