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Race, Racism, and the Teaching of International Relations  

Somdeep Sen

Discussions of race and racism are often missing in the curriculum of international relations courses or, when present, categorized as a “critical approach” and placed outside the mainstream. But this absence or marginalization from the mainstream of the discipline does not mean that such discussions are beyond the scope of its primary agenda—that is, theorize interstate relations. On the contrary, questions of race and racism have been foundational to the historical development of international relations. In its formative years, the discipline’s understanding of the global order was shaped by the Darwinist conceptions of racial hierarchies adopted by some its core theorists. They viewed the imperial domination of the “White races” over the “darker peoples of the world” to be justified, considering the immeasurable racial superiority of the former. Revisionist international relations scholars, also active during the formative years of the discipline, worked to upend these racialized hierarchies and underlined the need to account for the struggles and national aspirations of the dominated in international politics. Yet, international relations’ racist disciplinary precepts have persisted, and a color line—both globally and within the discipline—continues to divide the world into racialized, binary categories (e.g., civilized/uncivilized, modern/backward, and developed/undeveloped) that legitimize Western authority in international politics. However, the introduction of race and racism in the teaching of the discipline equally unsettles the assumption that international relations embodies a value-free scientific endeavor. Instead, the role of racist precepts in the making and workings of the field demonstrates that the discipline’s mainstream is deeply positioned in its view of the world and, as a consequence, fails to account for the multiplicity of ways in which international politics is encountered and experienced.

Article

Civilization and Statehood  

Andrew Delatolla

The modern state is often discussed within the context of its domestic institutions and structures or as a product that is shaped by the international system. From these discussions, attempts to define and theorize statehood have led to assumptions that the modern state is a universal product, sharing structural and normative similarities across geographies and societies. However, many of these assumptions are developed from the unique histories of European state formation and statehood, from which an ideal type is produced. By looking at these histories in relation to the global transformations of the 19th century, it is possible to interrogate how conceptions of modern statehood—derived from European histories and experiences—have been consistently upheld as a civilizational benchmark for other, non-European and non-Western states, to achieve. Beginning with a discussion on European state formation, it is evident that the conceptions and frameworks of statehood—including the development of national identities, territorialization, institutions, and organizing and ordering mechanisms, often discussed in the abstract—are the products of particular historic normative, structural, and institutional developments. These histories lay the foundation for how the modern state has been conceived, theorized, and framed, affecting not just Europe but global politics. The article subsequently discusses how modern statehood, based on the European experience of state formation, became a benchmark of civilization. Upholding statehood as the pinnacle of social, political, and economic development and progress in comparison to the underdeveloped “nature” of societies and polities outside of Europe, imperialism, and colonialism was considered a justified practice. In the first instance, the uncivilized character of societies and polities outside of Europe became entangled in racial-biological explanations of social and political development, supposedly confirming scientific racist explanations of underdevelopment. In the second instance, imperialism and colonialism were tethered to 19th-century civilizing projects, a means to organize societies and polities in a manner that reflected or mimicked the European state. While the discourses related to imperialism and colonialism, along with scientific racism, became outmoded in the 20th century, they remained apparent in practices associated with the League of Nations mandate state system, development, and state building. In the context of these practices, the concept and framing of modern statehood, as an abstract and ideal type founded on European histories of state formation, continued to be used as a benchmark for international recognition and a measurement for progress and development. Charting the continued relationship between civilization and statehood, the case of Palestine is explored, examining the politics and discourses of civilization related to statehood and Palestinian nonrecognition.

Article

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

The Pursuit and Use of Biological Weapons by States  

David Malet

Biological weapons (BW) have been a fixture of warfare throughout history, although states did not have the capability of manufacturing BW arsenals until the 20th century. Few states had strategic objectives for BW production, but the fear of being outmatched by rivals produced arms races beginning in the 1920s. Both hegemonic and rogue states sought BW arsenals, although only Imperial Japan is known to have employed them. International agreements prohibiting BW have been ineffective, but normative, technical, and deterrent constraints have prevented the arms from being used. BW remain undertheorized in the international studies literature and have not been part of the great debates within the field. The literature on BW has instead been far more technical than that for other categories of armaments. The main division among BW researchers is whether the select agents are likely to be spread by proliferation to rogue states, terrorists, or lone actors or whether the technical difficulties inherent in production mean that only states that have invested in advanced research will be able to harness them. The biological weapons of the 21st century will be new technologies developed by great power militaries ranging from enhanced supersoldiers to genetic attacks that cause organ failure at the push of a button. These advancements raise difficult questions about Just War, military service, and domestic civil liberties. Just as the advent of nuclear weapons and drones preceded informed debate, military uses of biotechnology have already begun and require examination before they are deployed widely.

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

The Geopolitics of Race, Empire, and Expertise at the ICC  

Oumar Ba, K. Jo Bluen, and Owiso Owiso

With the adoption of the Rome Statute in 1998, the international community created the first permanent international tribunal to hold perpetrators of atrocity crimes—namely genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and aggression—accountable. Whereas linear and teleological narratives of progress toward a world of justice and accountability would hail such a major step as a culmination of a journey that Nuremberg set in motion, a critical reading of the origins, discourses, and mechanisms of the Rome Statute system shows the fissures and shaky foundations of problematic dispositions of international criminal law and the current international justice ecosystem. The International Criminal Court, through its design, operations, and mechanisms ensures that accountability for powerful states and their citizens are as constricted as possible, leaving room for an unbalanced, two-tiered international legal system eager to criminalize the subaltern, racialized, citizen of the Global South “other.” As the crisis that marked the (short) history of the Court has deepened, efforts to review and reform the institution have addressed some of these challenges, while still evading other subjects.

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

Race, Ethnicity, and Nation  

Polly Rizova and John Stone

The term “race” refers to groups of people who have differences and similarities in biological traits deemed by society to be socially significant, meaning that people treat other people differently because of them. Meanwhile, ethnicity refers to shared cultural practices, perspectives, and distinctions that set apart one group of people from another. Ethnic differences are not inherited; they are learned. When racial or ethnic groups merge in a political movement as a form of establishing a distinct political unit, then such groups can be termed nations that may be seen as representing beliefs in nationalism. Race and ethnicity are linked with nationality particularly in cases involving transnational migration or colonial expansion. Anthropologists and historians, following the modernist understanding of ethnicity, see nations and nationalism as developing with the rise of the modern state system. This culminated in the rise of “nation-states,” in which the presumptive boundaries of the nation coincided with state borders. Thus, the notion of ethnicity, like race and nation, developed in the context of European colonial expansion, when mercantilism and capitalism were promoting global movements of populations at the same time that state boundaries were being more clearly and rigidly defined. Theories about the relation between race, ethnicity, and nationality are also linked to more general ideas concerning globalization and populist nationalism.

Article

Geographic Insights Into Political Identity  

Emily Gilbert and Connie Yang

Moving away from the conventional geopolitical analyses of territory, states, and nations, geographical research is now focused on the ways that political identities are constituted in and through spaces and places at various sites and scales. Many geographers attend to how power gets articulated, who gets marginalized, and what this means for social justice. Poststructuralist theory problematized the fundamental premise that the literal subject is resolutely individual, autonomous, transparent, and all knowing. Feminist and critical race scholars have also insisted that the self is socially embedded and intersubjective, but also that research needs to be embodied. There are four prominent and inherently political themes of analysis in contemporary geographical research that resonate with contemporary events: nation states and nationalism; mobility and global identities; citizenship and the public sphere; and war and security. Geographers have critically examined the production and reproduction of national identity, especially salient with the rise of authoritarianism. Geographers have also focused on the contemporary transnationalization of political identity as the mobility of people across borders becomes more intensive and extensive because of globalization. Consequently, globalization and global mobility have raised important questions around citizenship and belonging. Rethinking war and the political, as well as security, has also become a pressing task of geographers. Meanwhile, there has been a growing attention to the political identities of academics themselves that resonates with a concern about forms of knowledge production. This concern exists alongside a critique of the corporatization of the university. Questions are being raised about whether academics can use their status as scholars to push forward public debate and policy making.

Article

Race(ing) International Relations: A Critical Overview of Postcolonial Feminism in International Relations  

Geeta Chowdhry and L.H.M. Ling

Postcolonial feminism in international relations (PFIR) is a disciplinary field devoted to the study of world politics as a site of power relations shaped by colonization. PFIR combines postcolonial and feminist insights to explore questions such as how the stratum of elite power intersects with subterranean layers of colonization to produce our contemporary world politics; how these interrelationships between race, gender, sex, and class inform matrices of power in world politics; and how we account for elite and subaltern agency and resistance to the hegemonic sphere of world politics. PFIR is similar to Marxism, constructivism, and postmodernism in that they all posit that the masses underwrite hegemonic rule and, in so doing, ultimately have the means to do away with it. One difference is that PFIR emanates from the position of the subaltern; more specifically, the colonized’s colonized such as women, children, the illiterate, the poor, the landless, and the voiceless. Three major components are involved in PFIR in its analysis of world politics: culture, politics, and material structures. Also, eight common foci emerge in PFIR: intersectionality, representation, and power; materiality; relationality; multiplicity; intersubjectivity; contrapuntality; complicity; and resistance and accountability. PFIR gives rise to two interrelated projects: an empirical inquiry into the construction and exercise of power in daily life, and theory building that reflects this empirical base. A future challenge for PFIR is to elucidate how we can transform, not just alleviate, the hegemonies that persist around the world.

Article

Caribbean Foreign Policy  

Jacqueline Anne Braveboy-Wagner

Despite the near-absence of studies of the Caribbean within the mainstream of international relations (IR) theory and foreign policy analysis (FPA), as well as a tendency to subsume this diverse and unique region within the larger Latin America, a focus on Caribbean international relations offers several interesting implications for the wider fields of both IR and FPA. Realist, liberalist, constructivist, and critical approaches all can be incorporated into the study of Caribbean foreign policy in unique ways, and the subfield of foreign policy analysis can also be enriched by focusing on the particular domestic sources of foreign policy in small, culturally diverse, developing countries such as the Caribbean states. Among the unique characteristics of foreign policy in these states is the important role played by external forces in both the economy and the polity, leading to constraints on decision-making autonomy. The external factor also explains why the idea of “inter-American relations” has long been viewed as providing the necessary backdrop for explaining Caribbean foreign policy. Related to this is the important role played by the main regional actors, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), as well as the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), which has thinned the boundary between state and region. As for the prioritization of military-security issues seen in the more powerful countries of the globe, these Caribbean states (apart from Cuba) have eschewed military adventures and traditionally defined their foreign policies in terms of the prioritization of economic development. Finally, to study Caribbean foreign policy means that the scholar must exercise creativity in borrowing from perspectives not normally included in traditional foreign policy studies. Sociology, anthropology, historiography, political economy, and public policy are complementary tools for understanding the Caribbean. Moreover, situating the study of foreign policy within general currents of thought on the role of small states and global south states is also recommended.