The Duck of Minerva

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Epistemethodology (and Feeling?) in IR

March 27, 2010

I spent the last day and a half at a workshop on epistemology and method that we hosted at the University of Florida. A lot of interesting conversations took place during the workshop, which I felt fortunate to be able to be a part of and hear. Fellow Duck Patrick Jackson was also here.

The one(s) that I have selected to talk about (this time) were not the central ones, but intersect themes with a couple of projects I have been working on this week. The first question I am thinking about is emotion (generally, and desire and sensuality specifically) both in global politics and in our research about it.

Particularly, what is the role of desire in the the relationships we study? What is the role of desire in the relationships we have with the subject/object of our study? In these contexts, how are power and desire related? What is with our tendency to equate violence and power? As if violence can be read as a proxy for power? We have to be much deeper than tat, right? Didn’t Foucault teach us anything about power? Or, for that matter, about desire? What would it mean to think about desire and fantasy in IR?

So much interesting work in IR now is in artistic form – poetry, narrative, art, and story. we are doing that out of a desire to express, rather than just do our research. This is an important move, in my view (though it is equally important that to me that it is not totalizing).

At the same time, it is important that we do reflected expression – that we talk about the substance and implications of our art of IR, about what we perform and what we leave out, and not only about the act of expressing but of how and what we express.

Particularly, this weekend, I’ve been interested in the role of fantasy in our (performance-based and art-based and “normal” research). We talk about fiction and representation and art, which are all fantastic, but we don’t talk about the fantastic. Our performances are felt, but we don’t talk about desire. We (in the loose sense) posit the inseparability of the subject and the researcher of IR but don’t discuss the wants, needs, desires, and insecurities of self-as-researcher. So, while I don’t have the answers, I’d like to think about, and ask you to think about, not just how we do our research, but also how we feel it.

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Laura Sjoberg is British Academy Global Professor of Politics and International Relations at Royal Holloway University of London and Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida. Her research addresses issues of gender and security, with foci on politically violent women, feminist war theorizing, sexuality in global politics, and political methodology. She teaches, consults, and lectures on gender in global politics, and on international security. Her work has been published in more than 50 books and journals in political science, law, gender studies, international relations, and geography.