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The Biopolitics of International Exchange: International Educational Exchange Programs – Facilitator or Victim in the Battle for Biopolitical Normativity?

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This article addresses how international educational exchange programs are increasingly used as political, and particularly bio-political, tools to promote ideologies of biological normativity. Such programs have historically been promoted by national and international institutions as means to increase participants (and therefore the sending institution’s) knowledge of the world and transfer favorable values through individuals. US and EU exchange programs with Russia in particular have been focused on achieving a ‘mutual understanding’ or promoting ‘common’ or ‘shared values’ across countries; however, a tendency of educational institutions to select like-minded individuals and countries for participation has arguably complicated rather than mended global divides. The difference in values associated with biological practices in Russia, the US, and the EU related to traditional gender roles, marriage, nuclear families, birth control, etc. have become more apparent with the spread of information and globalization.The main argument of this work supports that attention to the promotion or cancelation of certain exchange programs can be used to better understand larger patterns in international relations and the modern system of global governance. An investigation into the founding ideologies behind programs such as FLEX and Fulbright (by the US) and Erasmus + (by the European Commission) and their politicization exemplifies how educational programs can become ‘battlefields’ for ideologies of biological normativity. The example of the cancelation of the FLEX program by the Russian Federation is used to understand key relationships between biopolitics and geopolitics, modern and post-modern, and value transfer and human capital.

Affiliations: 1: University of Tartu, Estonia


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