Category Archives: IR Theory

Episode 12: Marxism in IR, with Maïa Pal

Our guest for Episode 12 of Fully Automated is Maïa Pal, Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Oxford Brookes University. Among other things, Maïa is a scholar of early modern European history, focusing on the colonial origins of the modern state. She is an editor for Historical Materialism. And she is currently working on a book project, entitled Jurisdictional Accumulation: an Early Modern History of Law, Empires, and Capital (forthcoming, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). You can find her on Twitter @maia_pal

This episode represents the third installment in our occasional series, on Marxism in International Relations. Previous guests in this series include Bryant Sculos (Episode 9), on the the topic of Marxist pedagogy, and Kevin Funk and Sebastian Sclofsky (Episode 10), about the sorry state of Marxism in IR, and in Political Science more generally. In this episode, however, Maia helps us begin to think about what it might mean to apply Marxism, in IR.

I invited Maïa on the show after I read her recent piece, Introducing Marxism in International Relations, in e-IR. In this piece, she argues that the contribution of Marxism in IR is to reveal what other, less critical approaches may contrive to hide. That is, how many concepts we normally take for granted in IR, like the international itself, can distract us from analyzing the social relations that comprise them, and the history of the material conditions that shape those relations, in turn.

As we discuss, some of even the most critical scholars in IR eschew Marxism because they fear it constitutes a kind of dogmatism. In the interview, however, you’ll hear Maia refer to a letter that Karl Marx wrote, to Arnold Ruge, in which he states:

“But if the designing of the future and the proclamation of ready-made solutions for all time is not our affair, then we realize all the more clearly what we have to accomplish in the present—I am speaking of a ruthless criticism of everything existing, ruthless in two senses: The criticism must not be afraid of its own conclusions, nor of conflict with the powers that be.”

So, in this spirit, Pal outlines for us what we might perhaps want to call a relentless Marxism — one unafraid to examine itself, and its own suppositions about the world.

As Maia says in the interview, the function of Marxism in IR is to challenge and destabilize many of the concepts it cherishes, and which might appear otherwise stable to the scholar: not just the division between the national and the international, but that of the political and the economic. Marxism, Maia suggests, shatters the “linear progressive narrative of the history of international relations,” as a discipline, and opens us up to the possibility of a much more messy and brutal history; a history of empire, and imperial conquest!

We covered A LOT of ground in this interview, and the result is a slightly longer episode than usual. But I hope you’ll stick with us to the end. Later in the show, you’re going to hear us talk about some of the implications of Maia’s work for the left today: whether or in what respects can we say the state in globalization still has political capacity, and how might the left conceive of this capacity as it grapples with the question of anti-capitalist strategy; and how debates about xenophobia among the working class and so-called ‘deplorables’ can overlook not only the nuances of working-class electoral preferences, but can distract us from thinking about the ‘normal’ racism of the state as it works to categorize migrant populations as undeserving of access to wealthy zones and spaces, within globalization.

Towards the end, we’ll also chat about what its like to be an editor with a left-academic journal like Historical Materialism, and get a little bit into the rationale behind the journal’s latest issue, on identity politics. Finally, we get into Maia’s current book project, and why she believes that Marxists need to pay more attention to the significance of ‘jurisdictional accumulation’, both in the pre-history of capitalist globalization, and as a specific condition shaping the play of global capitalist dynamics today.

#EISAPEC18 CfP — Technological Change and the Shape of an IR to Come (S43)

The below is a call for papers for the section, Technological Change and the Shape of an IR to Come, at the 12th Pan-European Conference on International Relations (EISA), Prague, September 12-15, 2018

This section seeks to advance discussion at the intersection of speculation on future trajectories of International Relations as a discipline, and the increasing focus on utopian and/or dystopian visions and imaginaries in the domain of popular culture. We invite contributions that navigate and challenge the horizon of the possible within and beyond the discipline. Specifically, we seek papers that have an explicit forward-looking dimension in their method and/or approach, on the spectrum between scenario-based analysis or forecasting, and storytelling or speculative academic fiction.

Not to be confused with a call for works in the genre of futurism (i.e., prediction-making), contributors to these panels are invited instead to investigate their own disciplinary perspectives to assess possible times ahead. Panels may, for example, want to examine possible trends based on the confluence of a number of issues pertaining to technological change: How are current anxieties over automation and universal basic income reflected in IR, or affiliated literatures? Conversely, what role might IR have in narrating the complexities of a global order where ‘fully-automated luxury communism’ is not only possible but actively demanded? Or, equally, in reaction to such demands, to what extent might current trends in digitalization and media bespeak a re-modulation of social order around novel modes of control, and securitization? Finally, what can we say of the multitude-style content of the hashtags, memes, and aesthetics of newly invigorated ‘millennial’ leftist movements as they embrace and reorient, for example, the iconography of Soviet-era space exploration, in a politics of race- and gender-based liberation?

Panels should advertise in advance that they are actively soliciting audience involvement in their proceedings. We invite papers that address the themes indicated in the suggested panel titles below, but will consider alternative full panel proposals:

1. Back to the future? Engaging the techno-utopian visions of IRs past
2. A phantom menace? Emancipation and the specter of luxury communism
3. Battle at the binary stars? The politics of race, gender, and millennial singularity
4. Elysium? Fully-automated consumption vs the speculative limits of ecology
5. Age of Ultron? Artificial Intelligence and our possible global ethical futures
6. Orphan Black? Post-scarcity and intellectual property law

Details:

  • Venue: University of Economics (VSE) and Institute of International Relations (IIR), Prague
  • Dates: September 12-15, 2018
  • Conference Theme: ‘A New Hope’: Back to The Future of International Relations Section
  • Section Title: Technological Change and the Shape of an IR to Come (S43)
  • Closing date for submissions: February 1, 2018
  • Official conference hashtag: #EISAPEC18

For more details, and the submission form, see the Conference website: www.eisapec18.org

Sincerely,
Nicholas Kiersey (Ohio University): kiersey@ohio.edu
Laura Horn (University of Roskilde): lhorn@RUC.DK
– Section Chairs

Episode 10: Sclofsky & Funk on ‘The Specter That Haunts Political Science’

This episode continues a short series of podcasts on the place ofMarxism in International Relations. Last episode, we had Bryant Sculos, of Florida International University discussing his piece “Marx in Miami: Reflections on Teaching and the Confrontation with Ideology,” co-authored with Sean Walsh, of Capital University. If you haven’t listed to that episode yet, check it out. We got into some great discussion about various techniques and exercises that allow us to use Marx in the classroom, and create space in students’ minds for thinking about the historically-situated nature of human consciousness. And I think what we took away from the conversation was this idea, simply, that while perhaps its not our role to ensure that our students buy into Marxism as a political program, there’s nevertheless a really worthwhile payoff if instructors are willing to take the time to model for students how Marxism can help us think historically about who we are. Where do our ideas come from? What is subjectivity? Marx offers a range of useful thoughts on all these subjects.

Now, as a follow-up to last week’s episode, THIS WEEK we are joined by Sebastian Sclofsky and Kevin Funk, who have a piece in the latest issue of International Studies Perspectives, ‘The Specter That Haunts Political Science: The Neglect and Misreading of Marx in International Relations and Comparative Politics’ (free version can be found here). If last week’s episode was about the opportunities that Marxism offers, this week’s episode is about the rather weak state of Marxism in political science, these days.

Sebastián Sclofsky is a PhD Candidate in the Political Science Department & Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Florida. His research focuses on the politics of criminal justice and urban policing — Looking primarily at South Los Angeles and São Paulo, he examines how negative encounters with the police shape residents’ racial identities, local space, and sense of second-class citizenship.

Kevin Funk is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and Law and director of International Studies at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama. And his main research focus right now is on the globalizing discourses of transnational corporations, and the emergence of micro-level zones of global-urban capital, like the “Sanhattan” neighborhood, in Santiago, Chile.

Episode 7: David Bailey on Protest Movements and Parties of the Left

David Bailey

Our guest for this episode is David Bailey, Senior Lecturer in Political Science and International Studies, at University of Birmingham. David is joining us to talk about his forthcoming book with Rowman & Littlefield, Protest Movements and Parties of the Left.

As we’ve been arguing on this show for the last few weeks, there is no doubt at this stage that the left is ‘back’. Arriving admittedly a decade or two later than Latin America’s “Pink Tide”, the left has made electoral gains recently, both in Europe, and in the US. Yet it is also clear that the left is not used to having this kind of potential. To the contrary, suffering through its long period of post-Cold War defeat, it has been content to engage in a lot of internal squabbling, and become comfortable avoiding the tough question of how it might engage ordinary people with its ideas. David Bailey’s book is a very interesting intervention, in this sense. Without necessarily taking a side in the debates he examines (to what extent should the left embrace the state? Should we pursue reform, or revolution?), he surveys the history of some of the more prominent moments and modes of leftist protest and struggle. What is interesting, however, is he choses to do this in an optimistic way. Refusing the left’s traditional mournful stance on its history, and deliberately trying to focus on the things the movements got right, Bailey is out to capture the spark of revolutionary disruption in each of his case studies, where the impossible was somehow, suddenly, made possible.

I got to see an advance copy of the book recently, and more than anything I was kind of pleasantly surprised by his open-minded stance on left strategy, finding those sparks of disruption everywhere, from the early days of 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, to the anarchist movements of the Spanish Civil War, and even in post-war parliamentary reformism. The civil rights movements get a look in here, and there are chapters on the New Left, the history of feminism, and the rise of environmentalism. And those interested in more recent history will find the last chapters quite interesting I think, looking at the Occupy movement and, more interestingly, the influence of ‘Left Populist’ struggles Latin America on the rise of what Bailey calls ’left pragmatism’ in Europe and North America, embodied of course in parties like Syriza and Podemos, but even more recently in figures like Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders.

Episode 3: Book Club – Peter Frase’s ‘Four Futures’

Four Futures

This episode is the first in an occasional ‘book club’ series of podcasts we will be doing, in an around the topic of fully automated luxury communism. This episode’s book is Four Futures, by Peter Frase (which is part of the Jacobin series, from Verso Books).

My guests on the show are Laura Horn and Phil Davis. Laura is a political economist working at the University of Roskilde, just outside of Copenhagen in Denmark. While her own research has mainly focused on dimensions of capitalist restructuring in the European Union, she has a strong political and personal interest in the nexus between political economy and science fiction. Four Futures is one of the texts she uses in her course ‘Repoliticising Capitalism: Contradictions, critique and alternatives’.

Phil Davis is a molecular biologist working in the Biodefense sector in the Washington DC area. He’s currently working towards a master’s degree in Bioinformatics from University of Maryland University College. Four Futures sits at the intersection of his enthusiasm for both left-wing politics and futurology. His hobbies also include music.

If you have any questions or comments, please send us a tweet @occupyirtheory

Fully Automated Episode 2: Biopolitical Imperialism, with Mark G.E. Kelly

Our guest this week is Mark G. E. Kelly, an Associate Professor in the School of Humanities and Communication Arts at Western Sydney University. He is the author of The Political Philosophy of Michel Foucault (2009), as well as of Biopolitical Imperialism (from Zer0 books, in 2015) and he is also working on a book called ‘For Foucault: Against Normative Political Theory’ (SUNY, expected 2018).

Kelly has weighed in a number of recent ‘Foucault’ controversies, including the question of whether Foucault was a neoliberal. In this interview, we get into that debate. But I think for most listeners, the interesting stuff will be towards the end, where Kelly talks about Biopolitical Imperialism, and addresses the conflict in Syria.

The podcast was recorded on Wednesday, April 5, 2017. In the interview, you’ll hear Kelly comment on Donald Trump’s pivot a few days previous, on Syria. Two days after the recording, on April 7, the US military launched a cruise missile attack on a Syrian airfield. The attack was carried out in response to a chemical weapons incident in Idlib province, perpetrated allegedly by Syrian state forces. It would be hard to imagine a stronger confirmation of Kelly’s arguments about Biopolitical Imperialism.

New Publication – “Popular Culture and World Politics,” edited by Federica Caso and Caitlin Hamilton

timthumb.phpAn essay I co-wrote with Iver B. Neumann, ‘Worlds of Our Making in Science Fiction and International Relations,’ has just been published in a volume entitled Popular Culture and World Politics: Theories, Methods, Pedagogies’.  The book is published by E-International Relations, and is edited by Federica Caso and Caitlin Hamilton. The book is available on Amazon, or as free-to-download PDF.

The piece is largely devoted to the question of defining science fiction, and its interest to IR scholars. Here’s an excerpt:

“Taking this broad array of artefacts seriously, then, as artefacts proper to the literary genre of science fiction, the question becomes one of how consumer expectations are subject, among other things, to the expectations generated by the conventions of this genre. Following Cultural Studies theorists like Darko Suvin, we recognise that science fiction is ‘a literary genre whose necessary and sufficient conditions are the presence and interaction of estrangement and cognition, and whose main formal device is an imaginative framework alternative to the author’s empirical environment’ (suvin, cited in Freedman 2000, p. 16). The term ‘estrangement’ (rus. ostranenie), coined originally a century ago by russian formalist Shklovsky, is that which gives the text the power, implicitly or explicitly, to give the reader over to a sense of the possibility of another reality. By contrast, ‘cognition’ refers to that which enables the text to rationally account for the way this alternative reality actually works. It performs this operation by posing explicit differences between the inner workings of its narrative world and those of our own.

As Freedman (2000) stresses, however, operations of estrangement are not in and of themselves all that politically significant. Texts orientated more towards estrangement, such as tolkien’s Lord of the rings, can be read for all intents and purposes as fantasy. Texts that focus more on cognition, on the other hand, tend towards realism at the expense of imaginative difference, thus potentially stretching the limits of the genre too far in the opposite direction. For this reason, as freedman cautions, the exact parameters of science fiction as a genre are somewhat difficult to nail down. For freedman, what is essential ultimately is the ‘cognition effect’, that is, ‘the attitude of the text itself to the kind of estrangements being performed’ (Freedman 2000, 18, emphasis in original). Thus, even though actual science may someday supersede the cognitively rational elements of a particular science fiction text, it should remain a part of the genre because the author originally understood what he or she was writing to have a potential cognitive validity. On this account, a definition of the genre would necessarily exclude the Lord of the rings, but it would feasibly include the more traditional estrangement-centric ‘pulp’ of Hugo Gernsback’s 1929 Amazing Stories, of which Star Wars would naturally be considered a contemporary exemplar.

For the sake of precision, however, we might want to narrow this definition down a little. By the time Shklovsky came up with the term ‘estrangement’, the idea that alternative realities were not only part of literature’s remit, but one of literature’s defining traits, was already firmly ensconced. A romantic such as Coleridge defined poetry in terms of a willing suspension of disbelief. Thomas more’s Utopia was first published in 1516. Indeed, taking into consideration that older literary traditions are basically part of religious traditions, and noting that religion is a social phenomenon that by definition operates with more than one reality – there is the profane and visible reality, and then there are one or more alternate realities – we would argue that the existence of what Suvin refers to as ‘an imaginative framework alternative to the author’s empirical environment’ is the historical literary rule. It was only with the coming of modernity that the possibility of a wholly disenchanted literature emerged. In light of this, the oft-heard throwaway line that all literature is science fiction cannot be written off without argument.”

Thanks to all involved for putting this together!

#RubySeries – Volunteers Needed for Panel Recordings at #ISA2015

Attention all #ISA2015 participants, the ‪#‎RubySeries‬ needs YOU! We are looking for volunteers to film/record #Ruby panels. We will have one or two video cameras and, thus far, two or three podcast quality microphones (to use mikes, we will also need laptops, so volunteers for podcasting – bring them along). Volunteers – would be great if you are in town already on Tuesday for quick training. Ruby panels’ organizers – if you have podcast quality microphones, please bring them along and record your own panels if possible (Blue Snowball microphone is 59$ on Amazon). All – if you have microphones and or even video cameras with tripods that you could use at ISA, please bring them along. And do remember to ask all panelists for consent if recording. Please see discussion on the Occupy IR FB group for further discussion. Solidarity!

#RubySeries List for #ISA2015

Following Cynthia Weber’s recent post over at Duck of Minerva, there has been a lot of debate about the International Studies Association’s planned ‘Saphire Series’ for the upcoming annual conference in New Orleans. Some of that debate has been taking place at the #occupyirtheory/ipe Facebook group. With now over 175 comments, there have been a wide ranging set of proposals and ideas about the issues raised by the Series, and how to respond to them. Many will be using the #Ruby hashtag on Twitter to maintain communications on these issues as the conference proceeds. Another idea has been for people to list any panels they feel might offer the possibility of institutionally balancing the dominant ‘white, male and tenured’ voices the Series is showcasing. Interested readers can also follow the Twitter hashtag #RubySeries for updates on these panels.

Disclaimer: this list is based on suggestions made in context of an open and ongoing discussion at the OccupyIR group on Facebook, among other places, about ISA’s Sapphire Series. It is not intended as a way of ‘promoting’ select panels. It is merely a way for people to link their panels together in an expression of solidarity in response to the perceived elitism of the Sapphire series. If you are part of a panel that you do want listed, let me know. Similarly, if you do not want your panel listed, I am happy to remove it for you.

Ruby Series: Celebrating Multiple Voices in Conversation

Current as of  02/17/15 — 71 Panels!

Wednesday

  1. WA10: Presidential Theme Panel: Advancing Global IR (I): Challenges And Prospects
  2. WA11: Rethinking Silence, Voice and Agency in Feminist Approaches to Security
  3. WA21: Local Actors and the Diffusion of Gender Norms in Developing Regions
  4. WA41: Decolonizing Methods: New Tools for Global IR
  5. WA52: Anti-Colonial Poetics and the Lived Experience of Politics
  6. WA 56: Presidential Theme Panel – Indigenous Peoples, Values And Sovereignty, In The Study Of Global Politics
  7. WB30: Presidential Theme Panel: Bandung+60: Legacies and Contradictions
  8. WB31: Postcolonialism, Feminism And Global International Relations: Remembering The Legacy Of Geeta Chowdhry
  9. WB78: Women’s Activism in Revolutions and Crises
  10. WC18: Embodiment, Experience and War: Methodological Challenges and Reflections
  11. WC19: Do We Know Gender in Peacebuilding? (I) Gender Mainstreaming and UNSCR 1325
  12. WC40: Girls, Gender and the Post-2015 Global Development Agenda
  13. WC60: Women in Conflict: Perspectives
  14. WD02: FTGS Eminent Scholar Panel Honoring Shirin M. Rai
  15. WD08: New Thinking on Religions and Civilizations in World Politics
  16. WD52: Representation and Practice: Bodies, Borders and Orders of Security
  17. WD58: Living Globalisation: Female Academics at Home and Abroad

Thursday

  1. TA10: What’s Wrong with a Singular World?
  2. TA11: Gendering International Organisations
  3. TA 22: Race And International Relaons: A Debate Around John Hobson’s “The Eurocentric Conception Of World Politics”
  4. TA30: Borders and Belonging: Gender, Nation, Ethnicity in Transnational Relations
  5. TA29: roundtable on “(Everyday) Sexism in the Academy: Stories & Strategies”
  6. TA38: roundtable: Does Russell Brand Have A Point, Or Does Being Cheeky Count As Revolution?
  7. TA50: The End of Militarized Masculinity? Global Perspectives on Gender and Traveling Concepts
  8. TA51: Is the Personal-National Globally Political? Theorizing the International Diffusion of LGBTQ Rights
  9. TA69 Claiming a Voice: Politics in a World of Inequality.
  10. TB30 Presidential Theme Panel – Feminist International Relations Today: A Discipline Transformed?
  11. TB50: Global Feminist IR
  12. TC02 Race and Racism in International Relations
  13. TC06: Presidential Theme Panel – How The Search For ‘Non-Western IR’ Led To A Reflection Of The ‘Self’: (Un)Learning IR In And Beyond The Classroom
  14. TC07: Globalizing International Studies Pedagogies
  15. TC16: Gender and Human Rights, 1:45pm
  16. TC21: Art as Subject, Art as Method
  17. TC56: Decolonial Methodologies: Critiques and Experiences from the Fieldwork
  18. TC72: Critical Friends and De(Con)Structure Critics: How Should Feminist Academics Engage with Global Institutions?
  19. TD09: IR’s Eurocentric Limitations TD21: roundtable on “After Deepwater Horizon: Rebuilding Indigenous Communities After the BP Gulf Oil Disaster”
  20. TD14: Colonial Legacies and Decolonizing Trajectories
  21. TD33: Making Sense of Emotions, Politics and War
  22. TD52: Global Human Trafficking and Gender
  23. TD57: Global Masculinities in a Transnational World

Friday

  1. FA13: Conceptualising the Use of Sexual Violence and Rape in War
  2. FA22: Do Something: Activism, Responsibility and the Politics of ‘Helping’
  3. FA47: Gendering the Global Political Economy
  4. FB10: Presidential Theme Panel: Decolonizing the Western Academy: Postcolonial Challenges to Global IR
  5. FB27: LGBT Issues and Diffusion
  6. FB34: Queering/Querying Global Political Economy
  7. FC01: Angela Davis honored as IPE section’s 2015 Outstanding Activist Scholar in New Orleans. (co-chaired by J. Ann Tickner and Hasmet M. Uluorta. More information will be coming shortly. If you have any questions please contact Hasmet — huluorta@trentu.ca )
  8. FC19: Deconstructing Silence and Agency in Sites of Insecurity
  9. FC26: Political Engagement and Political Alternatives in The Age of Austerity In Europe
  10. FC27: Queering Global Politics: Destabilization or Disciplinarity
  11. FC39 Presidential Theme Panel: Three Decades of Worlding IR: A roundtable Retrospective
  12. FC55: Addressing Gender-Based Violence: Issues and Responses
  13. FC57: Presidential Theme Panel “Postcolonialism, Race And IR: War, Capitalism, Segregation, Tribes, Literature”
  14. FC72: Women in Conflict: Agency and Human Security
  15. FC74: Sex Gender Violence Desire?
  16. FD36: Queering IR Theory
  17. FD37 Presidential Theme Panel/Global Development Distinguished Scholar Panel in Honors of Prof. Pal Ahluwalia
  18. FD56: Presidential Theme Panel – W.E.B. Du Bois: The Global Color Line And North American IR
  19. FD57: Making Bodies International
  20. FD59: Gender-Based Violence in ‘War’ and ‘Peace’

Saturday

  1. SA07: Regional Institution Building In Comparative Perspective
  2. SA25: The Global Dead (II): Mourning, Suffering, Witnessing
  3. SA31: Economic Development and Women’s (Dis)Empowerment
  4. SA41: Art Matters: On the Aesthetics of Violence, Death and Memory
  5. SA61: Queer Theory and the International
  6. SA72: International Relations as the Crossroads of the Global and the Local
  7. SB17: Beyond Biopolitics and Risk in Post 9/11 Critical Scholarship: The Affective Politics of the War on Terror and Beyond
  8. SB47: Masculinities, Militarism and Feminist Security Studies
  9. SB43: Bodies In/And/Of/For Global Health
  10. SB54: Sexualised Violence, Surveillance and New Security Technologies
  11. SB57: Presidential Theme Panel – 34 Ways To Say “International Relations”: The Teaching, Research And Interna

CFP – Global Crises / Capitalist Expressions: Critical Connections

***CFP for a panel***

Title: Global Crises / Capitalist Expressions: Critical Connections

Where: EISA 9th Pan-European Conference, Sicily, 23-26 September 2015

Abstract: What are the ways that relations of global capitalism can be made intelligible through analyses of various “crises”? This panel seeks to develop the analysis of contemporary capital by way of capturing its expressions, or effects, in a range of contemporary global crises (economic, environmental, epidemic, colonial, militaristic, etc.). We hope to highlight different iterations of global capitalism through its intrinsic tendency to crisis, and by doing so, to underscore the possibilities of a variety approaches to the critique of capitalism. Thus, we invite papers addressing a breadth of potential sites and scenes of contemporary capitalism’s globality, from those involving more immediately situated struggles over the limits it places on everyday material existence to more widely-scaled analyses, focusing on the governmental and governmentalizing dynamics of globalization itself. Gathering these various approaches together, this panel will be an opportunity to explore the stakes of global capitalist discourse and practice as it advances norms of market-based existence, individual responsibility, flexible partnership and resilience, all the while beset by the aporias of uneven development, financialization, war profiteering, corporate welfare, and the reckless extraction and consumption of resources.

For more info, contact Nicholas Kiersey (at the address on this website) or Garnet Kindervater. Submissions no later than Monday, September 29, please.