The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Life Imitiating Political Science and Vice Versa

September 15, 2011

I had a nice life imitating art (or science) today.  I was lecturing about identity and the stuff we political scientists have borrowed from social psychology to explain ethnic conflict today.  The idea is to get my IR of Ethnic Conflict class exposed to the basics before we move on to the international relations issues that are the heart of this course.

So, today, I am quite aware of my identity and how my self-esteem depends on how I see my group and how others see my group.  Then I notice a blog about Teaching Political Science which links to an article that focuses almost entirely on American Politics and a smidge on Comparative Politics.  I would not mind it if the article was not entitled “Ten Things Political Scientists Know …”  But since it entirely ignores International Relations (and Political Theory, I guees), I have a pretty gut level emotional response of the marginalization of the group with which I identify.

One of the upsides of residing in Canada has been that the border pretty much does away with imperialist Americanists trying to define the field only in terms of their narrow subfield (one that would be considered a sub-subfield of Comparative Politics in other countries, as it is in Canada).*  Sure, I have long since realized that Americanists are pretty handy since they tend to insist that the grad students have strong quant skills which make them useful to those of us who are falling further behind on high tech skills. 

* Canadian Politics is the parallel subfield up here, but Canadianists tend not to be so forceful and tend not to seek dominance (we are what we study?).

 But moments like this make me realize:

  1. Americanists might still be pretty damned narrow-minded about what Political Science is, more so than the other subfields.
  2. My lecture today about the logic of invidious comparisons (explicating Horowitz 1985) is not just for my class but also for understanding why I am so provoked right now.
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Steve Saideman is Professor and the Paterson Chair in International Affairs at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. He has written The Ties That Divide: Ethnic Politics, Foreign Policy and International Conflict; For Kin or Country: Xenophobia, Nationalism and War (with R. William Ayres); and NATO in Afghanistan: Fighting Together, Fighting Alone (with David Auerswald), and elsewhere on nationalism, ethnic conflict, civil war, and civil-military relations.