Politics & Political Theory

Recognising hope: US global development discourse and the promise of despair

Practices of global development have been critiqued for reproducing a notion of the suffering poor as bare life; passive, despairing and devoid of both hope and potentiality. In contrast, this article treats the experience of hope not as external to the governance of underdeveloped life but as a biopolitical technology central to its formation. Reading US President Obama’s call to recognise underdeveloped life as inherently hopeful and potential, this article analyses the biopolitics of development at the moment when the separation between lives on the basis of its capacity for hope is explicitly banished. Emerging from this reading is a troubling paradox, one in which hope and despair enter a zone of indistinction. Encouraged to embody this indistinction, it is argued, is a bare and hopeful form of neoliberal life, a potential yet not sovereign being. Hopeful, but without the capacity to conceive of or to act towards a different future.

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Volume 35 Issue 5

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