Publication details [#53998]

Panu, Mihnea. 2010. Governing ‘others’. The (m)other as subject in the US family planning discourses. Journal of Language and Politics 9 (2) : 260–280.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher
John Benjamins
Journal DOI


This paper argues that for contemporary liberalism to govern legitimately, governmental discourses have to create certain identities as ‘other’, that is, as the polar opposite of the good, normal citizen. To fix those identities as a-relational ‘substances’ in the universal language of law and science. And to use those ‘substances’ in games of inclusion/exclusion that simulate non-intervention while safeguarding the liberal ‘will to govern’. Centrally, the identities posited as ‘other’ are those the contemporary governmental discourses also posit as ‘particular’: the poor, the racialised and the gendered. Thus, it is argued that those governmental practices depend in equal measures on the simultaneously individualizing and totalising nature of governmental bio-power, on the particular/universal liberal tension and on the essentialising nature of scientific truths. Those points are illustrated by the US national family planning strategy’s construction of reality in terms of a ‘pathological mother’, a (m)other.