Bluster By The Bay, ISA 2013 Edition

Academic DuckNext week, the massed ranks of global IR will descend on San Francisco Bay. There will be congregation, dispute, commiseration, boorishness, ingratiation, laughter, inebriation and the occasional sparkling insight. There will also be the first ever International Studies Blogging Reception, co-constituted by Sage and Duck Of Minerva. It will be on the Thursday, in Yosemite A, at 7.30pm. There will be prizes (we were nominated for some) and some speechifying, and also drinks. So come to that, do.

We’ll also be doing various turns of our own. The list is a bit long (we’re clearly an over-active bunch), but we’re on panels with names like ‘Advancing Post-Colonial Approaches to World Politics’, ‘Inquiry as Invention: Bringing Stories to Tell’ and ‘Vulnerability and Ethics in Global Politics’. So Ctrl-F us in the programme and say hi afters. We’ll also be doing our usual ‘What We Talked About At ISA’ thing, so there’s really no danger of missing out on our assembled wit/wisdom. Hope to see some or many of you there, and don’t forget Megan MacKenzie’s ISA guide. The advice is pitched at grad students, but is pretty sound all round. That said, rules are also for the breaking, so don’t forget to enjoy it.

In Praise of Question Marks: Reflections on ‘Critical Methodologies: Narrative Voice and the Writing of the Political – The Limits of Language’

Jennifer RigganThe sixth post on critical methodologies and narrative, by Jennifer Riggan. Jennifer is an Assistant Professor of International Studies in the Department of Historical and Political Studies at Arcadia University, where she began teaching in 2007.  She holds a Ph.D. from the Education, Culture and Society program at the University of Pennsylvania, where she received training in political and educational anthropology and African Studies. Her ethnographic research addresses a variety of issues including nationalism, citizenship, state formation, militarism, development, and education. She has published on the changing relationship between citizenship and nationalism and on the de-coupling of the nation and the state. She is currently working on a project entitled The Teacher State: Militarization and the Reeducation of the Nation in Eritrea which explores the role of teachers in state-making in the east African nation of EritreaThis research has been funded by a Fulbright research fellowship, a Social Science Research Council International Dissertation Field Research Fellowship and a Spencer/National Academy of Education Postdoctoral Fellowship. Dr. Riggan earned a B.A. in English from Trinity College in 1992 and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Eritrea from 1995 to 1997.


Alienation

I show up at the workshop on October 26th, not quite sure what to expect. I have gone through the ritual preparations for a conference. I have crafted a carefully cultivated appearance—professional, but not formal attire. Light makeup, hair blown dry, hopefully neat but not overly coifed. Glancing around the room, I’d say many of us have made the same preparations. This is a conference. We all know how to perform ourselves for this venue. The ritual is familiar to us. Notebooks at the ready. Cups of coffee in our grips. A firm handshake of greeting when we meet someone. A socially acceptable hug or kiss if we know someone well. Small talk about our institutions, our research, our teaching. Occasionally our children make a brief appearance in the conversation. When we sit down to introduce ourselves, my voice emerges from my mouth, confident and assertive. I hear myself speak and I don’t recognise the sound, even less the tone. How certain this person sounds, I think, I could be convinced by this person.

For me, the ritual is essential to make me believe in the performance. After all, I have no idea why I’m here and I assume, as usual, that some mistake was made when they invited me. Do they really know who I am? The preparatory rituals, the carefully calibrated appearance, the performance of being academic acts as a talisman against someone pointing the finger at you and crying, “imposter!” I say it to myself all the time. But in an odd form of ritual alchemy, I become what I perform. I fake it until I make it and then I actually believe in this ‘I’ that I barely recognized a moment before. I have become the performance. But when I get lost in my performance, where have I actually gone?

Question Marks

We are here to talk about stories. Some of us tell stories. Some of us make arguments about stories. Stories, like academic rituals, are performances. Are they any less alienating than the ritualization of self? The most honest of us raise questions about stories or tell stories that ask questions. Himadeep Muppidi’s poignant and simple assertion, “empire tells amazing stories,” has stayed with me since that day like a song whose words you can’t get out of your head. We are all penetrated by the empire’s stories. They make us cry and fill us with pride or righteous indignation. They have answers. But how do we tell stories that perform less and question more? This is hard to do in a world, and a profession, that prefers periods or exclamation points to question marks. Our language limits us. What is the point of a question without an answer? What do we become in the absence of our performances of certainty?

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Rethinking Masculinity and Practices of Violence

The modified text of an introduction written with Marsha Henry for our special issue of International Feminist Journal of Politics on ‘Rethinking Masculinity and Practices of Violence in Conflict Settings’ (trailed here), which came out in December 2012. The full text of the issue is currently freely available. I don’t know for how long, so get to it!


Join the Navy - The Service for Fighting Men

Why rethink masculinity and conflict? After all, the connection of men and masculinities to organised (and seemingly unorganised) violence has been subject to considerable academic scrutiny over the last decades, not least as part of the feminist critique of disciplinary International Relations. It is now increasingly common to both note the unequal character of gendered violence (it is predominantly men who do the killing and the maiming) and to stress the contingent and sometimes paradoxical status of this situation (women kill and maim too, and the content of ‘man’ and ‘woman’ varies significantly over time, space and context). The analysis of gender within global politics has also moved beyond the level of the state and war to interrogate the full spectrum of social life, from popular culture to political economy. And yet elite institutions still prove stubbornly resistant to teaching gender, feminism and sexuality within ‘the international’, despite introductory texts which increasingly offer such insights to the curious student.

Although you wouldn’t know it from some of the caricatures in circulation, feminist and gender scholars write often of multiplicity in masculinities, of varied and shifting constructions of gendered agency, and of representations of violence as themselves constitutive of gender, rather than merely reflective of a pre-existing distribution of essences. Some, like Melanie McCarry, have become rather sceptical of this situation, warning that the actions and power of men themselves are obscured in the consensus that there are many masculinities. In other words that multiplicity, discourse and construction are not advances in theory, but ways of displacing responsibility away from concrete male perpetrators. At the same time as they direct attention to the material practices of men such criticisms also tend to gloss over rich and situated examples of critical theorising along exactly those lines. A different brand of critic has sometimes suggested that feminism may be incapable of properly analysing the variety of gendered experiences in conflict. But here too, a comprehensive history of the field instead reveals many close and nuanced considerations of men and women at war.

Nevertheless, ambiguities do persist in the way feminist and gender scholars describe and account for masculinity. Against this background, a number of problems come into sharper focus. First, how are masculinities and violences connected in specific locations of power? Second, how do these connections play out internationally, in the interactions between political communities, however understood? Third, just how related are gendered identities to fighting, killing and dying in conflict settings? And fourth, how do the complexities of violence situated in this way reflect back onto theorising about gendered hierarchy and difference?

Some of these questions are more familiar than others, but the collection of articles presented in our special issue of International Feminist Journal of Politics substantially addresses them all (I know, get us, right?). Continue reading

Sour Lips: A Review

Anyone who followed the controversy over the fictitious Gay Girl in Damascus blog, created by Edinburgh-based US graduate student Tom MacMaster writing as Amina Arraf, might have despaired of the prospects of subalterns speaking for themselves. Female, lesbian, Arab, and an anti-Assad protester, MacMaster’s Amina quickly became a posterchild of the Arab Spring for a wide swath of the liberal media and activist blogosphere. For those cognizant of contemporary critiques of homonationalism against the backdrop of pervasive homophobia, Amina’s dispatches from the frontline seemed a perfect embodiment of left liberal fantasies about the possibilities for progressive sexual politics in a time of revolution. Yet if critics such as Joseph Massad have been accused of dismissing subjects who don’t conform to their theoretical predilections, the Amina hoax gestured at an opposite, if no less insidious, temptation: that of desperately seeking subjects who confirmed theoretical utopia.

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Prizes Will Be Had!: The 2013 Sussex International Theory Award

Idea stolen from here.

Idea stolen from here.

Prize Call
Sussex International Theory Prize

The Centre for Advanced International Theory invites nominations for the 2013 Sussex International Theory Prize for the best piece of research in International Relations published in book or article form in 2012. The recipient will be invited to present their research in a Public Lecture at the University of Sussex and will also receive £150 worth of books from Cambridge University Press and a two-year print and online subscription to International Theory.

In 2011, the Centre for Advanced International Theory (CAIT) was established by the Department of International Relations within the School of Global Studies, University of Sussex. The core mission of the Centre is to support and disseminate innovative fundamental research in international theory.

To this end, the Sussex International Theory Prize is awarded annually for the best piece of innovative theoretical research in International Relations. Last year’s Prize was awarded to Helen M. Kinsella (University of Madison-Wisconsin) for her book, The Image Before the Weapon: a Critical History of the Distinction between Combatant and Civilian (Cornell University Press, 2011).

In the autumn of 2013, the prize will be awarded for the best piece of research published in book or article form in 2012.

Prize Details

Eligibility:

  • The work should be in International Relations, broadly conceived – including sub-fields
  • The work must have been published in 2012: judged by copyright date

Submission/Nomination:

  • The award is made annually on the basis of nominations by individuals, publishers and peers.
  • Nominations should take the form of a statement of less than 200 words on why the work could be considered the best piece of innovative theoretical research in International Relations, from the previous year.
  • Nominators (including publishers) are limited to one submission.
  • If the nomination is for an article, the published version should be attached as a PDF document to the email nomination
  • If the nomination is for a book, it is the nominator’s responsibility to contact the publisher and request that five copies of the title be sent by the nomination deadline to Centre for Advanced International Theory, Department of International Relations, University of Sussex, Falmer, East Sussex, BN1 9SJ, UK.
  • Nominations can be made by email submission through to 2nd April 2013 to the CAIT Administrator, Joanna Wood (cait@sussex.ac.uk). Nominated books must also arrive by this date.
  • The recipient will be notified in June 2013.

Prize:

  • The recipient will be invited to present his/her research in the public Prize Lecture at the University of Sussex.
  • The winner receives £150 worth of books from Cambridge University Press and a two-year print and online subscription to International Theory.

(Im)Possibly Queer International Feminisms

Wehrmacht DragWe’ve previously mentioned the 2013 International Feminist Journal of Politics annual conference – on the topic of ‘(Im)Possibly Queer International Feminisms’. It turns out that there is extra reason to trumpet its existence: our very own Rahul Rao (author these excellent posts) will be one of the conference keynotes, alongside such others as Lisa Duggan (NYU), Jon Binnie (Manchester Met), Vivienne Jabri (Kings), V. Spike Peterson (Arizona), Laura Sjoberg (Florida), Rosalind GaltAkshay Khanna, and Louiza Odysseos (all Sussex)! A lot of other exciting papers will be on display, some of which I’ll be associated with. And there’s also a pre-conference workshop on Queer, Feminist and Social Media Praxis. Clearly not an occasion to miss.

The full call is as follows:

(Im)possibly Queer International Feminisms

The 2nd Annual IFjP Conference
May 17-19, 2013
University of Sussex, Brighton, England

The aim of this conference is to serve as a forum for developing and discussing papers that IFjP hopes to publish.  These can be on the conference theme or on any other feminist IR-related questions.

Feminists taught us that the personal is political.  International Relations feminists taught us that the personal is international.  And contemporary Queer Scholars are teaching us that the international is queer.  While sometimes considered in isolation, these insights are connected in complex and sometimes contradictory ways. This conference seeks to bring together scholars and practitioners to critically consider the limits and possibilities of thinking, doing, and being in relation to various assemblages composed of queer(s), international(s), and feminism(s).

Questions we hope to consider include:  Who or what is/are (im)possibly queer, (im)possibly international, (im)possibly feminist, separately and in combination?  What makes assemblages of queer(s), international(s) and feminism(s) possible or impossible?  Are such assemblages desirable – for whom and for what reasons?  What might these assemblages make possible or impossible, especially for the theory and practice of global politics?

We are interested in papers and panels that explore these questions through theoretical and/or practical perspectives, be they interdisciplinary or located within the discipline of International Relations.

Sub-themes include (Im)Possibly Queer/International/Feminist:

  • Heteronormativities/Homonormativities/Homonationalisms
  • Embodiments/Occupations/Economies/Circulations
  • Temporalities/‘Successes’/‘Failures’
  • Emotions/Desires/Psycho-socialities
  • Technologies/Methodologies/Knowledges/Epistemologies
  • Spaces/Places/Borders/(Trans)positionings
  • States/Sovereignties/Subjectivities
  • Crossings/Migrations/Trans(gressions)
  • (In)Securities

We invite submissions for individual papers or pre-constituted panels on any topic pertaining to the conference theme and sub-themes. We also welcome papers and panels that consider any other feminist IR-related questions.

Any inquiries should be addressed to the conference coordinator, Joanna Wood, at cait@sussex.ac.uk

Abstracts should be no more than 250 words.

Deadline for submissions: January 31, 2013

We will, however, confirm acceptance of submissions before the deadline if we receive abstracts early.  Early submission is therefore recommended.

Please submit your abstract here.

Dr El-Khairy, I Presume?

We’re on a roll now. On Friday, Omar became the fourth of us to ascend the greased pole of academic accreditation since we began cultivating this little corner of the internet. Forever more to be known as Dr El-Khairy, his burgeoning cultural insurgency notwithstanding. The work in question? American Statecraft for a Global Digital Age: Warfare, Diplomacy and Culture in a Segregated World. And who said it was good enough? Faisal Devji and Eyal Weizman, actually. So there. And I have promises in writing that he will be telling us more about it all real soon.