Genealogies of Disability in Global Governance: A Foucauldian Critique of Disability and Development

Xuan-Thuy Nguyen


In this article, I engage with the ways in which disability is governed within the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) (United Nations 2000). Using a Foucauldian perspective on the governing of populations in modern states (Foucault 1991), I problematise this politics of disability and development by interrogating the ways in which biopower, through the constructions of modern development frameworks, has shaped our understanding of disability and impairment. I pursue this historical trajectory by tracing the emergence of the Global Burden of Diseases (GBD), a global study developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank in the 1990s (Murray and Lopez 1996). The forms of knowledge emerging in these global frameworks shed light on genealogies of disability in the twenty-first century. By re-visiting a postcolonial critique of Foucault’s conception of power in the context of Third World’s struggles for liberation (Said 1986), I suggest that a Foucauldian critique in disability and development could be deepened through its engagement with postcolonial studies. A critical and genealogical perspective on disability and development, I argue, is useful for understanding the government of disability and impairment in the intersections of global and local histories.


disability, development, disabled subject, global governance, discourse, power, inclusion, exclusion

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Copyright (c) 2015 Xuan-Thuy Nguyen

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