Benevolent discipline: governing affect in post-Yolanda disaster reconstruction in the Philippines

Kaira Zoe Alburo-Cañete*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)


This paper analyses how affect and emotions are activated and embodied by the state in post-disaster rebuilding. It focuses on the reconstruction of Tacloban City, Philippines, which was devastated by typhoon Yolanda in 2013. I introduce the concept of benevolent discipline to characterise a mode of governing that is animated by the state’s narratives and performances of ‘benevolence’ as a way of regulating the conduct of constituents towards its aspirations for recovery. I show how the discourse of safety–used to justify the relocation of informal settlers from the city’s danger zones–coalesces with disciplinary techniques targeting the affective life of the urban poor to produce ‘governable’ subjects for the reconstructed city. I show that the state’s altruistic performances in this regard and the mobilisation of affect and emotions constitute mechanisms of power that serve to dispossess and marginalise displaced communities. I argue that affect and emotions play a critical role in the everyday experiences of recovery. A focus on affective dimensions of post-disaster governance helps expose the potentialities of power previously obscured in studies of disaster reconstruction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)651-672
Number of pages22
JournalThird World Quarterly
Issue number3
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

This research was funded by the Endeavour Leadership Program (2016–2020), the Medibank
International Fieldwork and Conference Grant, and the UNSW Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Research Funding Support.

Publisher Copyright: © 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


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