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Article

Emmanuel Balogun

The study of regionalism has experienced numerous transformations and focal points. Comparative regionalism has emerged as the next wave of scholarship on regional cooperation and integration in international relations. What differentiates comparative regionalism from this earlier scholarship? There are three research themes that characterize the field of comparative regionalism: (a) an empirical focus on regional identity formation as a way of distinguishing between autonomous regions, (b) decentering Europe as the main reference point of comparative regionalism, and (c) defining what is truly “comparative” about comparative regionalism. These research themes emerge in a global context, where regional cooperation and integration are being tested from all sides by events such as Brexit in Europe, elusive global cooperation in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and challenges to democratic stability across the globe. While the development of regionalism has primarily been concerned about the defining of regions and the world order context in which regional cooperation emerges and sustains itself, the interrelated themes of regional identity formation and the decentering of Europe in comparative regionalism drive the comparative regionalism agenda, giving substance to the identification and measurement of the “local” and other context-specific mechanisms of regionalism. While these three themes are helpful in discerning the state of the comparative regionalism research agenda, they also have some limitations. While comparative regionalism is progressive in its integration of constructivist ideas of identity formation, its project of withering Eurocentrism, and its methodological flexibility, comparative regionalism research would be well served to incorporate more reflexive and interpretivist research practices and methods, particularly to serve the goal of offering new knowledge and theories of regional cooperation in the Global South that are not tethered to Europe.

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

In the social sciences, IR included, the study of practices starts from a very simple intuition: social realities - and international politics - are constituted by human beings acting in and on the world. Their ways of doing things delineate practices that enact and give meaning to the world. When seen through these lenses, the concerns of other IR approaches – war, peace, negotiations, states, diplomacy, international organizations, and so on – are bundles of individual and collective practices woven together and producing specific outcomes. Rather than as a unified approach, the Practice Turn (PT) in International Relations Theory is best approached through a series of conceptual innovations and tools that introduce novel ways of thinking about international politics. The review article here first introduces the main conceptual tools in PT’s toolbox focusing on defining practices, the logic of practice, field, capital, and symbolic domination. It then situates PT within IR, and shows how it departs from both rationalism and constructivism. The article closes by focusing on the methodological, epistemological and normative debates among practice turners.

Article

Stuti Bhatnagar

The role of think tanks as policy actors has developed over time and created significant global scholarship. Widely understood as non-state policy actors, think tanks established either with or without the support of government have evolved in various political contexts with varied characteristics. They are avenues for the discussion of new policy ideas as well as used for the consolidation of existing understandings of global and national political issues. As ideational actors think tanks interact with policy frameworks at different levels, either in the framing stage or at the stage of consensus building towards certain policies. Intellectual elites at think tanks allow for the introduction of think tank ideas into the policy frames as well as the creation of public opinion towards foreign policy decisions. Think tank deliberations involve an interaction with policymakers, academic experts, business and social actors, as well as the media to disseminate ideas. Institutionally, think tanks in a wide variety of political contexts play a critical role in the making of foreign policy and bring closer attention to processes of state–society interactions in different political environments.

Article

Philip B.K. Potter

Foreign policy analysis (FPA) is the study of how states, or the individuals that lead them, make foreign policy, execute foreign policy, and react to the foreign policies of other states. This topical breadth results in a subfield that encompasses a variety of questions and levels of analysis, and a correspondingly diverse set of methodological approaches. There are four methods which have become central in foreign policy analysis: archival research, content analysis, interviews, and focus groups. The first major phase of FPA research is termed “comparative foreign policy.” Proponents of comparative foreign policy sought to achieve comprehensive theories of foreign policy behavior through quantitative analysis of “events” data. An important strand of this behavioral work addressed the relationship between trade dependence and foreign policy compliance. On the other hand, second-generation FPA methodology largely abandoned universalized theory-building in favor of historical methods and qualitative analysis. Second-generation FPA researchers place particular emphasis on developing case study methodologies driven by social science principles. Meanwhile, the third-generation of FPA scholarship combines innovative quantitative and qualitative methods. Several methods of foreign policy analysis used by third-generation FPA researchers include computer assisted coding, experiments, simulation, surveys, network analysis, and prediction markets. Ultimately, additional attention should be given to determining the degree to which current methods of foreign policy analysis allow predictive or prescriptive conclusions. FPA scholars should also focus more in reengaging foreign policy analysis with the core of international relations research.

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

The growth of research on emotion in international relations (IR) has produced a significant body of literature. This body of literature has raised a number of interesting questions, debates, and theoretical positions regarding the agentic properties of international actors and how they are embedded in international structures. Emotions have long been viewed in IR as self-evident and irrational by-products of cognitive processes and have, until recently, remained largely implicit and undertheorized. The first wave of research lamented the discipline’s neglect and marginalization of emotions in mainstream IR theories and concepts. The second wave has turned to specific ways to integrate the consideration of emotion into existing research within specific issue areas, from diplomacy, security, war, and ethnic conflict to transnational actors, institutions, governance, and conflict management. The literature on this topic is so extensive that many even speak of an “emotional turn.” Its intellectual roots stem from various disciplines, such as psychology, neuroscience, sociology, history, and cultural studies, and this diversity is reflected in ongoing challenges of how to study emotions and their political effects in IR. These challenges relate to a number of ontological and epistemological questions, including how to conceptualize emotions, how to capture emotions methodologically, and how to move from the individual to the collective level of analysis. Whatever divergent claims are made by these scholars, there is by now a firm consensus in the discipline that emotions matter for international and global politics.

Article

Brooke Ackerly and Ying Zhang

The study of feminist ethics in international relations (IR) is the study of three topics. The first is the feminist contributions to key topics in international ethics and the research agenda that continues to further that enterprise. Feminists have made important contributions to IR thought on central ethical concepts. They rethink these concepts from the perspective of their impact on women, deconstruct the dichotomies of the concepts and their constituent parts, and reconsider how the field should be studied. Next, there is the feminist engagement with the epistemological construction of the discipline of IR itself, by which feminists make the construction of the field itself a normative subject. Finally, there is the feminist methodological contribution of a “meta-methodology”—a research ethic applicable in the research of all questions and able to improve the research practice of all methodologists. The contention here is that ethical IR research must be responsive to the injustices of the world, hence feminists have also explored the connections between scholarship and activism. And this in turn has meant exploring methodologies such as participatory action research that engages one with the political impact of research and methods. Furthermore, contemporary challenges related to climate, globalization, shifts in people, and shifts in global governance are encouraging feminists to work from multiple theoretical perspectives and to triangulate across multiple methods and questions, in order to contribute to our understanding of global problems and the politics of addressing them.

Article

Historical Sociology (HS) is a subfield of sociology studying the structures and processes that have shaped important features of the modern world, including the development of the rational bureaucratic state, the emergence of capitalism, international institutions and trade, transnational forces, revolutions, and warfare. HS differs from other approaches in sociology given its distinction between routine social activities and transformative moments that fundamentally reshape social structures and institutions. Within international relations, the relevance of history in the field’s study has been highly disputed. In fact, mainstream international relations (IR)—Neorealism and Liberalism—has downplayed the importance of history. Nevertheless, World History (WH) and HS have exercised a significant degree of influence over certain theoretical approaches to the study of international relations. The history of HS can be traced back to the Enlightenment period and the belief that it was possible to improve the human condition by unmaking and remaking human institutions. HS was then taken up by a second wave of historical sociologists who were asking questions about political power and the state, paving the way for greater engagement between IR and sociology. Third wave HS, meanwhile, emerged from a questioning of received theoretical paradigms, and was thus characterized by theoretical and methodological revisions, but only minor and incremental changes to the research agenda of second wave Historical Sociology.

Article

Feminism operates on various feminist epistemologies, methodologies, and methods. While there is no consensus on how to organize or label these, there are a few generalities that can be drawn between these epistemologies, particularly in the international relations (IR) context. Classifying these epistemologies generally under the umbrella (or in the constellation) of postpositivism makes clear the contrasts between positivist social science and more critical approaches. Moreover, within the many critical approaches in feminist IR are many points of convergence and divergence. Feminist IR theory also focuses on the complexities of gender as a social and relational construction, in contrast to how nonfeminist ontologies focus on the rights of women, but including those of children and men as well. Hence, the postpositivist ontology takes on a more complex meaning. Rather than trying to uncover “how things really are,” postpositivists study how social realities (the Westphalian system, international migration or trafficking, or even modern war) came to be, and also how these realities came to be understood as norms, institutions, or social facts—often examining the gendered underpinnings of each. Most feminist IR theorists (and IR constructivists) share an “ontology of becoming” where the focus is on the intersubjective process of norm evolution.

Article

Coming from an empirical historical tradition, English School theory has a strong inductive core, represented in its historical narratives, and a positive approach to international law. But its core text is strongly deductive: Hedley Bull derived the basic precept of international society from a set of logical premises to which he attached a truth value. Its methodologies have varied accordingly, between agent-centered and structure-centered approaches, and it has deployed a variety of methods in respect to each, including anthropological interpretivism with regard to agents and historical and sociological institutionalism with regard to structures. Its focus on the state and institutions means that it shares method with regime theorists, and its focus on Great Powers and great power responsibility means that it shares some methods with regard to classical realism.

Article

Inanna Hamati-Ataya

Behavioralism is a paradigm that became predominant in American social sciences from the 1950s until well into the 1970s. Although its reign did not last beyond the 1980s, it has transformed the fields of (American) political science and international relations (IR) so profoundly that it remains to this day an essential, albeit implicit, component of their identity. The article starts with the context in which behavioralism emerged, then engages the “Behavioral Revolution” in American political science and presents its main epistemic, ontological, and axiological tenets. It then moves more specifically to Behavioralism in IR, and to the terms of its “second debate.” The article concludes with an assessment of Behavioralism’s legacy.