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Article

Like the contested remembrance of historical events, collective memory shapes interstate relations, foreign and security policy, and global politics. International relations (IR) scholars studying the relationship between collective memory and international politics link the memory concept to the notions of security, power, language, emotions, gender, identity, trauma, justice, law, and the like. The study of the international politics of memory relies on a plurality of theoretical approaches gained from interdisciplinary works on collective memory. Although collective memory is viewed as a variable influencing foreign policymaking in structural terms within a positivist paradigm in IR scholarship, from an interpretive perspective, collective memory is a practice of remembrance that constitutes a state’s foreign and security policy. Following the advances of the interpretive paradigm in the social sciences, it is expected that more interpretive studies on the international politics of memory will appear. .

Article

Philipp Schulz and Anne-Kathrin Kreft

Since the late 1990s and early 2000s, notable progress has been made toward holding accountable those responsible for conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV), with a view toward ending impunity. Developments by the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda, as well as by the International Criminal Court, were instrumental to advancing jurisprudence on sexual violence in the context of armed conflict. Despite progress in seeking to hold perpetrators accountable, critics note that there is persistent impunity and a vacuum of justice and accountability for sexual violence crimes in most conflict-affected settings globally. At the same time, feminist scholars in particular have critiqued the ways in which criminal proceedings often fail sexual violence survivors, especially by further silencing their voices and negating their agency. These intersecting gaps and challenges ultimately reveal the need for a broader, deeper, thicker, and more victim-centered understanding of justice and redress in response to sexual violence.

Article

“Refugee repatriation” refers to the voluntary or forcible return of refugees back to the countries or regions from which they fled. It is broadly accepted that a state acts wrongly in forcibly repatriating refugees back to countries that remain unsafe. This is true for refugees fleeing war, persecution, environmental disasters, extreme poverty, and a range of other life-threatening conditions. What is less clear is whether a state acts wrongly in deporting refugees whose lives would no longer be at risk in their home countries, and who can obtain their basic rights. For example, it is not clear if Turkey and Germany would be justified in deporting back Syrian refugees if conditions sufficiently improved in Syria. It is additionally not clear whether humanitarian organizations ought to help refugees repatriate before retuning is safe, as when the United Nations helped Somali refugees repatriate from Kenya. Finally, it is not clear whether refugees have a right to repatriate to their home countries, and whether they have a right to return to the specific homes they left behind. For example, there is widespread debate over whether Palestinian refugees have a right to return to the homes they left in 1948 and 1967. Addressing these and other debates is essential for establishing ethical immigration policies and establishing the rights of refugees, organizations, and states.

Article

International relations (IR) scholars have increasingly integrated Hannah Arendt into their works. Her fierce critique of the conventional ideas of politics driven by rulership, enforcement, and violence has a particular resonance for theorists seeking to critically revisit the basic assumptions of IR scholarship. Arendt’s thinking, however, contains complexity and nuance that need careful treatment when extended beyond domestic politics. In particular, Arendt’s vision of free politics—characterized by the dualistic emphasis on agonistic action and institutional stability—raises two crucial issues that need further elaboration for IR research that appropriates her thinking. One involves the orientation of her international thoughts. Although Arendt showed “idealistic” aspirations for authentic politics practiced by diverse equals in an institutionally articulated space of freedom, she never lost interest in the extant situation of “non-idealistic” politics. Engaging with Arendt’s theory orientation requires a careful analysis of difficult topics, such as her distinctive conception of the political and her critiques of the nation-state and international law. The other topic that needs clarification when Arendt’s thoughts are applied to IR involves specific ways of associating different sites of power. A close examination of Arendt’s council-based federalism reveals her distinctive idea of international politics, based on her acute awareness of the fundamental complexity that lies in power association and state agency. Bringing IR topics like state agency into conversation with her works generates illuminating questions for Arendt scholarship. Likewise, the ongoing debate on agonistic and institutional features of Arendt’s thoughts can provide crucial insights into critical studies of international politics.

Article

Ayşe Betül Çelik

The growing number of civil wars in the post-Cold War era has been accompanied by a rising number of forcibly displaced people, who either stay within the borders of their own countries, becoming internally displaced persons (IDPs), or cross borders to become refugees. Although many studies have been conducted on the reasons of conflict-induced displacement, various questions remain of interest for the scholars of international relations, especially questions pertaining but not limited to the (a) gendered aspects of conflict, displacement, and peace processes, (b) predicting possible future displacement zones, and (c) best political and social designs for returnee communities in post-civil war contexts. Most studies still focus on the negative consequences of forced migration, undermining how refugees and IDPs can also contribute to the cultural and political environment of the receiving societies. Considering that there is a huge variation in types of conflict, motivations for violence, and the resulting patterns of displacement within the category of civil war, more research on the actors forcing displacement, their intentions, and subsequent effects on return dynamics can benefit research in this field. Similarly, research on return and reconciliation needs to treat displacement and return as a continuum. Paying attention to conflict parties in civil war bears the potential for new areas of exploration whose outcomes can also shed light on policies for post-civil war construction and intergroup reconciliation.

Article

Amanda M. Murdie and K. Anne Watson

Quantitative human rights scholarship is increasing. New data sets and methods have helped researchers examine a broad array of research questions concerning the many human rights laid out in the United Nations’ 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related documents. These innovations have enabled quantitative human rights scholarship to better connect to existing qualitative and theoretical literatures and have improved advocacy efforts. Quantitative scholars have primarily operationalized the concept of human rights through the use of four kinds of data: events data (such as counts of abuses or attacks), standards-based data (such as coded scores), survey data, and socioeconomic statistics (such as maternal mortality or malnutrition rates). Each type of data poses particular challenges and weaknesses for analyses, including the biased undercounts of events data and the potential for human error or biases in survey or standards-based data. The human rights field has also seen a systematic overrepresentation of analyses of physical integrity rights, which have fewer component parts to measure. Furthermore, qualitative scholars have pointed out that it is difficult for quantitative data to capture the process of human rights improvement over time. The creation of new technologies and methodologies has allowed quantitative researchers to lessen the impact of these data weaknesses: Latent variables allow scholars to create aggregate measures from a variety of classes of quantitative data, as well as understandings from qualitative scholars, leading to the creation of new measures for rights other than physical integrity rights. New machine learning techniques and algorithms are giving scholars access to greater amounts of data than ever before, improving event counts. Expert surveys are pulling new voices into the data-generating process and incorporating practitioners into data processes that are too often restricted to academics. Experimental studies are furthering the field’s understanding of the processes underlying advocacy. Drawing on the lessons of past work, future scholars can use quantitative methods to improve the field’s theoretical and practical understandings of human rights.

Article

Constitutive theory is a philosophical analysis of the logical interconnections between actors, their actions, and the social practices within which they perform these. It draws on insights from the later work of Ludwig Wittgenstein, as developed and extended by Peter Winch and John Searle. It highlights that actors and their actions can only be understood from within the practices in which they are constituted as actors of a certain kind, who have available to them a specific repertoire of meaningful action. It stresses that the interpretation of their actions involves: understanding the language internal to the practices in which they take place; understanding the rule-boundness of that language; the meaning of its terms; a holist perspective on the practice; and, crucially, an understanding of the ethics embedded in it. It briefly explores the implications of such a philosophical analysis for those seeking to understand the actors and their interactions in global practices. It highlights how international actors (both states and individuals) are constituted as international actors in two major international practices, the practice of sovereign states and the global rights practice. It indicates the guidance constitutive theory might provide for all who would better understand international affairs.

Article

The “fundamental” or “primary” institutions of international society, among them sovereignty, diplomacy, international law, great power management, the balance of power, trade, and environmental stewardship, have been eagerly discussed and researched in the discipline of international relations (IR), at the theoretical, meta-theoretical, and empirical levels. Generations of scholars associated with not only the English School, but also liberalism and constructivism, have engaged with the “institutions of international society,” as they were originally called by Martin Wight and Hedley Bull in their attempt to develop a historically and sociologically informed theory of international relations. The fact that intense historical, theoretical, and empirical investigations have uncovered new institutional layers, dynamics, and complexities, and thus opened new challenging questions rather than settling the matter is part of its attraction. In the 1960s and 1970s, the early exponents of the English School theorized fundamental institutions as historical pillars of contemporary international society and its element of order. At the turn of the 21st century, this work was picked up by Kal Holsti and Barry Buzan, who initiated a renaissance of English School institutionalism, which specified the institutional levels of international society and discussed possibilities for institutional change. Meanwhile, liberal and constructivist scholars made important contributions on fundamental institutions in key engagements with English School theory on the subject in the late 1980s. These contributions and engagements have informed the most recent wave of (interdisciplinary) scholarship on the subject, which has theorized the room for fundamental institutional change and the role of international organizations in relation to the fundamental institutions of international society.

Article

Joseph M. Brown

State terrorism is a contentious topic in the field of terrorism studies. Some scholars argue that the concept of terrorism should only be applied to the behavior of nonstate actors. Others argue that certain government behaviors may be understood as terrorism if the intent of state violence and threats is to stoke fear and influence the behavior of a wider audience. Three possible conceptualizations of state terrorism are worth exploring: government sponsorship of nonstate actors’ terrorism, terrorism perpetrated by government agents outside a legal framework, and “inherent” state terrorism—acts perpetrated by the state in the everyday enforcement of law and order that, if perpetrated by nonstate actors, would clearly qualify as terrorism. Each of these conceptualizations yields insight about state behavior, highlighting particular uses of violence and threats as instruments of state policy. Depending on one’s conceptualization of state terrorism, common policies and functions of government possess an underlying terroristic logic. Analytical tools developed in the field of terrorism studies may be useful in helping us understand state behavior, when violence and threats appear to have a broader communicative function in influencing an audience beyond the immediate target.

Article

While the use of child soldiers has declined in recent years, it has not ended entirely. Children remain front-line participants in a variety of conflicts throughout the world and are actively recruited by armed groups and terrorist organizations. Reports of children involved in terrorism have become all too common. Boko Haram has repeatedly selected women and girls as their primary suicide attackers, and, in Somalia, the United Nations reported that al-Shabaab was responsible for recruiting over 1,800 children in 2019. In Iraq and Syria, children were routinely featured in the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) propaganda, and the group mobilized children as “cubs” to fight for the so-called Caliphate. Unfortunately there is a myriad of reasons why terrorist organizations actively include children within their ranks: children can be proficient fighters, and they are easy to train, cheaper to feed, and harder to detect. Thus, recruiting and deploying children is often rooted in “strategy” and not necessarily the result of shrinking numbers of adult recruits. Drawing from the robust literature on child soldiers, there are areas of convergence (and divergence) that explain the pathways children take in and out of terrorist organizations and the roles they play. Focusing on two cases, al-Shabaab in Somalia and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, we argue that there are three distinct but overlapping processes of child recruitment, including forced conscription (i.e., kidnapping), subtle manipulation and coercion (i.e., cultures of martyrdom), and a process of seemingly “voluntary recruitment,” which is almost always the result of intimidation and pressure given the children’s age and their (in)ability to provide consent. The concepts of consent and agency are key, especially when weighing the ethical and legal questions of what to do with these children once rescued or detained. Nonetheless, the children are first and foremost victims and should be awarded special protected status in any domestic or international court. In 2020, countries were seeking to balance human rights, legal responsibility, and national security around the challenge of repatriating the thousands of children affiliated with ISIS and still languishing in the al-Hol and Al Roj camps.