Category: Academia (Page 2 of 18)

Fare thee Well Sean Kay


I opened up my twitter feed two weeks ago to some terrible news: our friend Sean Kay died suddenly. I literally cried out “Oh no” and wept for my friend. I had just guested in his class in October, and we had a number of conversations in recent months in the lead up to the election. We were both looking forward to a better future. The news of Sean’s death was just another reminder that 2020 has been truly awful.

Many knew Sean through his scholarship and policy work on NATO. I got to know him over the last few years through our common interests in music and love for the environment.

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Can IR Have Its Own “Big 3” Journals?

This is a guest post by Krista Wiegand, Director of the Global Security Program at the Howard Baker Center for Public Policy and Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Tennessee. She is co-Editor-in-Chief of International Studies Quarterly.

I was once asked on a job interview by a non-IR political scientist why I hadn’t published in the “big 3” journals – American Political Science Review (APSR), American Journal of Political Science (AJPS), and Journal of Politics (JOP). My response was that I had published in top IR journals where my IR colleagues read my work. I also mentioned how I had received a couple desk rejections from these journals suggesting that my research fit better in a specialized IR conflict journal. I’ve increasingly heard this comment from several of my IR colleagues about the big 3 journals over the past few years. I know a very well-known, highly published IR colleague who has submitted more than 20 manuscripts to APSR and never received an acceptance. It seems like it’s increasingly difficult for IR scholars to place articles in the top 3 general political science journals.

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The Leaky Pipeline

This piece is written by Bridging the Gap co-Director Naazneen H. Barma, Director of the Scrivner Institute of Public Policy, Scrivner Chair, and Associate Professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. It was commissioned as part of the “Represent” series on diversity, inclusion and representation in the national security sphere, an initiative of Defense 360 of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Defense 360 and the Duck of Minerva agreed to cross-post the piece in order to ensure wide reach to both academic and practitioner readership on this crucial topic.

The last decade has brought a series of welcome initiatives to amplify, bolster, and expand the diversity of voices in the national security sphere—including the Leadership Council for Women in National Security, the Diversity in National Security NetworkOut in National Security, and Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security. What each of these seeks to redress is the simple fact that a paucity of diverse voices in the national security spaces results in poorer national security dialogue and practice. There is a normative imperative: our national security professional cadre should represent us and the diversity of identities that comprise this country; it is the right thing to do. And the goal is also instrumental: bringing the wealth of a wider range of lived experiences into national security policy formulation does improve the process; it is the effective thing to do.

A crucial part of the challenge of achieving better representation in national security lies in the pipeline that runs through academia and into the policy-making sphere. Whether we are talking about those who undertake graduate education in order to pursue national security careers or about emerging scholars who want to make a career of studying and informing national security, the pipeline leaks diverse voices all along the way.

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Ant-Man as a metaphor for the modern professor

In Marvel comics and movies, Ant-Man is a super-hero who can change his size using a special suit and “Pym particles.” When giant, he’s…giant. But when he’s tiny he keeps the same density as a regular human, giving him the ability to lift and move things much bigger than his insect size. The idea of shrinking in size but having to shoulder the same–or greater–burden resonated with me, and in a way feels like a metaphor for the modern professor.

This thought came to me in response to a recent email from my university. We have a hybrid set-up, with some students attending courses remotely (from home or campus) and others in person. Our Student Services office noted which of our advisees were at home, and asked us to take special care to reach out to them. This didn’t really affect me, as I reach out to all advisees before course registration. But the idea of a Student Services office telling professors–already overloaded with difficult online teaching, as well as research and service responsibilities–to devote extra time to engaging with students instead of, you know, doing it themselves, struck me as slightly off.

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Why are we so quick to dismiss the UAE-Israel peace treaty?

In September, the UAE and Israel signed “the Abraham Accords,” normalizing relations between the UAE and Israel. The Trump Administration presented this as if it was equivalent to the Camp David Accords, a ground-breaking peace agreement that would transform the world. Much of the Middle East policy community, however, met it with a shrug. I’m not sure I’m joining in on that shrug. While it’s true Trump exaggerated and misrepresented the deal, as he is wont to do, I worry a sneaky “common wisdom” has developed among observers that may obscure the significant impacts of this agreement.

The deal came together over the summer, although there have been signs of a potential shift among Gulf Arab states towards Israel. They share a common enemy in Iran. Additionally, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Oman in 2018, while the UAE’s US Ambassador wrote an op-ed in an Israeli newspaper hinting at possible normalization. Billed as a peace deal (even though they weren’t really at war) the two states agreed to normalize diplomatic ties and expand economic cooperation. While some saw it as a betrayal, other seem to see it as a relatively inconsequential event.

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On Publishing and Open Access

Recently, I was asked by an interdisciplinary journal to edit a special section on climate governance, and I inquired whether it was an open access journal where authors have to pay to publish. It is, and I declined because asking others to contribute to a special issue that they then have to pay to publish in strikes me as unseemly. I’m pretty uncomfortable with this model of publishing, but I dislike the existing paywall mafia too.

Pay to Publish?
This is the third time I’ve had open access fees come up in the process of publishing in journals in the energy/science policy space. The other two were surprises where a journal changed to an open access pay model in the middle of publishing and the other was one where I joined an author team to a new journal that I didn’t look in to. In the other cases, the fee was waived or my co-authors had some way to have the fees paid. This model of pay to publish I think is more prevalent in the sciences.

I understand the desire to make work available to people without a paywall. I also respect the desire to defray the costs for authors in the global South with fee waivers, but it is not easy, even for someone like me at an R1, to come up with $1000 or more to publish a paper. For one, I’ve never done it, and I don’t have a reservoir of money to pay publication fees. If you publish several articles a year and they are open access, these costs would add up.

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Visualizing the Gender Publication Gap: 1999-2019

This is a guest post from Laura Breen, a PhD student with research interests in international law, global governance, and emerging technology; Gaea Morales, a PhD student with research interests in environmental security and global-local linkages; Joseph Saraceno, a PhD candidate with research interests in political institutions and quantitative methodology; and Kayla Wolf, a PhD student with research interests in gender, politics, and political socialization. All are completing the PhD program in Political Science and International Relations at the University of Southern California.

It’s not news that political science has a gender problem. This blog has multiple entries on the gender gap, and anyone who spends 20 minutes on academic twitter or at a grad student happy hour is likely to encounter firsthand accounts of the effects of the gender gap. If firsthand accounts aren’t enough, there’s plenty of excellent peer reviewed reviewed work showing that the phenomenon exists, including Maliniak et al.’s finding that women are “systematically cited less than men” in IR, Dawn Langan Teele and Kathleen Thelen’s 2017 article that found a comparable gap even when accounting for women’s share of the profession.

A common talking point about the gender gap in political science is that things have been getting better, and the gender balance in publications will steadily even out over time as gender disparities in society are minimized and the number of women in the profession grows. In short: we are approaching parity, all it takes is time. However, for many scholars, and particularly women in political science, this narrative of progress conflicts with lived experience and observations of who (and what) we see published in top journals.

The Data

As part of a simple data visualization project gone off the rails, we gathered four years of data to see whether the optimistic belief that things are really getting better bears out empirically. We were particularly interested in the years since the last comprehensive examination of gendered political science publication rates.

Building on the dataset Teele and Thelen created to examine gendered publication rates across ten journals from 1999-2015, we hand coded author gender and order for all articles across the original journals examined in their article for the years 2016 to 2019. These included Journal of Politics, American Political Science Review, Comparative Politics (CP), International Organization, Comparative Political Studies, Journal of Conflict Research (JCR), Perspectives on Politics, Political Theory, and World Politics. To collect author gender for the years 2016 onwards, we coded gender based on pronouns used in personal website and department biographies.

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Will Eastern Mediterranean tensions matter to IR if there is no war?

We open each of my undergrad classes with a discussion of current events. In the past four years, there have been several times that students have wondered whether a war may be about to break out: between America and North Korea, America and Venezuela, India and China, Qatar and Saudi Arabia…America and Iran. We spend a lot of time talking about the issues, the motivations for each state’s behavior. And when “nothing” happens, I always wonder whether all the time we spent was worth it.

I’m wondering the same thing about tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean. If the situation defuses without conflict between Turkey and Greece, will all the attention we’re paying to it have been worthwhile? And will this register as a “case” worth explaining for international relations? I argue that it should, and suggest a few ways we can approach it.

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Meet Our Guest Ducks (Again)

With the coronavirus, it has been hard for many of us to just keep going, let alone set aside time to blog (certainly not as much as we otherwise might!).

So, we wanted to acknowledge that by giving our guest Ducks from last year an additional semester (at least!) to have this platform for talking about substantive issues in international relations and the academy.

We are thrilled that folks have stayed on. Please read their work to date and be on the lookout for new posts. There are some really good ones on a range of topics. If you have an interest in becoming a guest contributor come January, let any of the permanent members know!

The Current Guest Contributors to the Duck of Minerva

Bridging the Gap
Meg K. Guliford
Anne Harrington ⚑ 
Cullen Hendrix
Peter Henne 
Luke Perez 
Alexandra Stark
Ajay Verghese

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Race and the Russian IR

This is the fifth post in the our series Race&IR.

Black Lives Matter has spearheaded a massive reckoning of race relations in the US and around the world, but not so much in RussiaThe discipline of IR may have started a bit earlier than this year’s protests: there have been a number of interventions that have brought the issue of race to the forefront of teaching and research – even though it should have always been there at least since DuBois. Not everyone is happy though: right-wing media cry “cancel culture” and debates on the merits of critical approaches somehow make national news

Russian mainstream IR community has been slow in embracing this problematique – even though Russian IR itself has been often considered as one of the examples of non-Western IR. A recent piece in “Russia in Global Affairs” by Dr. Alexander Lukin seems to make a point similar to a lot of critical scholars and scholars from the Global South: “It is necessary to correct the West-centric bias … by gradually introducing more information about the non-Western world into the teaching of history and international relations”. Fair point? Yes, absolutely. Alexander Lukin argues further that “a new all-encompassing totalitarian theory is approaching us, according to which all social and historical phenomena will need to be analyzed from a “racial” point of view, just as the Marxists analyzed them from the point of view of the “class struggle.””. How do you like them apples?

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Is there a middle ground in the study of ideas in international relations?

I’m working on a new project about the use of religion in power politics (part of which I’ll be presenting “at” APSA this week). I’m finding good evidence, but the framing is tricky. Religion as a power political tool happens, and matters, but it rarely works out the way the wielders intended. Is this an example of ideas mattering in international relations, or an example of their limits? The fact that I feel forced into such a binary reflects a broader issue in the sub-field.

As we all learn in Intro to IR, the study of ideas revolves around constructivism. With the emergence of neorealism and neoliberalism in the 1980s, IR became overly rationalist and materialist. Constructivism developed as a reaction to this, producing numerous studies on the way intersubjective beliefs guided and shaped state behavior. After the paradigm wars faded, “constructivist-y” studies continued, with important work focusing on the role of rhetoric and practices in international relations.

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Teaching Race and International Politics: Notes from a Canadian Classroom

Eric Van Rythoven (PhD) is an Instructor in the Department of Political Science at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.  His research focuses on the intersection between the politics of emotion, International Relations, and security.  His articles have been published in the Journal of Global Security Studies, the European Journal of International Relations, Security Dialogue, among others and he is the co-editor (with Mira Sucharov) of Methodology and Emotion in International Relations (Routledge, 2019).  You can learn more about his research and writing at his website.

This is the fourth post in our series on Race&IR.

How should we approach discussions of race and racism in the classroom? Increasingly, issues of race are receiving more attention in the field of IR.  Whether it is through a series of high-profile articles discussing why race matters in IR, or why the field remains blind to racism, debates about race and racism are taking a more prominent place in the field.  Yet comparatively less attention has been given  to how to teach race in the classroom.  This mirrors broader patterns of intellectual life in IR where the “published discipline” dominates scholarly attention and the “taught discipline” appears as an afterthought (Ettinger, 2020).  But if we take calls to think about the taught discipline seriously, how then should we approach teaching race in the classroom?

This post contributes to the conversation by discussing the results from a brief survey on student views on teaching race and international politics in a Canadian classroom.  The survey (n=100) was supported through Carleton University’s Students as Partners Program (SaPP) where faculty can offer paid experience to undergraduate students to help develop curriculum and teaching resources.  Respondents were primarily students from IR courses, but also included those studying Canadian Foreign Policy. 

As part of our project we wanted to hear students’ views on teaching race in the classroom, including what topics they are interested in learning about, as well as what they see as some of the barriers to learning.  Situated in a diverse city in a unique national context, it is important to caution against generalizations. Yet in what follows we highlight some of the main findings and bring them into dialogue with the broader pedagogy literature on race and IR.

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We all suffer if the field is parochial

David C. Kang is Maria Crutcher Professor of International Relations at the University of Southern California, where he also directs the Korean Studies Institute. His latest book, coedited with Stephan Haggard, East Asia in the World: Twelve Events that Shaped the Modern International Order, will be published Cambridge University Press next month.

This summer, the graduate students in our Ph.D. program here at USC, and the undergraduates as well, called for an end to the Eurocentric curriculum in our department. They noted that there are twice as many classes devoted to Europe as there are to any other region of the world; if we add in classes on American politics, there are easily 3x as many classes.

I absolutely support our students in their call to be aware of a Eurocentric curriculum and scholarship, and to our colleagues to think much more widely about, and be open to, ideas and cases that might be much more vivid and lively than they suspect, and have much more to teach us than we originally thought.

In this case, what’s politically important and socially conscious is also scientifically sound. The basic problem of Eurocentric scholarship is selection bias — If we care about social science, and if we want to understand anything about the world, we need to define concepts in generalizable ways. We all suffer if the field is parochial: our concepts are narrow, our cases are truncated, and the true richness and possibility of what international relations actually is can be overlooked.

I want to point out what that means in practice using three examples. I will conclude this post with a few possibilities for both young scholars, and the way we pursue research and publish.

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U.S. Political Scientists Must Work To Support Free and Fair Democratic Elections

This is a guest post by Jeffrey C. Isaac, James H. Rudy Professor of Political Science at Indiana University, Bloomington. You can follow him at his blog at Democracy in Dark Times.

Democracy is a central and arguably the central theme of contemporary American political science research and teaching. This is certainly true in the “subfields” conventionally designated as “Comparative Politics,” “American Politics,” and “Political Theory.” And even where it is not the central theme, as in most “International Relations” inquiry, it is an important theme.

By far the most broadly influential endeavor in U.S. political science—the teaching of “Introduction to American Politics,” a staple of undergraduate teaching at virtually every academic institution in the U.S.—centers on the dynamics of the U.S. political system, the nature of its constitutional democracy, and the complex dynamics of public opinion, party organization, political campaigning and competitive elections.

Most of this teaching is not emphatically normative. But it is normative nonetheless, as a perusal of most syllabi or prominent textbooks will attest. The 2015 Brief Edition of Keeping the Republic: Power and Citizenship in American Politics, written by Christine Barbour and Gerald C. Wright, for example, leads with a chapter on “Power and Citizenship in American Politics” that centers on the distinction between liberal democracy and authoritarianism. Without some such discussion, what sense is to be made of American political institutions?

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The Interviews for Teaching World Politics Project

In less than a month, I’ll be teaching “Introduction to International Relations” for the first time in over ten years. As luck (for certain values of “luck”) would have it, this means I’m building a 100-200 person course from scratch and teaching it online. But where some might see a yawning black pit of despair, I see a yawning black pit of despair… and opportunity. Why not experiment a bit?

I know a lot of professors are thinking this way, so at the start of the summer some of us talked about working together to produce shareable content. We had plans! We had pants to match! And massive coordination problems.

So about a week ago, as I looked down into that black pit, I decided “screw this, I’m going to email lots of friends and see if they’ll record interviews with me. I’ll make it more appealing by putting the results online in an archive. That way anyone can download interviews and integrate excerpts from them into their lectures, class videos, or whatever.”

Shockingly enough, it turns out that academics and practitioners generally like to talk about their work, as well as their career paths. I’ve recorded something like 12 interviews over six days, and have a lot more scheduled.

But it’s been a haphazard process, driven in no small measure by my specific needs for my class. And all that video is useless to anyone else if it’s not processed, and useless to me if I don’t have time to put the course together. So I’ve been teaming up with people, gotten help from an RA, and come to the conclusion that this is the kind of project that works best if it’s crowdsourced.

Enter this post, which serves to announce “The Interviews for Teaching World Politics Project.” (It’s the worst title I’ve ever used for anything, and believe me, that’s a very high bar to cross). Below is a version 1.0 of the project summary. You can also read it via this link, where you will also be able to navigate to the archive and see the two sample videos we’ve got up.

About

“The Interviews for Teaching World Politics Project” aims to develop a large database of video interviews – currently conducted on Zoom at 720p in .mp4 format – with international-relations scholars and practitioners. 

The interviews are supposed to be suitable for use in introductory or advanced undergraduate classes, and are conducted not to produce a seamless “lecture” but rather excerpts that can be incorporated into prerecorded class videos or lectures. 

In addition to scholars and practitioners talking about their areas of expertise, some interviews will contain discussions of what it’s like to work in various areas of applied international relations. Some videos include biographical information on how participants wound up in their present positions.

Using the Archive

The archive consists of folders that are entitled with the name of the interviewee and the core topic under discussion. Each folder contains a video and a text file with a rough index to the video. The videos themselves have title cards related to the index, so it is possible to scroll through the video to find sections that might be useful to you.

All videos in the archive are under an Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) license. At minimum, your videos or lectures must identify the name of the interviewee. Preferred citation includes the name of the interviewee, the date of the interview, and some reference to the “Teaching World Politics Project” so that other people can find the archive.

We currently only have a small number of samples up, and it will take a while to even process what we already have.

How Can You Help?

As of now, all of our interviewing, recording, and production work is being done by three people – one of whom is a serious introvert – and we could really use help. There are two ways to help:

  1. Editing and indexing videos. Each video should take 1.5-2 hours to complete, depending on your skill level. Videos are currently being processed this way in iMovie or Final Cut Pro X, but any software is fine so long as the video output isn’t downsampled. Contact Dan Nexon  if you’re interested. We are happy if people are willing to do only one or two videos – indeed, we’d prefer that to anyone taking  on more than they can realistically complete in relatively short order; no one wants to be pestering volunteers.
  2. Recording interviews. We’d love for people to volunteer to interview other scholars or practitioners, and the neat thing is that you can interview pretty much anyone you want. The only restriction on our end is that the interviewer must be someone currently teaching IR at the college or university level, or an advanced PhD in International Relations/International Studies. There is, or will soon be, an access-restricted spreadsheet to track the effort. This will help us a) to avoid pestering those who have already agreed or turned down a request and b) to try to ensure adequate methodological and demographic diversity in the pool of videos.

    Instructions for Zoom: when recording, keep your interface set to speaker view (you’ll notice that our first two videos were in gallery view, and that’s… not great).

    General instructions for recording
    • You and your subject should use headphones, and make sure that all your computer sound is routed through those headphones. Both you and your subject should do their best to remove other sources of noise, such as mobile phones. 
    • If you do get interrupted or the subject wants to start over, make sure that they back up to a point where it will be easy to edit (so at the start of the idea). 
    • There are plenty of resources online that cover best practices, but keep in mind that our interviews are supposed to be informal.
    • Do not split screen your interview. The interviewee will be edited out of the archived video.
    • Keep in mind that our videos are supposed to be informal.
    • Important: as you’re interviewing have a timer going and keep a real-time index of key subjects or anecdotes. This will make it much easier to process the video later.
  3. Volunteering to be interviewed. If you’d like to be interviewed, email Dan and he’ll put you on a list. You should include your name, best email address, position(s), and subject-matter expertise. Note that because 1) we don’t have a lot of labor hours and 2) volunteers are likely to be focused on collecting material for their immediate teaching needs, we cannot guarantee when or if an interview will actually take place. But we do appreciate your willingness to do one and, if this project continues for the next year, we really hope that we can get to you.

But Wait, There’s More

There are a ton of informal efforts by professors to recruit other experts and scholars to speak to their classes, because COVID-19 and remote learning.

There are terrific resources that you can and should use to break the constraints of social capital and find potential speakers. If you’re like me, though, and you’re an introvert, it takes enormous energy to approach even one person you don’t know for this kind of favor.

Thus, over on Facebook I pitched the idea of maintaining a spreadsheet where people could volunteer as speakers. It’s called the “Yes, I would be happy to chat remotely with your class!” list, and if this appeals to you check it out (I’ve entered my name both as an example and also because, yes, indeed, I would be happy to chat remotely with your class!). I’ve put instructions there for how to get your name added.

The other thing that I think would be useful to crowdsource is a list of resources. The Carnegie Endowment is doing great work making video and audio resources available. There are podcasts that might be suitable for specific classes. That kind of thing. If there’s interest, I’m happy to host something that as well.

I really don’t know if any of this will work out. But since I’m doing some of this anyway, I figure “why not?”

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The networks and hidden procedures that keep discrimination alive in academia

This is the third post in our series on Race&IR.

This is a guest post from Carla Norrlöf and Cheng Xu. Carla Norrlöf is an associate professor at the University of Toronto. Her research is in international relations and international political economy with a focus on US hegemony, great power politics and liberal international order. Follow here at @CarlaNorrlof

Cheng Xu is a PhD student at the University of Toronto. His research is in international relations and comparative politics with a focus on insurgencies and civil wars. He’s a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces with over nine years of service.

George Floyd’s murder was another in a long series of acts of police brutality against black men. His death upended complacency, silence, and fatigue about racism, propelling people to protest against discrimination in the middle of a deadly pandemic. The Black Lives Matter movement may be the largest in US history.

The conversation about racism has reached academia with hashtags such as #Blackintheivory. This moment has spurred scholars to ask trenchant questions about the links between foreign policy and militarization of police forces. Many scholars have pointed to the racist legacy of IR theory and the way it informs how we study IR today. This dialogue is important and political scientists certainly recognize it as such.

We also see scholars in other disciplines shining a bright light on discriminatory practices, raising questions of how the discipline itself contributes to systemic racism.  They ask white scholars to do their own work to become anti-racist and to stop gaslighting scholars who have the courage to spotlight racist practices.

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Racism in Social Science: Copy, Paste, Repeat (An Urgent Call to Action)

This is the second installment in our series on Race&IR.

This is a guest post from Ebby L. Abramson who is a Doctoral student in the political science program at the University of Ottawa and a research associate and editor for Endangered Scholars Worldwide. His current research systematically investigates counterterrorism policies in Europe and the United States, examining how these policies account for and impact their respective society. Abramson has worked for the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, the New School, Cardozo School of law, and The George Washington University Elliot School of International Affairs where he specialized in Law of Conflict, International Human Rights Law, terrorism, and illicit arms trafficking. He holds a master’s degree in international affairs from the New School in New York City. He is a contributor to IRPP (Policy Options). Follow him at @EbbyAbramson

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement is an ineffective advocacy group because the organization is fighting for an imaginary cause— stopping systemic racism and discrimination against Black people, neither of which exist. The narrative that unarmed Black people are more likely to get shot and killed by the police due to policy brutality is nothing but an overexaggerated delusion. The alleged racism by law enforcement against Black people does not play a role in arresting, shooting, and killing them. These are among the multiple outrageous claims that I have seen in students’ essays and within classroom activities over the course of my career.

I was living in New York City when Eric Garner was murdered on Staten Island, and at that time I wrote an opinion piece pleading with the academic community to take sides. I argued that all academics who stay silent about police brutality against Black people are culpable in perpetuating racism in our society. When I started working toward a doctoral degree at a Canadian university in 2018, I was under the impression that Canada was more progressive and had been taking active steps to address racism—an understanding that faded away in just a few short weeks.

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Mentoring Yourself as a Woman in Academia

This post, part of the Bridging the Gap channel, is written by Rosella Cappella Zielinski, an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Boston University and non-resident fellow at the Brute Krulak Center for Innovation and Creativity at Marine Corps University. She is  an alumna of BTG’s International Policy Summer Institute

For those of us figuring out how to navigate our identities in the classroom, on the job market, and in the wider world of academia, mentoring often plays a crucial role. Yet, often, our institutional advisors, as immensely supportive as they can be, do not reflect our gender, race, ethnicity, orientation, or other personally identifying attributes. 

The Future Strategy Forum (FSF) — an annual event designed to connect scholars of national security issues with leading practitioners to showcase female talent in the field and build vertical and horizontal networks across the policy-academic gap, organized by CSIS in partnership with Bridging the Gap, the Kissinger Center at SAIS, and the MIT Security Studies Program — recently asked me to offer some remarks regarding the effect of COVID-19 on financing grand strategy and to also share some career-related advice for the FSF–BTG grad student cohort that was part of the event. It turns out that the former was easy — while the latter, not so much.

I was stunned to realize, in preparing my remarks, that in all my time as an undergraduate and graduate student studying international relations, I never had one professor that was a woman or Hispanic. Not one. 

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Race, Racism, and International Relations

This is the first post in our series on Race&IR.

This is a guest post by J.P. Singh–Professor of International Commerce and Policy at the Schar School of Policy and Government, George Mason University, and Richard von Weizsäcker Fellow with the Robert Bosch Academy, Berlin. He specializes in culture and political economy.  Singh has authored or edited ten books, published over 100 scholarly articles, and worked with international organizations such as UNESCO, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization.  Twitter: @Prof_JPSingh

Issues of race and racism are intense subjects of scrutiny in our global everyday lives and international politics.  As we examine our social and intellectual suppositions, how does the academic discipline of international relations fare in analysing racism across borders? The short answer: hesitatingly, and only recently. The long answer: with a few blindspots.  

Racism is a set of social beliefs that holds groups of people as inferior and facilitates discriminatory practices.  Racism in international interactions may be overt or latent: beliefs that assign superiority to the Western world may result in security, economic, or human rights practices ranging from overt condemnation and discrimination to being paternalistic and infantilizing developing countries while appearing to be charitable. U.S. led international events with racial dimensions include building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, the trade war with China, and the President speaking disparagingly of Africa or calling COVID-19 ‘China virus’ or ‘Kung Flu’.  While these politics are critiqued and analyzed, the discipline’s history also shows oversights entailing the hesitance and inability to address race issues.  Reckoning with the shortcomings and the strengths of current perspectives is instructive toward presenting analyses and solutions.

Ironically, a history of the discipline provides a remarkable obsession with race questions at the beginning of the 20th century to their near absence at the end it. Intellectual histories note that until the early 20th century, international relations meant international race relations.  Most scientific studies in Europe assigned an inferior status to colonized people, believing racial differences to have a biological basis, and the dominant strain in international governance was of civilizing the colonized. A predecessor to Foreign Affairs was known as Journal of Race Development between 1910-19, though it did feature anti-racism contributors such as W.E.B. Du Bois. 

During the interwar period, academic writings in international relations did not address racism, interestingly at a time when the word ‘racism’ entered the English vocabulary reflecting Nazi judenrein policies of exterminating Jews.  While solitary voices such as Ralph Bunche spoke to racism, the general blindspot reflected the budding discipline’s focus toward describing international interactions on a pendulum between power and idealism and a bias against noticing racial dimensions. Foreign policy practitioners also delivered.  Cordell Hull, FDR’s Secretary of State and a chief architect of the post-war liberal international order, offers a glimpse in his memoirs: the two volumes hardly mention the nationalist movements in the colonies, and Hull may have privately believed that civilization belongs to the Europeans. Meanwhile other biological and social sciences debated race.  These carried over into organizations such as UNESCO in the post-war era. Anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss led the UNESCO studies on the race question.

In the post-war era, international relations also overlooked notable public scholarship on race from leaders such as Steve Biko, Amílcar Cabral, Aimé Césaire, Franz Fanon, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King.  The practice of U.S. foreign policy borrowed its vocabulary from realism that ‘transcended’ racism.  While many intellectual architects of U.S. foreign policy had fled Nazi Germany, they viewed containment and power as the response to horrors like Nazism (or, later, the Soviet Union) and were disillusioned with Enlightenment idealism.  Nevertheless, an exhumation of the post-war liberal international order also reveals some racialized fissures. Historian Eric Mazower explains that many creators of the post-war liberal order, including Jan Smuts of South Africa, were well-known racists and created the United Nations to continue the work of “civilizing inferior races”.  UNESCO was not an outlier: its first Director-General Julian Huxley was a eugenicist.

International institutions with racialized origins need not continue to be racist, but international relations needs to show how these organizations overcame racism (counterfact is the bedrock of sound reasoning).  Three decades after World War II, the main axes of international relations models were power and interdependence.

Sociological traditions, as they spilled into international relations in the 1980s, began to examine the meanings and centrality of global racism in issues of identity, difference, and othering in international interactions. President Trump’s words are illustrative of the kinds of subjects being studied.  A contrasting perspective, examining international humanitarianism, argues that global paternalism has outgrown its racist origins: “Love it or hate it, paternalism is an enduring feature of global life.”  Many international development efforts could also fit here, albeit not without the charge that global paternalism has not overcome its racial origins.  More generally, the work of race and racism in international relations, remained marginal to the discipline’s major concerns, including professional venues. The 2015 Annual Convention of the APSA on the theme “Diversities Reconsidered” did not feature a single paper in its international relations sections that was on race or racism.  

The discipline has changed fast, especially after the 2016 political outcomes. When I began studying the effects of racism in international trade, many colleagues (and staff at the World Trade Organization) were incredulous toward my research agenda.  My book Sweet Talk provides mixed-methods evidence – including quantitative models, case studies, and historical process tracing — for the negative effects of racism on trade concessions to the developing world across (and within) trade in agriculture, manufacturing, intellectual property, and services (summary here).  Colleagues are no longer incredulous, one review called the book “sweeping and ambitious”, but also push for further rigorous evidence. Critiques are important as is the need to provide sound evidence.  However, asking for evidence must not be an exercise in ignoring race. For my part, I was relieved that the reviewer noting my work to be sweeping and asking for evidence has also conducted rigorous and foundational work on paternalism and race.  

Our debates on race need to concentrate on ontological blind spots, methods, and evidence.  Realism got around race issues in a peculiar way, as explained above, and that was a shortcoming.  It can no longer overlook its shortcoming or not question the Western civilizational codes that are embedded in its understandings.  Reflexively speaking, I had to do that as a scholar: how could I call out the racism inherent in trade relations without offering a critique of neoliberalism as racist as many critical scholars do?  

My book offers a critique of critical studies scholarship while ideologically favoring cultural values such as exchange and reciprocity that are embedded in a liberal order.  It may not convince critical studies scholars but intellectual honesty is important, and the title of my essay pays homage to a notable study on race in critical studies.  Similarly, I would argue that securitization scholars who have recently been attacked for ignoring race need to account for the broad context of the issue of race and international relations. While academics are not racist for not working on race issues, we can no longer ignore significant scholarship critiquing the racism of Western civilizational codes. Further the ethical foundations of this security school, or of realism as above, need to be questioned.

International relations is no longer tone deaf to racism, especially as it examines the intersection of domestic and international politics, and racism is not exclusive to the Western world. As racism dominates politics in Western and non-Western worlds (such as Brazil, India or Turkey), the discipline is beginning to re-examine its models of preference formation to include cultural factors such as race. Empirical examples analyze the backlash against migration in Europe (here and here) or how ethnocentrism and xenophobia affect preferences toward trade (here and here). The long answer entails an exhumation of the blindspots since World War II that kept issues of race and culture out of mainstream explanations and foreign policy endeavors. 

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Five Myths About Publishing International Relations Articles at the American Journal of Political Science

The following is a guest post by Dr. Dan Reiter. Dr. Reiter is the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Political Science at Emory University.  He is the author, coauthor, or editor of Crucible of Beliefs: Learning, Alliances, and World Wars (Cornell, 1996), Democracies at War (Princeton, 2002, with Allan C. Stam), How Wars End (Princeton, 2009), and The Sword’s Other Edge: Tradeoffs in the Pursuit of Military Effectiveness (Cambridge 2017), as well as dozens of scholarly articles.

I am the new associate editor for international relations (IR) at the American Journal of Political Science, and I would like to issue all of you a cordial, engraved, red carpet invitation to submit your IR manuscripts to AJPS.  The AJPS has an outstanding reputation within IR and political science, and publishing there will ensure your work will get a close look by scholars and students around the world.  Speaking personally, some of my “favorite” IR articles, papers that really reshaped the way I thought about IR or that I simply thought were very cool, have appeared at the AJPS.

Some of you may be thinking, “Yes, I would like to publish my work in AJPS, but…”  Here I would like to present and attempt to dispel five myths about publishing IR work at AJPS.

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