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Article

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 make positivism appear 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. Scholars often use diverse strategies of validation and they objectivize their interpretations in different degrees. On one side of the spectrum, some post-structuralist, feminist, and postcolonial scholars renounce methodological foundations of objectification and validation as much as possible. 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, and critical scholars attach meanings to social structures and view their interpretations as reflecting parts of intersubjectivities, lifeworlds, cultures, etc. Since they use their own strategy to objectify interpretations and they solve the methodological question of validity, 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, post-structuralist, 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. Some of the branches of these theories tend toward the different sides of the methodological spectrum and they disagree about the epistemic strategies that they can use to validate their knowledge production, but the opening of this interpretive space has allowed for scholars to deconstruct, reconstruct, and juxtapose meanings, contributing to the field from different perspectives and within particular empirical areas of research. Moreover, this diversifying process continues to unfold. Approaches such as the decolonial perspective that emerged in Latin American Studies continue to enter International Studies, creating new transdisciplinary debates and promoting other possibilities for thinking about international and global politics.

Article

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.

Article

Francesca Panzironi

A network may refer to “a group of interdependent actors and the relationships among them,” or to a set of nodes linked by a web of interdependencies. The concept of networks has its origins in earlier philosophical and sociological ideas such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s “general will” and Émile Durkheim’s “social facts”, which adressed social and political communities and how decisions are mediated and ideas are structured within them. Networks encompass a wide range of theoretical interpretations and critical applications across different disciplines, including governance networks, policy networks, public administration networks, social movement networks, intergovernmental networks, social networks, trade networks, computer networks, information networks, and neural networks. Governance networks have been proposed as alternative pluricentric governance models representing a new form of negotiated governance based on interdependence, negotiation and trust. Such networks differ from the competitive market regulation and state hierarchical control in three aspects: the relationship between the actors, decision-making processes, and compliance. The decision-making processes within governance networks are founded on a reflexive rationality rather than the “procedural rationality” which characterizes the competitive market regulation and the “substantial rationality” which underpins authoritative state regulation. Network theory has proved especially useful for scholars in positing the existence of loosely defined and informal webs of experts or advocates that can have a real and substantial influence on international relations discourse and policy. Two examples of the use of network theory in action are transnational advocacy networks and epistemic communities.