Robert Keohane the Situated Scholar

Apr 9, 2008

I have found an interesting counter-example to my earlier lament about disciplinary norms restricting open reflection by IR scholars about their personal trajectory and history as it relates to their work. It is Robert Keohane’s recent interview on UC-Berkeley’s “Conversations with History” series in which he expounds the myriad personal, cultural, social influences that have informed and shaped his research.

Keohane’s willingness to expound on his personal relationship to his subject matter is not limited to public interviews, of course, but constituted a chapter in his book International Institutions and State Power. While the chapter was not an example of Kingdonian activism – that is, it was not an attempt to account methodologically for his personal influence over the subject matter of his study – I think this does meet Jim Rosenau’s criteria for “situating the scholar” in the world. And I continue to think this is an example to be revived and diffused among younger scholars as well.

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Charli Carpenter is a Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She is the author of 'Innocent Women and Children': Gender, Norms and the Protection of Civilians (Ashgate, 2006), Forgetting Children Born of War: Setting the Human Rights
Agenda in Bosnia and Beyond (Columbia, 2010), and ‘Lost’ Causes: Agenda-Setting in Global Issue Networks and the Shaping of Human Security (Cornell, 2014). Her main research interests include national security ethics, the protection of civilians, the laws of war, global agenda-setting, gender and political violence, humanitarian affairs, the role of information technology in human security, and the gap between intentions and outcomes among advocates of human security.