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.
Geeta Chowdhry and L.H.M. Ling
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. They culminated in the rise of “nation-states,” in which the presumptive boundaries of the nation coincided with state boundaries. 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 about the impact of genomics on social life—ideas that often refer to the growing “geneticization” of social life.
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.
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.