The Global Politics of Medicine: Beyond global health, against securitisation theory

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This article makes the case for a new field in International Relations (IR): the Global Politics of Medicine. It argues that significant avenues of research can be opened up by focusing on medicine and the life sciences, in order to both challenge current IR theories, and develop new theoretical and empirical insights in IR. In particular, the article challenges the validity of securitisation theory, and specifically the argument that health has been securitised. Showing instead that medicine and warfare have been imbricated from the nineteenth century as strategies of population, it challenges securitisation theory's ahistoricism and its assumption that social security and international security (and the norm/exception) are analytically divisible. Bringing this into the present through the examples of triage, psychological resilience, and genetic intelligence in counterinsurgency, it traces how warfare and medicine now ambitiously seek to treat populations as sets of individual bodies. Arguing that we cannot retreat to some mythical state of politics 'prior' to securitisation, it draws out how the fields of war, health, and medicine are nonetheless highly contested. The article concludes by challenging the fields of Global Health, war, and security studies, but also suggests novel routes for pursuing the study of the Global Politics of Medicine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)961-987
Number of pages27
JournalReview of International Studies
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 25 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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