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

  • Xuan-Thuy Nguyen
Keywords: disability, development, disabled subject, global governance, discourse, power, inclusion, exclusion


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.

Author Biography

Xuan-Thuy Nguyen
Xuan-Thuy Nguyen (MEd, McGill; PhD, McGill) is an adjunct professor in the Department of Education at Mount Saint Vincent University (Canada) and Principal Investigator of Monitoring Educational Rights for Girls with Disabilities in Vietnamese Schools, a project funded by the Canadian federal government. A postdoctoral fellow and adjunct faculty member in Critical Disability Studies (York University, Canada), her areas of research include inclusive education, disability studies, policy studies, international development, and visual methodologies. Thuy Nguyen has published her work in numerous journals, including the International Journal of Inclusive Education, South African Journal of Education, Journal of Asian Critical Education, and Childhood.
How to Cite
Nguyen, X.-T. (2015). Genealogies of Disability in Global Governance: A Foucauldian Critique of Disability and Development. Foucault Studies, (19), 67-83.
Special Issue: New Work on Foucault and Disability