Construing top-down as bottom-up: The governmental co-option of peacebuilding 'from below'

Stephen Campbell


Since the mid-1990s, the authoritarian character of international peacebuilding operations has come under increasing criticism. In response, the United Nations, international financial institutions, bilateral aid agencies and international non-governmental organizations have worked to incorporate 'bottom-up' strategies into their existing programs. However, this incorporation of bottom-up peacebuilding has been a co-option rather than adoption of what had been a critical agenda. The resulting peacebuilding programs can be usefully understood through Foucault’s notion of 'governmentality'. This article examines the shifting rhetoric of conventional peacebuilding operations and applies an analytics of governmentality to a case study in Afghanistan.


peacebuilding; governmentality; Afghanistan

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