The Onuf Principles

Nicholas Onuf recently gave an interview over at e-IR. Several people of our acquaintance shared the tail-end of that, in which he is prompted to dispense career advice. Although opinions are indeed like assholes, these are good enough to elevate far above the gutter.


Original image by Stéphanie Saramago

Original image by Stéphanie Saramago

1. Preparing at length for classes does not make you a better teacher. Insofar as it dampens spontaneity, students will think you are boring; this will undercut the self-confidence you thought your lengthy preparations had purchased for you. And, of course, it steals valuable time from your scholarship.

2. Writing is a craft; writing well takes most of us a great deal of work. The usual practice is to think of a problem or issue, formulate a project, do ‘research,’ and then write it up. Bad idea. Keep writing at every stage, even if, in the end, you throw out most of what you have written. Writing makes the problem clearer, points up what more you need to do in the way of research, and, most of all, keeps your writing skills well-honed.

3. Don’t send sloppy, badly crafted papers out for review. As a frequent referee, I see them all too often. Many referees will punish you, not always consciously, for doing so, even if they think you are on to something. Once you think you have a well-crafted piece of work, do send it out, because most referees and editors take their duties seriously and will give you valuable feedback.

4. Be cautious about taking on collaborative projects. We all know that scholarship is a lonely occupation. Collaboration reduces the loneliness quotient and can result in better work than any of the collaborators could have produced on their own. It can also result in a piece of work that no one is entirely happy with. Sometimes collaboration causes damaging tension and bad feelings because of temperamental differences, greater or lesser commitment to the project, and perceived inequities in the distribution of work. All that said, collaborating with my brother on two book projects was hugely rewarding. That it might have been hugely risky never occurred to us.

5. Be even more cautious in participating in symposium projects. Their thematic foci may not match your interests very well; they tend to be superficially refereed and thus are not taken seriously; they also tend to disappear quickly from view. There are exceptions—symposia that mark major developments in the field—but you’ll have a pretty good idea if a particular symposium project has that potential. As a senior scholar, I contribute to symposia because it is fun to do projects with friends and I can afford the luxury. Most of all, avoid editing symposium volumes. This involves collaboration under the most difficult conditions. It is extraordinarily time consuming. Wrangling recalcitrant contributors is too often a thankless and disheartening responsibility.

6. Do not take on too many projects at one time. You will spread yourself too thin, miss deadlines, and make it all the more likely that you will succumb to the 90% rule—you run out of steam when any given project is 90% done and only needs some fine-tuning to be sent off. You will end up with a drawer full of nearly done projects that you have progressively lost interest in and will therefore never finish.

7. Dissertations are apprentice projects, immediately recognisable as such. Turning a dissertation into a book is probably the smart thing to do, but it will often take longer than writing the dissertation did. For most of us, it takes five years to write a good book; World of Our Making took me ten years. Whether you have that much time, institutionally speaking, is another matter.

8. Read every day. When I get up in the morning (early) and get my coffee, I read for 45 minutes. In my case, it has always been something that I do not have to read for whatever I am doing at the time. While this has broadened me immeasurably, for many scholars, a fixed time for reading is an opportunity — perhaps the only opportunity — to keep up on the literature in the field.

9. Whether to jump on a trend in the field’s scholarship, try anticipating a trend, come late to a trend but treat it critically, jump around from thing to thing, or plug away at something few others seem to be interested in is a tricky question, having much to do with temperament. It requires you to ask yourself how ambitious you are, how much you need validation from others, how long you can stayed focused on one thing, et cetera.

10. On the assumption that you are smarter than most people (or you would not be a scholar), seek out people whom you know to be smarter than you in various obvious ways. On the one hand, the more of these people you know, the less intimidating you will find them, and the more you will learn from them. On the other hand, knowing really smart people will remind you of your own limitations and help you be less arrogant. Arrogance is, of course, a constant hazard in our line of work.

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.

Pre-Election Facebook Rants, #652

Posted without comment; thanks James Sadri.

<rant> What I used to dislike about the Iranian elections is what I dislike about all national elections today: they’re all fake. There is a choice but it’s not a meaningful one. With the Iranian elections the argument would be: Ahmadinejad or Karroubi/Mousavi, it doesn’t matter, the real power is with Khamenei the Supreme Leader. So you can elect the Iranian President but you can’t elect the Supreme Leader. Well that’s the situation we’ve all got today, even in the US. There is a Supreme Leader casting a long shadow over every national ‘democratic’ process. You can vote for Obama/Romney, Cameron/Brown/Clegg – whoever – but those are all fake choices, where you’re always choosing between the lesser of two evils, never for the world you really want. You can’t vote to stop 20,000 kids dying today because of lack of access to clean water. You can’t vote to stop all war. You can’t vote for people to have the same freedom of movement regardless of where they’re born. You can’t vote to stop extreme disparities of wealth. You can’t vote to stop climate change. That’s because if you do any of these things at the national level you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Increase labour protection or environmental regulation and the factories and cash will go to our enemies. Increase foreign ‘aid’ and it means less for our struggling people. Try to cap carbon emissions and you’re killing business competitiveness. Our Supreme Leader is national competition. We sacrifice the societies we really want to build – peaceful, harmonious, more equal ones – for violent dysfunctional ones that are hopefully slightly richer than those across the map lines. Nobody seems to question the race to the bottom – we seem only to be focused on being the fastest zombies. The world has globalised yet our politics remains pitifully – pathetically – parochial. So while I’ll be hoping that Romney doesn’t win tomorrow, I’m going to remember that there’s a Supreme Leader out there who’s pissing on all your national elections. And he doesn’t have a beard. </rant>

Queerly Global Politics: Some Events

Normal blogging service soon to be resumed. In the meantime, two gender and world politics events of note. First, on Friday 2 November, a roundtable on gender, militarisation and violence at LSE, featuring Cynthia Enloe, Aaron Belkin, Kim Hutchings,and others. It will be excellent. Second, the call for papers for the 2nd International Feminist Journal of Politics is out. The conference is a way away (17-19 May 2013 at the University of Sussex), but early paper/panel submissions are encouraged. Details below the model military aesthetic.

(Im)possibly Queer International Feminisms

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. Send abstracts (250 words) to: Joanna Wood (j.c.wood [at] sussex.ac.uk)

Deadline for submissions: 31 January 2013

A Magical Anti-Rape Secretion

Todd Akin (R-MO) says that doctors told him that women can’t get pregnant from rape. The doctor in question was presumably Onesipherous W. Bartley, whose 1815 A Treaties on Forensic Medicine or Medical Jurisprudence explained that conception:

must depend on the exciting passion that predominates; to this effect the oestrum/veneris must be excited to such a degree as to produce that mutual orgasm which is essentially necessary to impregnation; if any desponding or depressing passion presides, this will not be accomplished. (via)

At least we know how up to date a certain kind of Republican is on the medical literature. Aaron ‘zunguzungu’ Bady offers a less generous, but surely more astute, diagnosis:

The thing about a chucklehead like Rep. Akins is that he doesn’t actually care whether or not women have a magical anti-rape secretion in their body that makes conception less likely. That’s the whole point: his right not to have to worry about it. If you look at his entire statement, for example, you’ll notice that his foray into weird science was tangential to his main point, which was, simply, punish the criminal not the child. And this is more or less orthodox GOP doctrine, which has the hammer of law enforcement and looks for nails: solve the problem of rape by hammering the criminal, and make abortion into a crime, so you can hammer that too. But this simple-minded approach stumbles when it runs into the problem of the rape-victim: how to have empathy for the victim (because “victim’s rights” is a central pillar of the law and order approach) while also criminalizing her if she gets an abortion? How to insulate her choice to get an abortion from the contingency she did not control, and could not have chosen?

As many have pointed out, then, the first imperative is to make it her choice, and therefore her fault. But there’s still he cognitive dissonance of a rape victim forced to have the child of a rapist, something that doesn’t sit at all easily in the mind of a right wing family-and-police; she’s still a problem, and a thorny one. And so, a simple answer, for a simple mind: she does not exist. He argues that the rape victim who is impregnated is a fantasy of people who want to make the whole thing complicated and difficult, with their “ethics” and “problems,” and so he invents a “doctors told me” story to make it make sense, to explain how what seems complicated is actually simple. But the fact that he’s just making shit up, that women’s body’s aren’t Nature’s Own Anti-Rape Kit, is irrelevant; when you believe in the super-sufficiency of simple laws (and in The Law), problem-cases just become nails to be hammered down or ignored, while “facts” are nothing more that the warrant for doing so.