Analyses of globalization usually ignore the category of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to focus instead on transnational migrants. This essay argues that a close look at the humanitarian conceptualization of IDPs provides an understanding of the operations of global sovereignty. Global sovereignty is here taken as the enmeshing of three forces: the neoliberal state and its abdication of fundamental responsibilities to citizens, the hand of the global economy in civil war, and the role of international law. The author suggests that contemporary global sovereignty is fundamentally bio-political insofar as it engenders the conditions of possibility for displacement through the transformations it effects on the traditional nation state, and then offers a salve for displacement through the empty form of humanitarian law. Between the abdication of national responsibility and the emptiness of humanitarian law, the displaced person, who is a complex political actor, is entirely depoliticized and rendered unintelligible. The largely ignored program of ethnic cleansing in Gujarat, India, in 2000 provides an example of this now routine process of sovereignty.

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