Biopolitics and the Transformative Powers of Life: The Case of Roma People in Glasgow

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


"Biopolitics" is a term that refers to the intersection and mutual incorporation of life and politics. In literal terms, it signifies a form of politics that deals with life (Greek: bios). It has been suggested that a biopolitical turn has taken place in the humanities and social sciences. However, little attention has been given over to the paradigm of biopolitics, such as the work of Roberto Esposito and Michel Foucault, and the field of Roma Studies. This dissertation critically evaluates engagement with the Roma people in Glasgow through the lens of biopolitics. It is a qualitative study which uses an autoethnographic approach to develop a case study that yields fresh insights at the intersection of Roma studies and biopolitical analysis. The study explores how society shapes the Roma in the locality of southside Glasgow and how this "normalisation" is perpetuated by "experts" in cultures of engagement, such as community practitioners, community activists, health visitors, teachers and social workers. A core concept of this thesis is "culture of engagement," a concept that is better known from the field of work, employment and organisational studies where it is used to help determine the productivity of the workplace. This research demonstrates how inclusion of marginal knowledge of expert practitioners from within the culture of engagement can lead to new forms of intervention. Although knowledge of the practitioner is not treated as unproblematic, it contains a potential that, when explored, can lead to affirmative forms of Roma engagement. By focusing on the culture of engagement rather than simply on the Roma people themselves, the study attempts to move beyond binary politicised discourses of authenticity, representation and right. It attempts to open up a new dimension of understanding Roma engagement. I argue that biopolitical analysis is often limited in focusing on how certain parts of society are locked in the "black box" of apparatus of power. In doing so it unintentionally leaves possibilities for innovative forms of engagement unexplored. The thesis offers fresh insights into what is referred to as an affirmative trajectory of engagement and explores ways to unlock the potential of its transformative space. A central focus of the research is to explore the tacit, the remote, the hidden and the unusual forms of engagement, and in doing so contesting normative assumptions about Roma life.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Glasgow Caledonian University
  • Webb, Prof Stephen, Supervisor, External person
Award date26 Apr 2020
Place of PublicationGlasgow
Publication statusPublished - 26 Apr 2020


  • biopolitics
  • Roma
  • community
  • discrimination
  • culture
  • practitioner
  • power


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