Securing Blood: PEPFAR and Neoliberal War

Securing Blood, PEPFAR and Neoliberal War

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ABSTRACT: This article analyzes the neoliberal logics and ideologies at work in blood industries as they are tied to liberal war-making projects. I argue that blood practices are a key site of the militarization of medicine and the medicalization of war. Blood plays a significant role in the rise of “human security” discourses that enable projects of 21st century empire, largely because of its unique material and metaphoric relationship to circulation—it is both the means through which nutrients and oxygen move through human bodies, but it also has long been associated with the circulation of identities, relationships, life, and death. As Foucault and others have demonstrated, liberal war is increasingly made in the name of “human security,” and the goal of security is not so much to quarantine or prohibit circulation (whether that be the circulation of populations, disease, ideas, or capital) as to manage the risks of circulation so as to nullify any potential harm to the system. Security, in essence, depends upon circulation, upon movement, and names an apparatus for monitoring such processes. Here I examine how these security logics operate in contemporary U.S. global blood policy, specifically in the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). I argue that despite its rhetoric of benevolent humanitarianism, PEPFAR is a key component of the War on Terror as it harnesses biopolitical discourses of life and humanitarianism to legitimate the expansion of neoliberal political and economic policy ultimately benefiting U.S. empire.

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  • Published:
    Social Text: Periscope. Special Issue on “War, Economy, Labor, Life, and Blood” (June 2013).