Global Governance Centre
Nadine Benedix

Rethinking the Agency of “Governed” Subjects

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Room S8, Maison de la paix, Geneva

Based on her ongoing research and engagement with postcolonial thought, GGC visiting fellow Nadine Benedix will speak about the everyday practices of transnational working children networks as a form of agency in world politics.

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What role do supposedly “governed” subjects play in international decision-making processes? How exactly do these actors engage with hierarchical international structures? What does their engagement mean for our understanding of “agency” in international politics? And most importantly, how can researchers examine the agency of “governed” actors within broader power structures?

Grounded in her work on the transnational network of working children’s movements in Africa (MAEJT/AMWCY), South America (MOLACNATS) and Asia (Children: Ambassadors of Change - CAOC), Nadine Benedix will discuss existing approaches to studying the “agency of the governed” in international politics and the potential of combining insights from postcolonial theory with international practice theory (IPT).

The talk will shed light on the different ways in which scholars approach the agency of actors that are usually considered to be at the receiving end of (inter)national governance. Drawing on her ongoing PhD research, she will further explore how the micro-practices of organized working children can be studied and related to broader structures of global ordering, be they of an ideational or material nature. In the case of the working children’s movements, whilst the transnational network has been famously involved in actively contesting international child labor regulations, local organizations also engage in many other “everyday” practices that intersect with their political and social environment, from self-organized psychological and legal support to mutual micro-credits and the provision of food.

In the talk, Nadine Benedix will argue for a more expansive conceptualization of agency that pays attention to the hierarchical context in which it is exercised. To this end, she will outline a broader conceptual understanding of agency as enacted through practices of everyday interaction with institutional, material and social structures that generate subjectivity creation and forms of self-representation. In this framework, special attention is given to the role of narrative practices through “the governed,” in this case the working children, (re)create their own subjectivity and appropriate material and public goods, such as education, basic care and participation.



Nadine Benedix, GGC Visiting Fellow & PhD candidate in Political Science at the Technical University of Darmstadt's  Chair of Transnational Governance



Isabel Pike, Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology & Faculty Affiliate of the Gender Centre, the Geneva Graduate Institute



Annabelle Littoz-Monnet, Professor in the Department of International Relations/Political Science & Director of the Global Governance Centre, the Geneva Graduate Institute


Photo: Child Labor Laws by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images