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Durham University

Department of Geography

Staff Profile

Publication details for Professor Joe Painter

Painter, J. Regional biopolitics. Regional Studies. 2012;47:1235-1248.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper seeks to bring ideas about biopolitics and its associated political technologies to bear on the variety of regional geographies that affect the practices of governing populations today. After outlining some of the ways in which populations and their characteristics feature as matters of governmental concern, the paper then briefly summarizes Michel Foucault's account of biopolitics and its association with the formation of national population and nation-states. While there are good reasons why discussions of biopolitics have tended to emphasize the national scale, a full account of biopolitical practices would also attend to the complex spatialities of populations and government. Drawing on Stephen Legg's scalar account of the relationship between population, biopolitics and government, the paper considers the tentative emergence of what might be termed regional biopolitics in contemporary Europe. Recent changes in workforce skills policy in the United Kingdom provide a case study to examine how a typical biopolitical concern (the skill levels of the population) relates to the rise and subsequent fall of regional governance in England.