Fixing Non-market Subjects: Governing Land and Population in the Global South

  • Tania Murray Li University of Toronto
Keywords: governmentality, colonialism, liberal, neoliberal, assemblage, ethnography


Expert knowledge about society and human nature is essential to governing human conduct.  It figures in the formulation of the liberal and neoliberal rationalities of government that Foucault analyzed in his later work.  It also figures in particular assemblages in which a governmental rationality is brought to bear on the definition of problems and the formulation of solutions.  This article explores the use of expert knowledge in governmental assemblages directed towards optimizing relations between people and land in the global south.  Since colonial times liberal versions of these assemblages have highlighted cultural difference, and attempted to fix particular populations into non-market niches.  Elements from liberal assemblages have been grafted into neoliberal ones, producing the curious figure of homo economicus minus the market, the collectivized and arborealized subject of contemporary conservation initiatives.

Author Biography

Tania Murray Li, University of Toronto

Tania Murray Li teaches in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto, where she holds the Canada Research Chair in the Political Economy and Culture of Asia. Her publications include Land's End: Capitalist Relations on an Indigenous Frontier (Duke University Press, 2014), Powers of Exclusion: Land Dilemmas in Southeast Asia (with Derek Hall and Philip Hirsch, NUS Press, 2011), The Will to Improve: Governmentality, Development, and the Practice of Politics (Duke University Press, 2007) and many articles on land, development, resource struggles, community, class, and indigeneity with a particular focus on Indonesia.

How to Cite
Li, T. M. (2014). Fixing Non-market Subjects: Governing Land and Population in the Global South. Foucault Studies, (18), 34-48.
Special Issue on Ethnographies of Neoliberal Governmentalities