‘If you destroy our children, I will kill you’: biopolitical childhood in Southeast Asia's war on drugs

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    Abstract

    This article explores how the war on drugs in Southeast Asia upholds the protection of the young as a key justification for extrajudicial killings carried out by the state. As many as 30,000 extrajudicial killings took place during Philippine former President Rodrigo Duterte?s war on drugs between 2016 and 2022, echoing a similar anti-drugs campaign in Thailand in 2003, which saw around 3,000 people murdered. Drawing on political speeches, this article argues that Duterte and Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra deployed biopolitical patterns of discourse to legitimise the murder of those associated with the drug trade. Both leaders framed the threat of drugs to children through the biopolitical lens of the integrity of the family, national health, and therefore the future of the nation. Further than this however, this article demonstrates how in the Philippines drug war, children were effectively denied their childhood status and presented as ?dangerous becomings?. This reveals the contingent nature of childhood, as biopolitical criteria were also used to establish which children were perceived to be dangerous in the context of the drug war. In doing so, this paper serves to nuance and problematise how children are depicted in Security Studies, and International Relations more broadly.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article numberolad022
    JournalInternational Political Sociology
    Volume18
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished (VoR) - 13 Jan 2024

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