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Article

Identity in International Relations  

Felix Berenskoetter

The identity perspective first emerged in the international relations (IR) literature in the late 1980s and early 1990s as a result of two overlapping trends. First, the postmodern Zeitgeist encouraged the questioning of accepted and “naturalized” categories associated with modernity. Embracing diversity and committed to an agenda of emancipation, postmodern thinking was to bring about the “death of meta-narratives” and to unravel assumptions which had come to be taken for granted and justified with, for instance, the need for parsimony. In IR, this meant “fracturing and destabilizing the rationalist/positivist hegemony,” including its ontology of the international system, to establish a new perspective on world politics. The readiness to do so was aided, second, by the end of the Cold War and changing structures of governance. The dissolution of seemingly stable political entities such as the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia raised questions about the volatility of borders, loyalties, nationalism(s), and the ability to manipulate them. Simultaneously, the phenomenon of “globalization” and processes of European integration undermined the conception of the Westphalian state as the fixed/dominant entity in world politics. Against this backdrop, many IR scholars searching for new conceptual vocabulary turned to “identity” to highlight the socially constructed nature of the state and its interests, and to explain the causes of war and the conditions for peace.

Article

Is There a Discipline of IR? A Heterodox Perspective  

Ralph Pettman

International relations (IR) is widely accepted as an academic discipline in its own right, despite the many subdisciplines which hold it together. These disparate subdisciplines, in fact, have come to define international relations as a whole. Establishing systematic matrices that describe and explain the discipline as a whole can show how the subdisciplines that constitute international relations have sufficient coherence to allow us to say that there is a discipline there. To look at the discipline otherwise would be viewing it as a mere collection of insights taken from other disciplines—in short, international relations could not be defined as a discipline at all. Such an argument forms a more heterodox view of international relations—one which does not attempt to engage with traditional debates about what constitutes the subject’s core as compared with its periphery. The “old” international relations was largely confined to politico-strategic issues to do with military strategy and diplomacy; that is, to discussions of peace and war, international organization, international governance, and international law. It was about states and the state system and little more. By contrast the “new” international relations is an all-inclusive account of how the world works. The underlying coherence of this account makes it possible to provide more comprehensive and more nuanced explanations of international relations.

Article

“Feminist” Theoretical Inquiries and “IR”  

Anna M. Agathangelou and Heather M. Turcotte

Feminist international relations (IR) theories have long provided interventions and insights into the embedded asymmetrical gender relations of global politics, particularly in areas such as security, state-nationalism, rights–citizenship, and global political economies. Yet despite the histories of struggle to increase attention to gender analysis, and women in particular, within world politics, IR knowledge and practice continues to segregate gendered and feminist analyses as if they are outside its own formation. IR as a field, discipline, and site of contestation of power has been one of the last fields to open up to gender and feminist analyses. One reason for this is the link between social science and international institutions like the United Nations, and its dominant role in the formation of foreign policy. Raising the inferior status of feminism within IR, that is, making possible the mainstreaming of gender and feminism, will require multiple centers of power and multiple marginalities. However, these institutional struggles for recognition through exclusion may themselves perpetuate similar exploitative relationships of drawing boundaries around legitimate academic and other institutional orders. In engaging, listening and writing these struggles, it is important to recognize that feminisms, feminist IR, and IR are intimately linked through disciplinary struggles and larger geopolitical struggles of world affairs and thus necessitate knowledge terrains attentive to intersectional and oppositional gendered struggles (i.e., race, sexuality, nation, class, religion, and gender itself).

Article

The International Politics of Memory  

Lina Klymenko

Like the contested remembrance of historical events, collective memory shapes interstate relations, foreign and security policy, and global politics. International relations (IR) scholars studying the relationship between collective memory and international politics link the memory concept to the notions of security, power, language, emotions, gender, identity, trauma, justice, law, and the like. The study of the international politics of memory relies on a plurality of theoretical approaches gained from interdisciplinary works on collective memory. Although collective memory is viewed as a variable influencing foreign policymaking in structural terms within a positivist paradigm in IR scholarship, from an interpretive perspective, collective memory is a practice of remembrance that constitutes a state’s foreign and security policy. Following the advances of the interpretive paradigm in the social sciences, it is expected that more interpretive studies on the international politics of memory will appear. .

Article

200 Years of International Relations in Brazil: Issues, Theories, and Methods  

Dawisson Belém Lopes, João Paulo Nicolini, and Thales Carvalho

The Brazilian field of international relations (IRs) has evolved over the course of two centuries. Since Brazil’s independence in 1822, international topics have deserved attention from local practitioners and scholars. The emergence of Brazilian standpoints about international affairs and of a Brazilian IR scholarship developed after the consolidation of similar fields in other Western countries. Multiple schools of thought held sway over local understandings, thereby leading to the formation of a different field as compared to characteristics of the Anglo-American mainstream. The institutionalization of the area has come about through the creation of scholarly departments and national government agencies. It all led to a unique combination of methods, theories, and issues being currently explored in the Brazilian branch of IR scholarship.

Article

The History of International Studies  

Brian C. Schmidt

A significant development in the history of international relations (IR) is the increased focus on historiographical issues. Prior to 1998, the literature had, for the most part, failed to address adequately the question of how to write a history of the field. The tendency was to describe the history of IR as if a complete consensus existed on the essential dimensions of the field’s evolution. However, during the past 10 years (1998–2008) a wealth of new literature has appeared that greatly challenges much of the conventional wisdom regarding the development of IR. Three main thematic issues have been prominent in the literature. The first theme concerns the status of IR as an academic field or discipline. For various reasons, there has been a repeated questioning of whether IR is in fact a distinctive discipline. A second theme is the issue of whether the boundaries of IR should be demarcated in terms of one particular country (the United States) or whether it should be viewed as a more cosmopolitan endeavor without regard to national differences. The third theme involves the historiographical debate about whether the evolution of the field is best explained in terms of exogenous events in the realm of international politics or by endogenous factors associated with the institutional setting of the field.

Article

Statebuilding and Nationbuilding  

Catherine Goetze and Dejan Guzina

Since the early 1990s, the number of statebuilding projects has multiplied, often ending several years or even decades of violent conflict. The objectives of these missions have been formulated ad hoc, driven by the geopolitical contexts in which the mandates of statebuilding missions were established. However, after initial success in establishing a sense of physical security, the empirical evidence shows that most statebuilding efforts have failed, or achieved only moderate success. In some countries, violence has resumed after the initial end of hostilities. In others, the best results were authoritarian regimes based on fragile stalemates between warring parties. A review of the literature on statebuilding indicates a vast number of theories and approaches that often collide with each other, claim the exact opposite, and mount (contradictory) evidence in support of their mutually exclusive claims. Still they are united by their inquiry into the general structural and policy-making conditions that nurture or impede statebuilding processes. A problematic characteristic of the statebuilding literature is a lack of dialogue across the various disciplines. Many of the claims in the international relations literature on external statebuilding are a mirror image of the previous ones made on democratization. Another problem is the propensity to repeat the same mistakes of the previous generations.

Article

Statistical Analysis of International Interdependencies  

Michael D. Ward

The origin of the statistical analysis of international relations can be traced back to 1920s with the work of Quincy Wright, who founded the University of Chicago’s Committee on International Relations. He led an interdisciplinary study of war that provided a first compendium of what was then known about the causes of war. Wright's studies and those that came after them were based on the assumption that systematic data were required to advance our knowledge about the causes of violent conflicts, and that an analysis of the dynamics of strategic decision making were essential; in short, systematic data coupled with a theoretical framework that focused on the decision-making calculus. However, debates soon raged over whether this scientific approach was better than the classical approach, which was based on philosophy, history, and law, and did not conform to strict standards of verification and proof. Since then, the literature has evolved into studies with a strong theoretical motivation, often expressed via game theoretical analytics, examined empirically with statistical frameworks that are specifically sculpted to probe those strategic dependencies. As such, existing models have resolved the levels of analysis problem that appeared daunting to earlier generations by actually focusing on the modeling of aspects of world politics that enjoin many different levels simultaneously.

Article

Teaching International Organization  

Margaret P. Karns

The teaching of international organization (IO) poses unique challenges. One is deciding whether to take a broad global governance-IO approach dealing with the creation, revision, and enforcement of rules that mark different governance arrangements, the roles of formal, informal, intergovernmental, and nongovernmental IOs, and the politics, dynamics, and processes of problem-solving and governance in various issue areas, a theory-driven approach, or an IOs approach focusing primarily on select formal intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) and possibly nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), emphasizing structures, charters, mandates, and functions. Either choice could lead one to utilize recent literature on IGOs (and to a lesser extent NGOs) as organizations and bureaucracies, examining their design, functions, and performance or behavior. Another is the extent to which various international relations as well as IO-related theories such as theories of cooperation, regime and institution formation and evolution, functionalism, constructivism, and others are integrated into an IO course. To what extent are students introduced to currents of critical theory such as postmodernism, Marxism, feminism, and postcolonialism in relationship to IOs? There is also the question of which IGOs—global and/or regional—to include given the range of possibilities. How all the abovementioned issues are addressed will strongly influence choices with regard to textbooks, other readings, and various types of electronically available materials.

Article

Women as Objects and Commodities  

Alina Sajed

The engagement between the discipline of international relations (IR) and feminist theory has led to an explosion of concerns about the inherent gendered dimension of a supposedly gender-blind field, and has given rise to a rich and complex array of analyses that attempt to capture the varied aspects of women’s invisibility, marginalization, and objectification within the discipline. The first feminist engagements within IR have pointed not only to the manner in which women are rendered invisible within the field, but also to IR’s inherent masculinity, which masks itself as a neutral and universally valid mode of investigation of world politics. Thus, the initial feminist incursions into IR’s discourse took the form of a conscious attempt both to bridge the gap between IR and feminist theory and to bring gender into IR, or, in other words, to make the field aware that “women are relevant to policy.” In the 1990s, feminist literature undertook incisive analyses of women’s objectification and commodification within the global economy. By the end of the 1990s and into the first decade of the 21st century, the focus turned to an accounting for the agency of diverse women as they are located within complex sociopolitical contexts. The core concern of this inquiry lay with the diversification of feminist methodologies, especially as it related to the experience of women in non-Western societies.

Article

Informal International Relations  

Thomas Kwasi Tieku

There has been a proliferation of works on informal dimensions of international relations. Putting the scholarship under the banner of informal international relations (IIR), [A1] the value preposition of research and publications on informal aspects of international political life is critically explored in order to chart promising pathways to further research in this growing field of study. Three generations of IIR scholarship may be identified. The first-generation scholarship took the IIR approach without explicitly acknowledging it. The second-generation scholars treated it primarily as an anomaly that ought to be explained. The third-generation scholarship seeks to give IIR a conceptual clarity, theorize it, and show the analytical utility of the concept. Although the IIR scholarship has given us a new outlook into international political life, the IR literature on informality is biased in at least three ways. First, it focuses mostly on informal politics in international organizations (IOs) housed in Western Europe and North American states. It is insightful and informative in the discussion of informality in member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) but lacks similar cutting-edge analysis when it comes to informal aspects of international life in the rest of the world. The IIR scholarship neglects the rich tapestry of materials and insights from the Global South and Eastern Europe. Second, it is dominated by studies of informal governance. Other aspects of informal relations, namely, informal practices, processes, norms, and informal rules, have received little attention. Third, it is dominated by rational choice approaches. Perspectives such as critical constructivism, practice theory, intersectionality, neocolonialism, decolonial perspective, and postcolonialism, among others, are rarely used by third-generation scholars to explore informal international life. Finally, IIR ideas are deployed primarily as a last resort or as something used to explain negative political outcomes. IR scholars turn to the informal as a unit of analysis when traditional issue-areas such as formal state structures, formal IOs, official processes, codified norms, and written rules cannot help, and they deploy informal ideas only when well-known variables including state power, powerful registered domestic groups, and legalized nonstate actors are unable to explain a given political problem. But as those who have studied the issue carefully observed, the informal rather than the formal should be the baseline for IR analysis. The discipline of IR will be improved considerably if informality is prioritized and all facets of informal international life are explored in a systematic manner.

Article

Emotions and International Relations  

Simon Koschut

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

Paradiplomacy  

Nahuel Oddone

Transformation processes in the international arena have led to giving greater importance to transnational affairs, as well as greater recognition of nonstate actors and their influence on world politics. In this context, the concept of paradiplomacy was introduced to analyze the participation of local and regional governments in international relations (IR). Paradiplomacy is increasingly a subject of IR scholars’ studies. These have helped to systematize and to make visible the behavior of local and regional authorities, especially their contribution to international relations. During this process, a greater conceptualization of the term has also been constructed, overcoming the case studies and shaping an emerging formal field of research. Paradiplomacy is gaining momentum in terms of its diffusion to the extent that ideas and recommendations cross borders and spread through the academic communities through congresses, seminars, publications, and/or technical meetings. Nevertheless, the paradiplomacy research agenda may still be considered an incipient theoretical research agenda. Although important efforts have been recognized for the delimitation and conceptual systematization, it is timely to deepen the analysis at global and regional scales.

Article

Teaching International Political Sociology  

Vincent Pouliot

Teaching international political sociology (IPS) is intellectually rewarding yet pedagogically challenging. In the conventional International Relations (IR) curriculum, IPS students have to set aside many of the premises, notions, and models they learned in introductory classes, such as assumptions of instrumental rationality and canonical standards of positivist methodology. Once problematized, these traditional starting points in IR are replaced with a number of new dispositions, some of which are counterintuitive, that allow students to take a fresh look at world politics. In the process, IPS opens many more questions than it provides clear-cut answers, making the approach look very destabilizing for students. The objective of teaching IPS is to sow the seeds of three key dispositions inside students’ minds. First, students must appreciate the fact that social life consists primarily of relations that make the whole bigger than the parts. Second, they must be aware that social action is infused with meanings upon which both cooperative and conflictual relations hinge. Third, they have to develop a degree of reflexivity in order to realize that social science is a social practice just like others, where agents enter in various relations and struggle over the meanings of the world. There are four primary methods of teaching IPS, each with its own merits and limits: induction, ontology, historiography, and classics.

Article

Feminisms Troubling the Boundaries of International Relations  

Christine Sylvester

A constant source of concern for feminists working in International Relations (IR) has been the field’s implied or stated boundaries. During the first ten years of its existence (roughly covering the years 1985–1995), the main goal of feminist IR was to challenge a caged-in knowledge realm that excluded more phenomena than it promised to seek. By the early twenty-first century, IR had devolved into a camp structure that was able to accommodate on the inside all manner of theories, people, and places. Yet while feminism contributed to troubled boundaries of IR, it did so against the backdrop of internal boundary dilemmas of inside and outside, good women/bad women, authentic versus dominant voice, gender versus feminism, and so on. Today, feminist IR is somewhat different from its earlier orientations. It now draws heavily on postmodern thinking about margins, multiple truths, subjugated identities and discourses, and power in general, and takes on IR theory and methodology using insights from postmodern thinking and other disciplines such as anthropology and geography. Feminist IR continues to bring new locations of the international and relations to the fore. Two such areas deal with the subject of violent women in international relations and the urgencies of development around the world.

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

Transnational Actors  

Markus Thiel and Jeffrey Maslanik

“Transnational” is a frequently mentioned key word in international relations today; it is used to denote in a simplifying manner an organization working beyond state boundaries and acting independently from traditional state authorities. The scholarly recognition of such actors occurred relatively late in the field and advanced with the acceleration of globalizing economic, political, cultural, and social processes. Despite the appearance of transnational actors as a topical and palpable concern for academics and practitioners alike, questions of conceptual vagueness and relational indeterminacy remain, and the continual proliferation of these entities lend urgency to the need for more scholarly attention to these agents.

Article

Challenges to Traditional International Relations Theory Posed by Environmental Change  

Hugh Dyer

Changes in the environment can impact international relations theory, despite enjoying only a limited amount of attention from scholars of the discipline. The sorts of influence that may be identified include ontology, epistemology, concepts, and methods, all of these being related to varying perspectives on international relations. It is likely that the most profound implications arise at the ontological level, since this establishes assumptions about, for example, whether the world we wish to understand is both political and ecological. However, more recently the recognition of the practical challenge presented by the environment has become widespread, though it has not yet translated into a significant impact on the discipline of international relations, even when theoretical implications are noted. It is now almost obligatory to include the environment in any list of modern international relations concerns, as over time it has become necessary to include peace, underdevelopment, gender, or race, as they quite rightly became recognized as significant aspects of the field. Moreover, the environment, as a relatively novel subject matter, has naturally brought some critique and innovation to the field. However, studies of the environment are also subject to such descriptors as “mainstream” and “radical” in debates about how best to tackle the subject. As is often the case, the debates are sharpest among those with the greatest interest in the subject.

Article

Interdependence in International Organization and Global Governance  

Roger A. Coate, Jeffrey A. Griffin, and Steven Elliott-Gower

Interdependence is a key structural feature of the international system. While ambiguity exists over the concept and its usage, interdependence is central for explaining the nature and dynamics of international organization (IO), as well as international relations more broadly conceived. Interdependence involves interconnection/linkages among actors and systems of interrelationships of actors. Yet, interdependence means more than simple interconnectedness. It entails a relationship in which two or more parties are linked in a system of action in such a way that changes in one party impact in some meaningful way on the attainment of needs, values, and/or desired outcomes of the others. In other words, the satisfaction of each party’s needs and values is contingent to some degree on the behavior of others. The concept of interdependence is used in several areas. In general international systems, a system functions as a whole because of the interdependence of its parts. Interdependence also plays a significant role in Immanuel Wallenstein’s world-systems theory, as well as the closely related concept of dependency. Another important analytical thread in interdependence theorizing has been international integration, where the creation of cooperative transnational linkages for dealing with technical issues could result in a learning process that changed attitudes about cooperation. Finally, with interdependence as a core element, more systematic frameworks for analyzing and explaining the nature and role of transnational relations in world politics can be made.

Article

Diplomacy  

Paul Sharp

Both historical and contemporary trends suggest that the meaning of diplomacy varies considerably over time and across space. Diplomacy is defined neither by the types of actors on behalf of which it is undertaken nor by the status of those actors vis-à-vis one another, in the sense of their being, for example, sovereign and equal. There are, however, four common threads underlying these historical variations on diplomacy. The first is an assumption about the necessarily plural character of social relations, namely that people live in groups which regard themselves as separate from, yet needing or wanting relations with, one another. The second is that this plural social fact gives rise to relations that are somehow distinctive to and different from relations within groups. People believe and feel themselves to be under fewer obligations to those whom they regard as others than to those whom they regard as their own. Third, therefore, if these relations are to remain peaceful and productive, they require careful handling by specialists who should be treated neither as one’s own nor, at least in the usual sense, as others. Fourth, these specialists develop a measure of solidarity as the managers of relations in worlds distinguished by the plural social fact. Where these four elements are in play, then there emerges a system of relations which can be recognized as having the character of diplomacy.