Day: February 11, 2010

Queer Politics/the International Studies Association

A couple of months ago now, I blogged about the establishment of the LGBTQA Caucus of ISA, asking for support with signatures of dues-paying ISA members. Many of you sent your support, and as a result, the petition had many more than the number of signatures necessary for it to be presented at the Governing Council meeting this coming Tuesday, 2/16.

I’ve recently discovered that my original post was discussed elsewhere in the great “blogosphere” out there, particularly by James Joyner on “Outside the Beltway,” arguing that there is no need for an LGBTQA caucus for ISA because LGBTQ activism can already take place within ISA.

Directly, to Joyner’s post, I would argue that ISA is in important ways a heterosexist/cissexist organization (and still a sexist one as well), that advocating for the rights of oppressed minorities is not a phenomena that needs explanation, that Joyner’s example of “a man in a dress” experiencing discrimination like a “man with a mustache” (the very construction of which shows a misunderstanding of LGBTQA advocacy) is patently absurd, and the idea of a “purely scholarly organization” without politics is every bit as ridiculous.

But I will leave detailing those critiques to others more articulate than I am.

I’m more interested, here, in the indirect point. The LGBTQA Caucus of ISA is not a cause I own, and particularly not a cause I own as chair of the Feminist Theory and Gender Studies (FTGS) section of ISA or as (as Joyner presumes) a woman and a feminist. In fact, to the extent that I am committed to the establishment of such a Caucus, it is because I see that existing organizational and political structures in ISA (including FTGS) are fundamentally inadequate to the tasks outlined in the mission of the LGBTQA caucus as currently presented.

But the larger point is that Joyner is wrong to characterize this as something that I am working on/establishing/shoving a “self-licking ice cream cone” down people’s throats. Instead, I am part (and only part) of a diverse movement that now includes several hundred scholars interested in improving ISA’s structural and substantive openness to queer concerns.

Along those lines, I want to talk a little bit about the Caucus/LGBTQA issues @ ISA 2010 in New Orleans next week.

While it is not right to talk about the establishment of the LGBTQA caucus as a reaction to the politics around ISA in New Orleans, it also isn’t right to ignore that there are issues concerning ISA New Orleans of particular concern to ISA’s LGBTQ population, whatever way we ultimately fall on those as policy preferences or choices.

We each choose to deal with these issues in different ways, individually and collectively. Some very publicly boycott ISA 2010. Some choose not to come to ISA 2010, and do not talk about it in the public sphere. Some debate the issues and ultimately decide against boycotting. Some ignore the questions, and still others try to silence those people who would discuss the politics of ISA as heterosexist/cissexist. Some look to redress those issues in ISA governance/Louisiana governance.

I struggled a lot with my personal way of dealing with ISA New Orleans, and came up with this. As FTGS section chair, I can put together the FTGS critical/eminent scholarship panel. So I have (in the Friday “D” Session), as a political reaction to ISA New Orleans and what I saw in ISA as a result, and as a hope for us as a field/discipline. The panel will include a number of speakers giving views about the state of/potential for queer theorizing in International Relations.

Because many of you will not be at ISA New Orleans/the panel, I will close this post with my thinking/reasoning/introduction to the panel, and a public (yes, that means you) invitation to contribute:

I’ve always been struck by these words of Naomi Scheman: “the issue is not who is or is not really whatever, but who can be counted on when they come for any one of us: the solid ground is not identity but loyalty and solidarity.” It is perhaps because of my identification with these words that I fully expected the FTGS community, such that it exists, to be counted on, in queer struggles with, attempts to reconcile with, and protests of the choice to hold this conference in this location. Though, as a member of the Governing Council, I need to express complicity, I find ISA’s policy choices on this issue specifically and as (actively and passively) relate to its queer members generally deeply unjust, and forming this panel despite some opposition, the absence (either coincidental or location-based) of most of the few people who have written about queer theorizing in feminist IR, the underexplored nature of queer issues in IR generally and feminist IR specifically, and the tensions between these scholar communities outside of IR, is personal activism for me, “aimed at” ISA, at feminist communities in ISA and more generally, and, not unimportantly, “at” myself.

I did not supply the panelists with a set of questions for this panel, and do not intend to exclude voices in the room with something to say on these issues that are not “on” the panel. As such, I’ve asked the panelists to talk for 8-10 minutes, sharing our prepared thoughts, but also collected others’ thoughts in different media, and, after the presentation of those prepared thoughts, am open to “audience” participation either in the traditional question-and-answer format or in terms of thoughts about queer theory in (feminist) IR that do not directly relate to the panelists’ thoughts. A multimedia archive of this panel will be put together and shared.

If you will be unable to be in New Orleans, or even just unable to attend the panel, I am extending the request for audience participation virtually. If you’d like to “comment” on the subject matter, feel free to email me your content. Please try to make it appropriate for a panel (I can’t show a bunch of ten-minute videos or anything). The best format to submit your contribution in would be a powerpoint slide, but I’m open to taking other forms of contribution as well. So, please “participate” if you’re interested, come to the panel if you’d like to, and visit our archive afterwards, details of which will be posted later.


Financial Lobbies and State Capture (or why IPE is now so much fun)

I liked Virginia Haufler’s post on Canadian Banks, and in a related vein wanted to point out some interesting research on lobbying by the financial industry in the US. In a brief about their latest research posted on VOX EU, Deniz Igan, Prachi Mishra, and Thierry Tressel, three IMF economists, basically conclude that the US financial industry has lobbied its way out of regulation.

They note:

“The Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 requires lobbying firms and companies with in-house lobbying units to file reports of their lobbying expenditures with the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Representatives. Legislation requires the disclosure not only of the dollar amounts actually spent, but also the issues in relation to which the lobbying is carried out.
By going through individual lobbying reports, we identify all lobbying activities by financial institutions related to the regulation of mortgage lending and securitisation. During the period of the boom from 2000 to 2006, we find 16 pieces of federal legislation aimed at enhancing the regulation of predatory lending practices, none of which ever became law. The amounts spent on lobbying in relation to these laws were substantial and were spent mostly by large financial institutions.”

Further, they find that:

“financial institutions lobbying on specific issues related to mortgage lending and securitisation adopted significantly riskier mortgage lending strategies in the run-up to the crisis.”

This research is a good complement to Simon Johnson’s earlier piece “The Quiet Coup” in The Atlantic online, May 2009. In that piece, Johnson argues that:

“the finance industry has effectively captured our government — a state of affairs that more typically describes emerging markets and is at the center of many emerging market crises.”

The lobbying continues now, as an opinion piece by Elizabeth Warren in the Wall Street Journal on February 9 notes:

“President Obama’s proposals for reform are bottled up in the Senate. The same Wall Street CEOs who brought the economy to its knees have spent more than a year and hundreds of millions of dollars furiously lobbying Washington to kill the president’s proposal for a Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA).”

I’ve been researching global financial regulatory reform (or lack thereof) and teaching IPE, and I am finding that studying IPE today is way more exciting than it once was. There are so many crazy things going on, so many changes, and so much political maneuvering and battle over ideas (Keynes vs. Hayek anyone?) that even the dullest of rational choice theorists and neo-liberal institutionalists cannot kill the fun. One interesting irony is how much of the analytical framework once used to primarily study developing country economies, with its preoccupation with corruption, unsustainable spending, state capture, debt crises, etc., is now applicable to many of the OECD countries! Maybe we’re all developing countries now.


Reputational Rhetoric: When does it work?

Over at, Stephen Walt provides a review of an interesting new book:

[M]y colleague Matthew Baum and his co-author, Tim Groeling of UCLA, have recently published an excellent book entitled War Stories: The Causes and Consequences of Public Views on War (Princeton University Press). Drawing on a wide array of empirical evidence (including opinion surveys, media content, and foreign policy decisions), they argue that the interaction between elites, media, and public opinion is a three-way process in which each group’s behavior is essentially strategic. Politicians try to use media to advance their aims; the media picks stories in order to maximize audience (or in some cases, to advance an ideological agenda), and therefore tend to favor stories that are novel or surprising (like when a prominent senator criticizes a president from his own party). Similarly, the public does not just consume the news passively; readers and viewers use various cues to gauge the credibility of different sources.

I have not read the book yet, but it certainly sounds interesting. I do wonder to what extent it may shed light on an idea I kicked around for my dissertation: the effectiveness of reputational rhetoric.

Reputational rhetoric can be defined as the strategic deployment by state leaders of rhetoric that implies a threat to the state’s reputation for resolve if a) the state backs down from a challenge or threat, or b) a state alters course in an existing conflict. The purpose of this rhetoric is to manufacture or maintain public opinion that is favorable to the leader’s preferred foreign policy. There has been quite a bit written in the literature about reputation and whether it matters, but mostly from the perspective of whether adversaries take a state’s reputation for resolve into account when determining how to react to threats or whether to challenge the status quo. What seemed to me to be missing in the literature is an examination of the extent to which the deployment of such logic and arguments by leaders is effective at swaying public opinion.

Leaders across time and space have often deployed reputational rhetoric in an attempt to rally the public. It wouldn’t take us long to find examples uttered by US Presidents from Eisenhower to Johnson to Reagan to Clinton to Bush. Sometimes this rhetoric is met with skepticism and disdain from the public, other times it is embraced–often during the same conflict. Furthermore, the use of this rhetoric is not bound by party or era. Understanding when such rhetoric is successful would seem to me rather important from an academic, policy, and political perspective.

So what might explain the success or failure of such rhetoric? I have a few notions (these have by no means been rigorously developed, just initial thoughts):

  1. Media: it may be that the degree to which the media is unified in its characterization of a conflict will help determine whether reputational rhetoric succeeds or fails.
  2. Filters: rather than looking at the media as a whole, it may be that the public relies on certain outlets or individuals as filters for the various opinions that exist around a policy. If those filters begin to adopt the same reputational rhetoric as state leaders it could sway the public.
  3. “Never Again”: reputational rhetoric may be more effective following a defeat or attack, as the impulse to regain a reputation for resolve and deter further attacks may be strong. Think about a gambler who loses a number of hands in a row and, rather than cut his losses, continues to place bets to recover what was his previously. Framing of the conflict as avoiding a potential loss or regaining that which was previously held may trigger greater support (prospect theory may tell us something about why, psychologically, this would be the case).
  4. Stage of a conflict: it may also be that reputational rhetoric works best during the early stages of a conflict when it appears there is much to lose unless action is taken and where victory seems probable. However, as the conflict drags on and victory seems less likely, the public may become more focused on preventing further losses (in terms of blood, treasure, and possibly even the state’s reputation for capabilities–i.e., the state can actually achieve military victory vs the state is simply willing to use force).

As I said, these are off the cuff thoughts. I would be curious what others have to say. Obviously, Patrick could comment on the potential power of reputational rhetoric as a rhetorical commonplace, particularly in the United States. Additionally, Jon has published on the interplay of political leaders, citizens, and the media when it comes to making the case for war.


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