The End Of IR Theory As We Know It…

A guest post on the state of International Relations from Felix Berenskoetter. Felix is Lecturer in International Relations at SOAS, University of London. He holds a PhD from the LSE and works on theories and concepts in IR; politics of space and time; critical approaches to European Security, and dynamics of friendship and estrangement in transatlantic relations. Felix has published articles in various journals, is a former editor of Millennium and co-editor of Power in World Politics (Routledge, 2007). He is also co-founder and current chair of the ISA Theory Section.


In case you missed it, recent ISA and BISA conferences saw panels contemplating whether ‘IR Theory’ has come to an end. This question, posed by the editors of EJIR, was discussed by a range of distinguished scholars whose answers ranged from ‘yes’ to ‘no’, in the process reflecting on the meaning of ‘theory’ and ‘end’. While state of the art exercises can be tiring, the contributions will be worth reading when they appear in an EJIR special issue later this year.

Yet I could not help wondering what the answers would have been had the panels featured not established professors, but junior scholars at the start of their career. Indeed, would it not be more adequate to have the latter group engage this question? After all, they tend to be the ones teaching introductory IR courses, which are expected to give an overview of theoretical arguments and debates. And they enter the profession with a significant research project under their belt (the PhD), which informs their first wave of publications and likely influences future projects that will shape the field. So what does that generation think of ‘IR Theory’? What theories and what kind of theorizing is prevalent in their teaching and writing? Continue reading

How is Rape a Weapon of War?

This post summarises a piece for the European Journal of International Relations just published online. An inconsequentially different pre-publication version is also available for anyone unable to breach the pay wall.

UPDATE (8 March): Sage have kindly made the full EJIR paper open access until early April, so you can now get it directly that way too.


I’m sure you have reasons
A rational defence
Weapons and motives
Bloody fingerprints
But I can’t help thinking
It’s still all disease.

Fugazi, ‘Argument’ (2001)

‘Weapon of War’ could be many explanations and I’m not sure of any of them.

UNHCR official, Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, June 2010

1. War Rape in the Feminist Imaginary

Rape is a weapon of war. Such is the refrain of practically all contemporary academic research, political advocacy and media reporting on wartime sexual violence. Once considered firmly outside the remit of foreign policy, rape is today labelled as a ‘tactic of war’ by US Secretaries of State who pledge to eradicate it and acknowledged as a war crime and constituent act of genocide at the highest levels of international law and global governance, a development which for some amounts to the ‘international criminalization of rape’. This idea of rape as a weapon of war has a distinctly feminist heritage. Opposed to the historical placement of gendered violence within the hidden realm of the private, feminist scholarship was the first to draw out the connections between sexual violence and the history of war, just as feminists fought to make rape in times of nominal peace a matter for public concern. Feminist academics have, then, pioneered a view of sexual violence as a form of social power characterised by the operations and dynamics of gender. Sexual violence under feminist inquiry is thus politicised, and forced into the public sphere.

But the consensus that rape is a weapon of war obscures important, and frequently unacknowledged, differences in our ways of understanding and explaining it. Continue reading

Beneath The University, The (Digital) Commons

UPDATE (8 September): In the comments, Lee Jones reminds me of the Directory of Open Access Journals, which gives some more info on existing outlets. Monbiot also tweeted details of a petition to make all publicly-funded research available for free within a year of publication, which you should sign (yes, I know it’s just a petition, but start somewhere OK?)


1. Any time someone puts a lock on something that belongs to you, and doesn’t give you a key, the lock is not there for your benefit;

2. It’s hard to monetise fame, but it’s impossible to monetise obscurity;

3. Information doesn’t want to be free. People do.

Despite the focus on the artist and her output, Cory Doctorow’s three propositions for understanding copyright against creativity also speak to the products of the university (and both videos are worth watching). In short, the addition of copyright ‘protection’ to your work acts to restrict it, doesn’t actually drive higher resources to artists, and can’t really work in practice, thus requiring extending circles of criminalisation and monitoring. Contemporary copyright is a way of creating an obstacle course, one where the people who put in the work of limiting access are also the ones who you pay down the line for the access. In short, “they have created a problem that they know how to solve, and it works for them”.

In July, Aaron Swartz was charged under US federal hacking laws for downloading more than a few academic articles via MIT. It was about 4.8 million papers, since you ask. Wired reports that the penalty for this may amount to 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Worse, there is some evidence that the prosecution is being driven by the state rather than JSTOR alone. He’s due in court this Thursday. After some germination, both George Monbiot and Ben Goldacre have entered the fray with astute and biting pieces on the profitable stupidity of these arrangements and their detrimental impact on the free exchange of knowledge, scientific progress, the public good, etcetera.

The problems of intellectual property and who gets to profit from it are general, but the scandal is in the specificity of different productive spheres. After all, an artist is not like a university lecturer.

Continue reading