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Article

Art and Peacebuilding  

Berit Bliesemann de Guevara and Lydia C. Cole

While the arts can be observed to play a role in both violence and peacemaking, they are often assumed to make positive contributions to postwar peacebuilding processes and have increasingly become attached to ideas of “positive peace” in different key (sub-)disciplines that contribute to the field of “art and peacebuilding” scholarship. Art forms that have been linked with peacebuilding include animation, curating and exhibiting, dance, drawing and painting, filmmaking, music, photography, poetry and fiction, sculpture, sound art, storytelling, street art, textile-making, and theater and performance, among others. The most common uses and potentials of art in and for peacebuilding concern artistic forms as peacebuilding tools; the power of peace aesthetics in changing sociopolitical imaginaries; and the community-building potentials of the arts. Research increasingly suggests that the particular value of the arts with regard to peacebuilding may lie in their capacity to bear and hold within them tensions, struggles, and differences, and thereby to contribute not to an idealized “harmonious” but a more real-type agonistic peace. There are, however, also important limits and challenges of art in and for peacebuilding, such as the risk of political and epistemic closure when arts are instrumentalized for predefined ends, questions of hierarchies regarding different artistic forms, and ethical questions arising from relationships involving large power differentials. These limits and challenges need to be addressed for the arts’ positive contribution to peacebuilding processes to unfold.

Article

Complexity and Quantum in International Relations  

Greta Fowler Snyder and Andre Hui

Even as work in the natural sciences has shown the Newtonian understanding of the world to be faulty, Newtonianism still pervades the field of International Relations (IR). Moved by the challenges to Newtonianism emanating from various fields, IR scholars have turned to complexity theory or quantum physics for an alternative onto-epistemological basis on which to build a post-Newtonian IR. This article provides researchers with a map that allows them to not only better see and navigate the differences within both complexity and quantum theory and the IR work that draws from each, but also to recognize the similarities across these bodies of work. Complexity theory highlights and engages systems (biological, social, meteorological, technological, and more) characterized by emergence, self-organization, nonlinearity, unpredictability, openness, and adaptation—systems that are fundamentally different from the self-regulating mechanic systems that comprise the Newtonian world. Complexity-grounded IR research, following complexity research more generally, falls into one of two categories. Through “restricted complexity” approaches, researchers use simulation or modeling to derive knowledge about the dynamics of complex social and political systems and the effect of different kinds of interventions. Researchers who take “general complexity” approaches, by contrast, stress the openness and entwinement of complex systems as well as unpredictability that is not exclusively the result of epistemological limitations; they offer critical re-theorizations of phenomena central to IR while also using qualitative methods to demonstrate how complexity-informed understandings can improve various kinds of practices. “Restricted complexity” seems to have gained the most traction in IR, but overall, complexity has had limited uptake. Quantum physics reveals a world with ineluctable randomness, in which measurement is creative rather than reflective, and where objects shift form and seem to be connected in ways that are strange from a Newtonian perspective. IR research that builds from a quantum base tends to draw from one of two categories of quantum physical interpretation—the “Copenhagen Interpretation” or pan-psychism—though more exist. Unlike the complexity IR community, the quantum IR community is ecumenical; given the deep ongoing debates about quantum mechanics and its meaning, embracing different ways of “quantizing” IR makes sense. Most quantum IR work to date stresses the utility of the conceptual tools that quantum physics provides us to rethink a wide variety of socio-political phenomena and hedges on questions of the nature of reality, even as the major theoretical tracts on quantum social science take strong ontological stances. Developing critiques and alternative positive visions for IR on the basis of either complexity theory or quantum work has been an important first step in enabling a post-Newtonian IR. To advance their agenda, however, the critics of Newtonian IR should start engaging each other and carefully interrogate the relationship between different strands of complexity and quantum theory. There are a number of key points of overlap between the work in the general complexity strand and the Copenhagen Interpretation–inspired philosophy of agential realism, and as of 2022 there exists only one major effort to bring these strands of quantum and complexity together to found a post–Newtonian IR. A coordinated post-Newtonian challenge that brings complexity-grounded IR scholars together with quantum-grounded IR scholars under a common banner may be necessary to wake IR from what Emilian Kavalski calls its “deep Newtonian slumber.” The pay-off, post–Newtonian IR scholars argue, will be a deeper understanding of, as well as more effective and ethical engagement with and in, a non-Newtonian world.

Article

Critical Scholarship on Terrorism  

Priya Dixit

Understandings of “critical” in critical scholarship on terrorism range from a Frankfurt School–influenced definition to a broader definition that aims to interrogate commonsense understandings of terrorism and counterterrorism. Overall, critical scholarship on terrorism draws on multiple disciplines and methodological traditions to analyze terrorism and counterterrorism. Within these, there have been ongoing debates and discussions about whether the state should be included in research on terrorism and, if so, what the inclusion of the state would do for the understanding of terrorism. Critical scholarship has also outlined the need for further attention to research ethics, as well as urged researchers to acknowledge their standpoints when conducting and communicating research. Some, but not all, critical scholarship has a normative orientation with the goal of emancipation, though the meaning of emancipation remains debated. Methodologically, the majority of critical scholarship on terrorism utilizes an interpretive lens to analyze terrorism and related issues. A central goal of critical terrorism research is to rework power relations such that Global South subjectivities are centered on research. This means including research conducted by Global South scholars and also centering Global South peoples and concerns in analyses of terrorism and counterterrorism. The role of gender, analytically and in practice, in relation to terrorism is also a key part of critical scholarship. Critical scholars of terrorism have observed that race is absent from much of terrorism scholarship, and there needs to be ongoing work toward addressing this imbalance. Media and popular culture, and their depiction of terrorism and counterterrorism, form another key strand in critical scholarship on terrorism. Overall, critical scholarship on terrorism is about scrutinizing and dismantling power structures that sustain commonsense knowledge regarding terrorism.

Article

Ethnoreligious Data Collection  

Jonathan Fox

Collecting and examining datasets on ethnicity and religion involves translating and codifying real-world phenomena such as actions taken by governments and other groups into data which can be analyzed by social science statistical techniques. This methodology is intended to be applied to phenomena which in their original form are in a format not readily accessible to statistical analyses, i.e. “softer” phenomena and events such as government policies and conflict behavior. Thus, this methodology is not necessary for phenomena like GDP or government military spending, but is based on behavior by organizations or groups of individuals which are assessed by a coder who translates this behavior into data. Aggregate data collected by this methodology should have three qualities. First, they must be reproducible. Second, the data must be transparent in that all aspects of the data collection process and its products be clear and understandable to other researchers, to the extent that they could, in theory, be replicated. Third, it must measure what it intends to measure in a clear, accurate, and precise manner. A project which accomplishes all of this must be conceptualized properly from the beginning, including the decision on which unit of analysis to use and which cases to include and exclude. It must have appropriate sources and a tight variable design. Finally, the data must be collected in a systematic, transparent, and reproducible manner based upon appropriate sources.

Article

Foreign Aid, Development Cooperation and International Relations  

Bernabé Malacalza

Despite the dominance of development economics in the study of foreign aid and development cooperation since the 1950s, particularly with the emergence of modernization theory, an examination of academic contributions to the larger debates in international relations (IR) reveals something not extensively documented in the scholarly literature. It is that the study of foreign aid and development cooperation is inherently intertwined with IR, constituting an integral component thereof. Understanding the evolution of foreign aid and development cooperation studies, as well as its interaction with IR theories, is essential for deciphering the contemporary theoretical, normative, methodological, ontological, and epistemological challenges faced by the field. Investigating the historical evolution of this field in relation to IR involves analyzing, in parallel, its development alongside shifts in the international order. The historical analysis highlights how foreign aid and development cooperation have been shaped by changing power structures, ideological shifts, and geopolitical events, underscoring its inseparable connection to broader IR dynamics and its theorization. The interconnected nature of these domains demonstrates how prevailing theoretical perspectives influence not only the methods employed but also the identification of underlying forces and the normative principles guiding research, as well as the design of foreign aid and development cooperation policies. Analyzing how epistemological approaches, such as rationalism and reflectivism, have influenced the investigation of narratives and practices within the realms of foreign aid and development cooperation reveals potential elements of theoretical complementation. Beyond mere theoretical differentiation, there are elements that contribute significantly to fostering notions of dialogue, pluralism, and interdisciplinarity within the field of foreign aid and development cooperation studies. The prevailing trend is a movement toward theoretical eclecticism, wherein researchers increasingly draw upon a variety of theoretical frameworks to better grasp the intricate dynamics of foreign aid and development cooperation. This transformation stems from the evolving nature of global challenges and the recognition that a singular theoretical approach may fall short in capturing the multifaceted dimensions of foreign aid and development cooperation. Moreover, it underscores the dynamic and evolving nature of the field, emphasizing the need for interdisciplinary approaches and theoretical flexibility to address the complex issues surrounding foreign aid and the discussion of the concept of development in times of global planetary crisis.

Article

International Relations, Big Data, and Artificial Intelligence  

Ehud Udi Eiran

Scholars and practitioners of international relations (IR) are paying special attention to three significant ways in which artificial intelligence (AI) and big data (BD) are transforming IR, against a background of earlier debates among IR scholars about the effect of technology on the field. First, AI and BD have emerged as arenas of interstate, mostly great power competition. In this context, scholars suggest, AI and BD are important because an effective use of AI and BD adds significantly to military and economic power. The current competition in these fields, between the United States and the People’s Republic of China, brought scholars to highlight at least four ways in which AI and BD are important: (a) Automating decisions about the use of nuclear force could affect nuclear stability, but scholars still cannot agree in what direction; (b) The central role played by the private sector. This, as opposed to the Cold War era, when the state played the leading role in the development of technology ; (c) the gap between the current two great powers in these technologies is narrow, in contrast to the significant gap in favor of the United States during the Cold War; and (d) the wave of new technologies, including AI, makes weapons systems cheaper and more available for smaller powers and political entities, thus offering a possible curb on the dominance of great powers. Second, AI and BD are expected to affect national decision-making in the areas of foreign and security policies. Here, scholars highlight three possible transformations: (a) AI will allow states a path for better decision-making on security and foreign policy matters, through the optimization and speeding of existing policy processes; (b) the technology will omit some of the human shortcomings in decision-making, further optimizing the policy process; and (c) AI will be able to offer predictions about policies of other actors in the international system and create effective simulations to help manage crises. Finally, the inclusion of AI and BD in weapons systems, most notably the development of lethal autonomous weapons systems, brings the promise (or horror) of greater efficiency and lethality but also raises significant ethical questions. AI and BD are also affecting other arenas of interstate conflict including the cyber domain and information warfare.

Article

Interpretivism: Definitions, Trends, and Emerging Paths  

Marcos S. Scauso

Since the 1980s, scholars disputing the hegemony of positivist methodologies in the social sciences began to promote interpretive approaches, creating discussions about methodological pluralism and enabling a slow, and often resisted, proliferation of theoretical diversity. Within this context, interpretivism acquired a specific definition, which encompassed meaning-centered research and problematized positivist ideas of truth correspondence, objectivity, generalization, and linear processes of research. By critiquing the methodological assumptions that were often used to regard positivism as a superior form of social science, interpretive scholars were confronted with questions about their own knowledge production and its validity. If meanings could be separated from objects, phenomena and identities could be constructed, and observers could not step out of their situated participation within these constructions, how could scholars validate their knowledge? Despite important agreements about the centrality, characteristics, and intelligibility of meaning, interpretivists still disagree about the different ways in which this question can be answered. On one side of the spectrum, some scholars of poststructuralism, feminism, green theory, queer theory, and postcolonialism aim to renounce methodological foundations of objectification and validation. This opens the possibility of empirically researching epistemic assumptions, which scholars interpret either as components of dominant discourses or as alternatives that create possibilities of thinking about more multiplicity, difference, and diversity. On the other side, a number of constructivist, feminist, postcolonial, and critical scholars attach meanings to social structures and view their interpretations as reflecting parts of intersubjectivities, lifeworlds, superstructures, cultures, and so on. Since they use their own strategies to validate interpretations, and they solve this methodological question, the scholars on this side of the spectrum either tend to pursue empirical research that does not analyze epistemic dimensions, or they generalize particular experiences of domination. This disagreement influences not only the kind of empirical research that scholars pursue but also creates some differences in the definitions of key interpretive notions such as power relations, reflexivity, and the role of empirical evidence. Within these agreements and disagreements, interpretivism created an overarching methodological space that allowed for the proliferation of theoretical approaches. Since the 1980s, poststructuralist, feminist, constructivist, neo-Marxist, postcolonial, green, critical, and queer theories have sought to expand the study of meanings, uncover aspects of domination, listen to previously marginalized voices, unveil hidden variations, and highlight alternatives. This diversifying process continues to unfold, contributing to the analysis of these methodological questions even beyond binary understandings of only two epistemic tendencies. Many authors also deploy these perspectives to highlight diverse cases, voices, ways of knowing, struggles, oppressions, imaginaries, temporalities, and so on. For example, relational approaches contribute in international relations by creating new transdisciplinary debates and promoting other possibilities of thinking, being, feeling, and knowing global politics.

Article

Methodological Developments in Nationalism, Ethnicity, and Migration Research  

Victor Asal, Stephen Shellman, and Tiffiany Howard

In terms of methods, researchers working in nationalism, ethnicity, and migration have used everything from broad historical narratives to automated coding and event data analysis. Traditionally, narratives were the dominant methodological approach implemented to study these areas. The narrative approach allowed for explication of groundbreaking theoretical arguments generating testable hypotheses, the deep inspection of particular areas of the world or particular issues with richness of detail and process, and the investigation of a small number of cases. In addition, the use of formal theory to explore issues related to nationalism, ethnicity, and migration also has a long tradition. Formal theory allows for the construction of concise decision making models that force the researcher to be explicit about key assumptions made regarding preferences and the political structure involved. The formal theory approach has encouraged greater specificity from the arguments formed by scholars of nationalism, ethnicity, and immigration and has generated important theoretical insights. Finally, the most rapidly expanding approach to the study of nationalism, ethnicity, and immigration over the past two decades has been statistics. Statistical analyses offer the advantage of being able to bracket confidence intervals around the causal inferences one makes and to more formally control for a variety of competing factors. As statistical technology and training have become more common, the use of statistics has grown substantially.

Article

Narratives in International Studies Research  

Behar Sadriu

Narrative research is a trending topic in international studies, with a growing body of literature adopting limited insights from narratology, sociolinguistics, and related fields to construct new insights into the workings of international relations. These studies are mainly concerned with questions about how narratives can be used to shape future policy courses, or how they impact the identity of agents and actors. The proliferation of studies using “narratives” in international studies research has been widespread since the 2000s, following a series of puzzles raised by scholars writing on language and discourse more broadly, ever since the late 1980s as part of the “linguistic turn” in the field. The adoption of narrative theory into international relations research presents a series of important questions about the methodological implications of taking narratives seriously. These include inquiries into the extent to which scholars see themselves as contributing to current social, political, and economic configurations of the world through their own work. Other questions motivated by this include: can international relations scholarship contribute to narrative theories of their own, or are they content in borrowing insights from other disciplines? How far should scholars engage in assessing what actors say, rather than what they do? Or is this distinction a false one to begin with? Are there more or less potent narratives, and why do some become prominent while others do not? What is the causal significance of narratives, and what is the best way to study them?

Article

Visual Methodologies: Theorizing Disasters and International Relations  

Marjaana Jauhola

There is an increase in extreme weather conditions due to human-induced climate change. Their impacts are most severely felt by the marginalized and the poor in the Global South. Increasingly, study of international relations focuses on the varied forms of disasters and the global politics that emerge around them. Disaster studies scholarship actively challenges the myth of existence of “natural disasters.” Instead of defining them as being “natural,” disasters are conceived as serious disruptions to the functioning of a community or a society with human, material, economic, or environmental losses. The disaster concept is thus separated, first, from hazards such as earthquakes, cyclones, and floods, and “disaters” are not limited to events resulting from natural hazards. Disasters emerge also as a result of major economic and political instabilities due to the nature of the contemporary global political economy and global financial crises. Disasters also include those that often go unnoticed such as violent conflicts or famines, and also include global pandemics such as Ebola and COVID-19. Disasters understood in this way also include aftermaths of resource extractivism and settler coloniality. The intersection of disasters and visual methodologies offers insights into theorizing International Relations nature, the everyday, and the politics of disasters. This article focuses on such visual and audiovisual scholarship that has predominantly emerged from, and actively engages with, collaborative visual methodologies and a rethinking of research processes. Such works offer insights into critical exploration of academic knowledge production processes and praxis, suggesting that visual is not a method, but a methodological and ethical choice. Research processes adopting photo-elicitation, graphic novels and comics, and films in specific disaster contexts challenge text-dominated scholarship and offer reflection on the roles between the researcher and researched, and on the question of authorship. Turning to visuals also brings to the fore questions of representations and the strategic use of the visual in the overall scholarly storytelling practice. Further, scholars have suggested that instead of focusing on the visual devices, or the visual products, visual methodologies as a process orientation allow questions related to democratizing and accessibility to the research process to be addressed, weighing up whose priorities matter, that is, making research useful for (Indigenous) communities and resisting legacies of the imperial shutter.