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Be free? The European Union’s post-Arab Spring women’s empowerment as neoliberal governmentality

  • Hendrik HuelssEmail author
Article

Abstract

This article analyses post-Arab Spring EU initiatives to promote women’s empowerment in the Southern Mediterranean region. Inspired by the Foucauldian concept of governmentality, it investigates empowerment as a technology of biopolitics that is central to the European neoliberal model of governance. In contrast to dominant images such as normative power Europe that present the EU as a norm-guided actor promoting political liberation, the article argues that the EU deploys a concept of functional freedom meant to facilitate its vision of economic development. As a consequence, the alleged empowerment of women based on the self-optimisation of individuals and the statistical control of the female population is a form of biopower. In this regard, empowerment works as a governmental technology of power instead of offering a measure to foster fundamental structural change in Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) societies. The EU therefore fails in presenting and promoting an alternative normative political vision distinct from the incorporation of women into the hierarchy of the existing market society.

Keywords

Arab Spring empowerment European Union governmentality neoliberalism women 

Notes

Acknowledgements

I am grateful to the editors, two anonymous reviewers, Ingvild Bode and Toni Haastrup for their constructive and insightful feedback on earlier versions of this article.

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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Politics and International RelationsUniversity of KentCanterburyUK

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