BIOS – The biopolitics of sustainable development in the Barents region
Leader: Julian Reid
Schedule: 2011- 2013
- Political Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences University of Lapland and
- Sustainable Development, Arctic Centre, University of Lapland
Project is funded by University of Lapland.
BIOS builds on and combines existing research projects of Professor Julian Reid, (IR, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Lapland) and Research Professor Monica Tennberg, (Arctic Centre, University of Lapland) by examining dramatic shifts in the conceptualisation of both development and security presently occurring, with particular focus on the implications of those shifts for development and security practice in the Barents region. The sustainable development of the Barents region is increasingly said to depend on its peoples achieving resilience. This project explore whether this is merely a semantic shift, or whether it signifies changes in the rationalities that shape both development and security practices. Are the rationalities that distinguish resilience different to those underpinning historical demands for security? And are those of ‘sustainable development’ different to what was once known simply as ‘development’? Does the weaving of a nexus of relations between ‘sustainable development’ and ‘resilience’ represent a departure from the ‘development-security nexus’ in some way? And, if so, what explains that shift and what are its political implications for the peoples inhabiting the Barents region?
Beyond examining how the discourse of resilience is legitimating neoliberal systems of governance and institutions in the Barents region, BIOS also examines the new forms of subjectivity that the demand for resilience brings into being. Resilient subjects are subjects that must permanently struggle to accommodate themselves to the world. Not subjects which can conceive of changing their world, its power structures and conditions of possibility. The policy problematisation of climate change is paradigmatic in this context. Building resilient subjects involves the deliberate disabling of the political habits, tendencies and capacities of Barents peoples and replacing them with adaptive ones. Resilient subjects are subjects that have accepted the imperative not to resist or secure themselves from climate change but instead adapt to its enabling conditions via the embrace of neoliberalism. Resisting neoliberalism in the present may thus require rejecting the seductive claims to ‘alternative futures’ offered by seemingly contrary doctrines of sustainable development and their political promises of resilience. A reinvestment in an account of political subjectivity is needed, and a rearticulation of the more classical concept of security may be useful for such a purpose.
Research Methods and Research Material
The vast majority of sustainable development research pursues a problem-solving approach to the topic. Mainstream approaches to both sustainability and development assume that questions of their worth to Barents peoples are already answered. Research on sustainable development tends to proceed on the basis of asking how to do it better, to provide more sustainable development, to a wider range of individuals and populations. The methodology of BIOS is different in that it poses prior questions as to the contingencies rather than necessities of sustainable development, probes the limits of how sustainable development is conceived, while analysing how sustainable development came to be conceived thus, according to which rationalities, and unearthing the historical and political processes by which those rationalities have undergone change. As fundamentally BIOS poses direct questions at the problem-solving conception of sustainable development. Thus the project denaturalises sustainable development to analyse it as a ‘technique of governance’.
As a technique of governance, the concept of sustainable development requires establishing and propagating by experts convinced of its necessity and efficacy for Barents peoples as opposed to its contingencies and dangers. Expertise concerning sustainable development involves by implication a claim to knowledge as to the existence of the ‘un-sustainability’ of particular subjects, societies and way of life. ‘Un-sustainability’ is not free-forming, out there to be discovered as errantly supposed in so much of the sustainable development literature. It is a problem that requires constituting. Problem-solving literatures become, in this context, of immense pertinence as primary empirical materials on which to form the object of the BIOS analytic. BIOS targets key literatures of a problem-solving nature to reveal the ways in which ideas of sustainable development have been constituted by different epistemic communities. By doing so BIOS deliberately raises questions as to the limits of epistemologies concerning sustainable development in the Barents region. It also seeks to problematise the claim to expertise of the sustainable development community in Finland and Nordic states by opening up discourses of sustainable development for critique articulated by peoples subject to, not necessarily desirous of, it.
The research group
The project includes a team two professors, four doctoral students and one post doc researcher.
Plan of activities
- Julian Reid is Professor of International Relations at the University of Lapland.
- Monica Tennberg, Research Professor, Arctic Centre, University of Lapland
- Suvi Alt is a doctoral candidate in International Relations at the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Lapland.
- Marjo Lindroth is a doctoral candidate in International Relations at the University of Lapland.
- Heidi Sinevaara-Niskanen is a doctoral candidate in Gender Studies at the Faculty of Education, University of Lapland.
- Oliver Belcher is a post doc researcher working in the project in 2013.
- a workshop early 2012 to discuss research of the biopolitics of sustainable development
- a workhop in 2013 to discuss the biopolitics of sustainable development in the Barents region
- Julian Reid, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Lapland firstname.lastname@example.org
- Monica Tennberg, Arctic Centre, University of Lapland email@example.com