Day: July 20, 2006

So what are you working on anyway?

Yassar asks the kind of question academics both love and hate: “What is exactly the thesis of your book?” We love it because, well, we like to talk about our work. We hate it because, well, we kind of also don’t like talking about our work–particularly when much of our discussion depends on arcane disciplinary debates.

So, as a temporary evasion, I’ve decided to post the penultimate introductory chapter of my book manuscript, clumsily entitled “Religions Contention, Imperial Rule, and International Relations in Early Modern Europe.” Comments are welcome. You can download it here (PDF). The usual warnings apply: this is full of disciplinary jargon and other fun stuff. Yassar’s question can be answered by only reading the first eleven or so pages.

While you’re at it, consider buying Patrick Jackson’s new book, Civilizing the Enemy: German Reconstruction and the Invention of the West or ‘on the lighter side of IR’ edited volume on Harry Potter and International Relations.

Yes, I’ve plugged these books before. Cut me some slack.

Patrick and I both had the strange experience of starting historical international-relations projects in the middle 1990s–his on the political consequences of discourses of “western civilization,” mine on the conjunction of empire and religious conflict in early modern Europe–that, at the time, seemed far less relevant than they do now. I never, for example, would have expected to land at Georgetown University, a place still known for its policy orientation (even if we have an excellent and improving program in academic international relations). Yet by the time I started to seriously look for a job, in 2001, suddenly the “lessons” of how transnational religious networks, empires, and political change came together had a certain urgency.

At some point I’m actually going to finish a post called “Further Back to the Future” that deals with some of these issues in light of current developments. As has been the case with my still unfinished final post in the “Balance of Power” series I started a long time ago, however, it may be a long time in gestation.

There’s also a spinoff from my book on the dynamics of empires, called “What’s at stake in the American Empire Debate,” that, fingers crossed, may be forthcoming within the next month. Or my co-author and I will be very sad and have to submit it to another, less prestigious journal….

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BSG Escapism

Current events are depressing.

My book manuscript looks at religious warfare and state collapse in early modern Europe. It is depressing.

So some depressing-but-exciting escapism seems in order. Courtesy of YouTube: the 3rd Season BSG preview:

I could’ve done without the background music.

I’ve actually agonized about whether to pull this. Sometimes current events and the stark reality of actual warfare can make it difficult to enjoy, well, stories about genocide, insurgencies, war crimes, and warfare. It doesn’t seem right. My wife and I haven’t touched any of our more violent video games. We’ve been playing We Love Katamari. Our anime episodes pile up. We watch the Daily Show and the Colbert Report for release.

I think of my daughter’s anxiety about moving–the fear that she will lose her place, her stuff, her life as she knows it–and consider how many children in the world experience the full, naked, terror of actually losing those things… and more.

I’m sick of the warhawks. Israel is justified in its desire to destroy Hizbullah, but I find it difficult to rationalize the level of destruction being inflicted on Lebanon and the Lebanese people.

From the sectarian violence in Iraq to the civil conflicts raging in parts of Africa, it seems like the world is doing its best to affirm Hobbes over Locke. I do not wish to accept the implications that follow.

Those of us living the advanced-industrialized world should remember, always, the enormous privileges–in wealth but, more fundamentally, in human security–that we have been born into. I don’t know exactly what that means in terms of international moral duties, but I do think basic human empathy needs to play, in one way or another, a larger role in our political opinions and policies.

Back to work.

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Two very interesting pieces by Robert Kaplan in the past two days.

First, Kaplan reviews a new book by Richard H. Shultz Jr. and Andrea J. Dew. The book, Insurgents, Terrorists, and Militias: The Warriors of Contemporary Combat, discusses the different methods, motivations, and goals of our primary adversaries in the GWOT. Why does it look good to me? Because they apparently take the honor, pride, and prestige motives of these actors serioulsy, as does Kaplan. If nothing else it should make for an interesting read.

Second, Kaplan pens an op-ed for the NY Times today discussing the difficulties that still exist in Afghanistan due to the Taliban-Pakistan relationship. The article provides a nice who’s-who of the players and their relationships.

Major tip-o-the-cap to the fellas at Coming Anarchy.

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