Locating Subjects, Disrupting Intervention
: Youth empowerment and agricultural modernisation in Serbia

  • Katarina Kušić

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis is a study of international intervention that takes as its analytical starting point the subjectivities of those who are supposed to reap the benefits of liberal intervention projects.

The thesis combines (1) a focus on the connection between subjectivity and liberal power offered by governmentality approaches with (2) an ethnographic orientation that problematises any bounded conception of subjectivity. The ethnographic methodology developed in the thesis is employed to explore two fields of intervention in Serbia: agricultural governance and non-formal youth education.

This reorientation engenders analytical disruptions to the concepts of international intervention and liberal governmentality in three ways. First, it uncovers subject positions more varied than a universal homo oeconomicus. Second, it shows that power can be simultaneously violent and silencing as well as dispersed and productive. Third, the thesis points to fields of visibility far wider than those imagined in project documents of interveners. In theorising from these disruptions, the thesis argues that the concept of intervention itself stands at the heart of our analytical problems: it essentialises conceptions of local and international and it occludes the coevalness of spaces and processes.

In the end, the thesis presents politics of improvement as a more productive way of exploring these encounters that seek to build peace and democracy around the world. This approach advocates engagement with lived experience not only as an interesting ethnographic travelogue, but as a prompt for a more fundamental rethinking of how power and inequality make international politics. As such, the thesis contributes both to the scholarship on international interventions, and to the ongoing project of reorienting IR’s analytical and methodological frameworks to include subjects and perspectives missing from the discipline
Date of Award2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorJeff Bridoux (Supervisor) & Milja Kurki (Supervisor)

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