Studying the Agency of Being Governed: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Studying the Agency of Being Governed

1st Edition

Edited by Stina Hansson, Sofie Hellberg, Maria Stern


224 pages

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This edited volume seeks to provide guidance on how we can approach questions of governing and agency—particularly those who endeavour to embark on grounded empirical research— by rendering explicit some key challenges, tensions, dilemmas, and confluences that such endeavours elicit. Indeed, the contributions in this volume reflect the growing tendency in governmentality studies to shift focus to empirically grounded studies. The volume thus explicitly aims to move from theory to practice, and to step back from the more top-down governmentality studies approach to one that examines how one can/does study how relations of power affect lives, experience and agency.

This book offers insight into the intricate relations between the workings of governing and (the possibility for) people’s agency on the one hand, and about the possible effects of our attempts to engage in such studies on the other. In numerous ways, and from different starting points, the contributions to this volume provide thoughtful insights into, and creative suggestions for, how to work with the methodological challenges of studying the agency of being governed.

This work will be of great interest to students and scholars of international relations, global governance and research methods.


"This is a welcome contribution shedding much light on how issues such as agency and resistance can be dealt with in governmentality studies – a field in which it is fair to say that such issues, even if not wholly neglected, have long been viewed primarily as objects to be regulated or governed. (…) All in all, this is a stimulating book both theoretically and methodologically and should be of interest to all who are interested either in governmentality studies or larger issues of agency and resistance."

- Carl Cassega°rd, University of Gothenburg

Table of Contents

PART I, 1. Introduction, Maria Stern, Sofie Hellberg and Stina Hansson 2. Power, freedom and the agency of being governed, Stina Hansson and Sofie Hellberg 3. The artist of not being governed: The emergence of the political subject, Sergei Prozorov PART II 4. Studying provocations: the researcher’s care for what exists, Vikki Bell 5. Avoiding the ‘killing’ of lives: representations in academia and fiction, Christine Sylvester, 6. Institutional validation and the agency of the researcher, Gayatri Spivak 7. How to study power and collective agency: social movements and the politics of international aid, Håkan Thörn PART III, 8. Studying reform of/in/by the National Armed Forces in the DRC, Maria Stern and Maria Eriksson Baaz 8. Analysing responsibilisation in the context of development cooperation, Stina Hansson 9. From ‘Squaddie’ to ‘Bodyguard’: Towards a Remilitarised Agency?, Paul Higate 10. Studying the governing of lives through bio-narratives, Sofie Hellberg 11. Conclusion, Stina Hansson and Sofie Hellberg

About the Editors

Stina Hansson is a University Lecturer in Peace and Development Research in the School of Global Studies, Gothenburg University, Sweden

Sofie Hellberg is a University Lecturer and a PhD candidate in Peace and Development Research in the School of Global Studies, Gothenburg University, Sweden

Maria Stern is Professor of Peace and Development Research in the School of Global Studies, Gothenburg University, Sweden

About the Series


The Series provides a forum for innovative and interdisciplinary work that engages with alternative critical, post-structural, feminist, postcolonial, psychoanalytic and cultural approaches to international relations and global politics. In our first 5 years we have published 60 volumes.

We aim to advance understanding of the key areas in which scholars working within broad critical post-structural traditions have chosen to make their interventions, and to present innovative analyses of important topics. Titles in the series engage with critical thinkers in philosophy, sociology, politics and other disciplines and provide situated historical, empirical and textual studies in international politics.


We are very happy to discuss your ideas at any stage of the project: just contact us for advice or proposal guidelines. Proposals should be submitted directly to the Series Editors:

  • Jenny Edkins ( and
  • Nick Vaughan-Williams (

‘As Michel Foucault has famously stated, "knowledge is not made for understanding; it is made for cutting" In this spirit The Edkins - Vaughan-Williams Interventions series solicits cutting edge, critical works that challenge mainstream understandings in international relations. It is the best place to contribute post disciplinary works that think rather than merely recognize and affirm the world recycled in IR's traditional geopolitical imaginary.’

Michael J. Shapiro, University of Hawai'i at Manoa, USA


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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Process / Political Parties
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Process / General