Extractive Humanitarianism: Participatory Confinement and Unpaid Labor in Refugees Governmentality

Tazzioli, Martina. 2022. Extractive Humanitarianism: Participatory Confinement and Unpaid Labor in Refugees Governmentality. Communication, Culture & Critique, 15(2), pp. 176-192. ISSN 1753-9129 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This article advances the notion of “extractive humanitarianism” to designate the role played by data extraction and knowledge extraction operations in refugee governmentality. It argues that extractive operations rely on refugees’ active participation to their own governmentality—what I define as participatory confinement. The piece engages with feminist literature on unpaid labor and shows that participatory confinement implies that refugees perform unpaid labor activities, which are disguised as voluntary work. It moves on by conceptualizing participatory confinement through the lens of the invitation to governmentality. In order to develop this, the article focuses on two modes of participatory confinement: unpaid labor that asylum seekers do as “voluntary” activities and knowledge and data extraction. It concludes by questioning extractive humanitarianism in light of the subtle coercion and invisible exploitation that asylum seekers are exposed to.

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Additional Information:

ESRC-funded project “Financial inclusion and digital connectivity in refugee governance” (2020–2022).

This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in Communication, Culture & Critique following peer review. The version of record is available online at: https://doi.org/10.1093/ccc/tcac018.


extractive humanitarianism; unpaid labour; refugees; participatory confinement; value

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3 March 2022Accepted
25 April 2022Published Online
June 2022Published

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Date Deposited:

27 Apr 2022 14:29

Last Modified:

25 Oct 2023 01:26

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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