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Gender and Populism in International Studies  

Paula Drumond and Paula Sandrin

The rise of populist leaders both in the Global North and in the Global South in the early 21st century has moved critical research on populism to the center of academic debates in international studies. More recently, the current mobilization of antigender rhetoric and the backlash against women’s and LGBTIQ+ rights observed in many countries across the globe made evident that gender is anything but subsidiary to push forward theorizations on populism. What was once a marginal and undernoticed subject is currently at the heart of contemporary populism research. Consequently, an expanding body of literature has arisen since the mid-2010s, delving into the intricate interplay between gender and populism, encompassing diverse analyses and theoretical perspectives. At first, the multifaceted nature of how gender unfolded within various instances of populist politics led researchers to conclude that gender held a secondary importance to the phenomenon. As result, early researchers treated gender mostly as a variable or an add-on analytical component, failing to pay attention to its constitutive and productive roles in populist dynamics. In contrast, a more recent body of research maintains that populism is always already gendered, at least in its current right-wing manifestation, in the Global North and Global South and conceptualizes gender as a pivotal and potent connector of seemingly disparate issues such as race, ethnicity, religion, class, and political economy. Recognizing this intricate connection allows a more holistic understanding of the phenomenon, embracing its complex facets across diverse contexts and illuminating the profound interplay among gender, power, and politics.

Article

Friendship in International Politics  

Kristin Haugevik

In the international political discourse of the early 21st century, claims of friendship and “special ties” between states and their leaders are commonplace. Frequently reported by international media, such claims are often used as entry points for scholars and pundits seeking to evaluate the contents, relative strength, and present-day conditions of a given state-to-state relationship. Advancing the claim that friendships not only exist but also matter in and to the international political domain, international relations scholars began in the mid-2000s to trace and explore friendship—as a concept and practice—across time, societies, cultural contexts, and scientific disciplines. As part of the research agenda on friendship in international politics, scholars have explored why, how, and under what conditions friendships between states emerge, evolve, subsist, and dissolve; how amicable structures are typically organized; how they manifest themselves on a day-to-day basis; and what short- and long-term implications they may have for international political processes, dynamics, outcomes, and orders.

Article

The Meanings of the (Global) South From a Latin American Perspective  

Élodie Brun

The concept of the Global South receives much attention and study, but not all perspectives are equally visible. Scholars who work on the topic from Latin America are still largely ignored. The definitions they propose are eclectic in their sources and inclusive and flexible as far as epistemological and ontological issues are concerned. They agree that the concept, whether named with the adjective “global” or not, serves to denote a set of actors characterized by high diversity but unified by their unfavorable position in the world, as they suffer from global asymmetries. Studying and centering the Global South means revising the chronology of global history to understand these actors’ specific trajectories. However, Latin American scholars differ regarding the role of the state and the scope of their critical views. Most of them consider the state an important actor of the Global South, but critical authors argue that civil society and academia are more important for promoting change. Some of them reflect on how to improve the early 21st-century system, whereas others explicitly promote visions of emancipation from it. In most cases, when researchers reflect on the usefulness of the (Global) South concept, their concern includes dissatisfaction with the adjective “global.” Their reflection leads them to propose alternative, mainly state-centered expressions that aim to enhance the agency of the (Global) South, such as the self-designated South, geopolitical South, and relational South. The plural meanings of the (Global) South reveal the political and sometimes idealistic aspirations associated with it in Latin American contributions. As such, the concept cannot be dissociated from its potential for political mobilization.

Article

Human Rights in East Asia  

Ñusta Carranza Ko

East Asia is a region that has been the focus of discussions about economic development, democratization, nuclear proliferation, technological innovations, and health-related issues. Due to its historical past of colonization (including countries that have been colonizers and those that have been colonized), interstate and regional wars, involvement in world wars, and authoritarian governance, it is also a region that has experienced human rights violations, human rights advancements, and human rights–related policy developments. Thus, the study of East Asia and human rights encompasses colonial, Cold War, post–Cold War, and the post September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks periods of history. Based on the vast amount of scholarship on human rights in the region, a spectrum of approaches should be used to study human rights that (a) examines case-specific human rights violations which focus on vulnerable populations in society; (b) theorizes and questions the essence of human rights and its value systems; and (c) explores developments in human rights–related policy that involve transitional justice processes of truth-seeking, reparations, and criminal accountability regarding past human rights crimes. Examination of historic violations of women’s rights and children’s rights in the case of comfort women who were sexually enslaved by Japan’s Imperial Army during the Asia-Pacific War centers the victims and their experiences. A focus on minority rights leads to the consideration of issues of human trafficking of women and girls in Mongolia and North Korea, social and ethnic minority groups’ concerns in Japan and South Korea, and the plight of Uyghur people in China. The Asian (Confucian) values debate leads to consideration of why human rights have been questioned, why they may be considered as impositions, and which approaches can be taken to re-examine human rights with regard to this region. Finally, the discussion of transitional justice as it relates to East Asian states provides a much needed recognition of the importance of the region for innovating transitional justice policies.

Article

Middle Powers  

Marion Laurence

Formal diplomatic recognition of “middle powers” began with the Congress of Vienna, but the concept gained increasing currency after World War II because medium-sized countries like Canada used it to distinguish themselves from smaller states and secure a relatively favorable position in the postwar order. Early definitions of middle powers focused on states that lacked the system-wide influence of great powers but whose resources and capacities were recognized as being more significant than those of small states. The term’s exact meaning remains contested, but early definitions capture three important dimensions of the concept. First, it is inherently relational, from both a material perspective and a social perspective, and often used as a residual category. Some scholars define middle-power status using material factors like geographic size or population, while others emphasize social roles and recognition, but all of these approaches focus on a state’s position, roles, and status relative to other states. Second, the middle-power concept is both state-centric and practitioner-adjacent. National policymakers invoke, reify, and continually reinvent the concept to achieve specific foreign policy objectives. Third, the middle-power concept is bound up with wider debates about global order. Middle powers were long conceptualized as good international citizens and champions of the liberal world order. The rise of “emerging” middle powers raises questions about their orientation toward existing global institutions. Going forward, the most pressing questions about middle powers and their foreign policy behavior will be linked to broader conversations about geopolitical change and the future of contemporary global governance arrangements.

Article

Drivers of Religious Extremism in South Asia  

Zahid Shahab Ahmed

Religious extremism is not a new phenomenon in South Asia but it has certainly grown during the 21st century and that too across the region. While there are historical reasons behind religious divisions and fissures in South Asia (e.g., the two-nation theory with reference to the creation of a separate homeland for the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent), religious nationalism is a key driver behind the securitization of religious minorities. Although the existence of Muslim extremists is linked to how religion was used as a tool to recruit and mobilize mujahideen against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan between 1979 and 1988, the global dynamics after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the “war on terror” have also influenced religious radicalization and extremism in Pakistan. In contrast, Buddhist and Hindu nationalism have been key drivers of religiously motivated extremism targeting religious minorities, especially Muslims, in Sri Lanka and India. There are similarities in terms of how Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim extremist groups have been propagating hate and inciting violence; for instance, many extremist groups now increasingly use social media. As this article argues, the presence of religious extremism in South Asia presents a significant challenge to peace and security. This includes various forms of extremism targeting different religious groups and promoting anti-Western sentiments. International terrorist organizations are active in the region, while Hindu and Buddhist nationalists contribute to the marginalization and violence against Muslims. Creating an environment of tolerance, inclusivity, and respect for all religious communities is crucial to address these complex issues effectively.

Article

The Politics of (In)Visibility: Geopolitics and Subaltern Bodies  

Francine Rossone de Paula

The materiality of (living, dead, and surviving) bodies has been highlighted as a productive element of resistance against intersectional violence and oppression in Latin America. While acknowledging the potential of feminist solidarities and embodied resistance to reinscribe meaning on political spaces by cutting across these spaces and opening new territories for recognition and social justice, it remains important to acknowledge the precarity of certain bodies’ geopolitical positions. Processes through which some bodies are simultaneously concealed and exposed, and whose movements are continuously perceived as excessive to the status quo, may be revealing of these bodies’ inherent potential for disruption and politicization as both a symbolic and physical presence. However, when visibility is itself a symptom of their “displacement” from dominant representations sustaining the ordering of space, these bodies’ visibility is rarely translated into audibility or legibility. In other words, they exceed the “map,” and their visibility is revealing of their condition of being “out of place.” Historic and contemporary feminist movements in Latin America show that when recognition is conditioned by the perception of presence as displacement, this may prevent subaltern bodies not only to speak to the political but also mainly to be heard. A closer look at their positionings and potentialities reveal the conditions for gendered and racist geographies of visibility, recognition, and agency and calls for a radicalization of the geo in geo-politics (with a hyphen) toward the de-normalization of violence as the everyday of international politics.

Article

Genealogies of Intersectionality in International Relations  

Celeste Montoya and Kimberly Killen

The term intersectionality was introduced in the late 1980s by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a U.S. legal scholar critiquing single-axis approaches (i.e., race only or gender only) to oppression that often obscure those residing at the intersection of multiple marginalities and preclude them from justice. Since then, intersectionality has become a burgeoning field of study aimed at exploring and addressing the complexity of multiple and intersecting dimensions of power and oppression. While scholars across a range of disciplines have engaged intersectionality and incorporated intersectional analysis into their work, its explicit application and study in international relations (IR) has been somewhat limited. While intersectionality, named as such, may be less common in IR, postcolonial, Third World, transnational, Islamic, and queer feminist scholars and activists have long sought to complicate traditional understandings of power. Identifying and tracing the genealogical strands of their intersectional thinking and interventions help demonstrate the relevance and potential of intersectionality for the study of IR.

Article

Stateless Diasporas and China’s Uyghur Crisis in the 21st Century  

Işık Kuşçu Bonnenfant

Research on contemporary diasporas and their political mobilization strategies has proliferated. The literature differentiates between the mobilization strategies of stateless and state-linked diaspora. While earlier works have argued that stateless diasporas pursue more violent strategies with, as an end goal, secession, more recent studies have suggested that this is not always the case. Research on diaspora has also borrowed extensively from social movement theory. This has allowed researchers to focus on diaspora as a social group that can mobilize in convenient political opportunity structures with claim-making ability. A political opportunity structure is the combination of structural and contextual conditions that permits diaspora mobilization. Mobilizing structures and frames are the two other analytical tools of social movement theory that have previously inspired diaspora scholars. Mobilizing structures are formal and informal structures in which diasporas can organize collectively for a common cause. Various frames, such as human rights, enable a diaspora to make sense of certain events and conditions in its aim to mobilize members into action. Nearly 500,000 to 600,000 Uyghurs live as diaspora today; most of them left their homeland, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China, because of increasingly repressive policies targeting the very core elements of their identity. Uyghurs are one of the 55 ethnic minorities in China. Particularly after the end of the Cold War and the independence of the neighboring Central Asian republics, China perceived a threat of secession from the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Later, 9/11 and the subsequent war on terror instigated China to adopt a new rhetoric, one that focused on the “fight against terrorism” in its policies toward Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. Riots and several terrorist incidents reinforced this discourse and legitimized China’s securitization of the Uyghur issue. Since 2010, China has increased surveillance activities in the region, arbitrarily detained up to a million people, and violated the basic rights of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. Since the 1960s, the Uyghur diaspora has pursued various mobilization strategies, most of which are confined to nonviolent repertoires of action. Uyghurs abroad have utilized various mobilization structures and political opportunity structures and frames. The first-generation Uyghur diaspora contributed greatly to the construction of a national identity and history, and this was an alternative to China’s dominant narratives. The second generation has benefited from better political opportunity structures and managed to bring various Uyghur diaspora organizations under one umbrella, the World Uyghur Congress. The Uyghur diaspora vigorously continues its efforts to create awareness on the plight of its brethren in the homeland within a human rights–based frame using moderate strategies of action. The Uyghur diaspora leadership has become a legitimate transnational actor, one that is now taken quite seriously by various states and international organizations.

Article

Identity and Regional Institutions in Latin America  

Germán C. Prieto and Juan Carlos Aguirre

The relationship between identity and institutions has traditionally been a main explanatory factor of the unfolding of regionalism from a constructivist lens. Yet, this relationship has not been largely addressed in the study of regionalism in Latin America, where collective identity is often expected to be strong, but regional institutions are often considered weak. The relationship between institutional flexibility and inertia with collective identity can be illustrated by the cases of the Andean Community (AC) and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), where due to harsh disagreement between member states about crucial issues, these regionalist projects risked being thrown into question or even terminated. The AC has stronger institutionalization than UNASUR. Analysis of the AC shows that institutional flexibility and inertia, articulated with certain dimensions of Andean collective identity and even triggering identification effects among member states, helped overcome certain critical moments. First, Peru’s reluctance to adopt certain commercial schemes for meeting the project’s aim of constituting a common market led the other AC members to consider expelling Peru from the regional scheme, but institutional flexibility and inertia, along with issues of collective identity, allowed Peru to remain an AC member. Second, Bolivia’s and Ecuador’s abandoning of collective FTA negotiations with the EU could have implied dismantling the regionalist project due to the impossibility of it acting as a bloc in the trade area, but the relationship between institutional flexibility and inertia with collective identity enabled maintaining the project and handling the critical moment successfully. In contrast, while the disagreement around the constitution of the Banco del Sur did not endanger the creation of UNASUR and later its continuity, mainly thanks to institutional flexibility though not so much to institutional inertia, the lack of a strong collective identity, together with the lack of institutional inertia, made the regionalist project fail in facing its first profound crisis regarding diplomatic conflict among its members around the legitimacy of Nicolás Maduro’s government in Venezuela, despite but also due to the huge institutional flexibility that had persuaded member states to join UNASUR in the first place.