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

Dr Sabaratnam, I Presume?

Hot on Roberto’s heels, and the third of us to achieve doctorhood since the inception of The Disorder Of Things, our very own Meera today survived the critical questioning of Robbie Shilliam and Christopher Cramer. She is henceforth Dr Sabaratnam, certified by virtue of her thesis: Re-Thinking the Liberal Peace: Anti-Colonial Thought and Post-War Intervention in Mozambique. For the record, I’m assured that any violence inflicted was purely intellectual.

Dr Roccu, I Presume?

The second of us to achieve doctorhood since the inception of The Disorder Of Things, our very own Roberto this afternoon survived interrogation by Charles Tripp and Toby Dodge to become a fully certified Doctor of Philosophy in International Relations. His thesis being entitled Gramsci in Cairo: Neoliberal Authoritarianism, Passive Revolution and Failed Hegemony in Mubarak’s Egypt, 1991-2010. Timely and on trend, awarded sans corrections.

Affect! Biopolitics! Technology! Ecology!: A Call for Papers

A brief pre-holiday announcement of the next Millennium annual conference, to be convened on the theme of Materialism and World Politics. Full details below the fold. The range of suggested topics looks both fascinating and much-needed, and I am assured by well-placed sources that there will also be some stellar speakers, for those who are tempted by such things. As always, papers submitted in the wake of the conference which survive the rigours of peer review will be published in a resulting special issue (Vol. 41, No. 3). Also, don’t forget about the Northedge Essay Competition (deadline 30 January 2012).

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Rewriting International Relations

A small cascade of Millennium-related news and IR from Elsewhere. First, our very own Nick was recently elected as Co-Editor (with Edmund H. Arghand and Maria Fotou) to oversee the journal for Volume 41 (2012-2013) on the basis of a conference proposal on ‘Materialism and World Politics’ (full CfP details forthcoming soon). Second, the Millennium blog has had a facelift (ongoing tweaks to be made to its façade), so go have a look.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, the Northedge Essay Competition is now open. So if you’re a post-graduate student (PhD or advanced Masters) in IR or cognate fields, and you have some exceptional work lying fallow, spruce it up and submit. The deadline is 30 January 2012, and the winning essay will appear in Millennium 41(1). Previous winners have been very good indeed.

Fifth, the journal’s social media tentacles are growing, so do the following thing on Twitter and the liking thing on Facebook, if you are of that bent. Finally, a reminder that Millennium‘s weekly Editorial Board meetings are open to all LSE postgraduates (MSc and PhD) who are engaged and interested. If you fit that description and for some reason aren’t already involved, do email the Editors for details.

Elsewhere, BISA’s Historical Sociology and IR Working Group also has a new look, and a particularly awesome and growing resources page. And there’s now an Occupy IR Theory blog and associated hashtag (#occupyirtheory, natch), which is worth both a virtual engagement and a flesh-world contribution. Similarly, if for any reason you are unaware of David Campbell’s blog on visual culture and international politics, rectify yourselves!

Human Rights In Crisis?

UPDATE (8 September 2014): Anthony is now with us permanently, but originally wrote this as a guest post after a stint as a Senior Visiting Fellow at the LSE in 2010, where most of us met him. It was in London that he presented an early version of this argument to the IR theory seminar. A response by our own Joe followed shortly afterwards.


One should not judge a book by its cover, but it is certainly possible to get some sense of the state of a field of study on the basis of the titles of recent books. In the case of the study of human rights, this is quite an interesting exercise: at a time when many claim that human rights proponents have never had it better – the term now has great political respectability and legitimacy; human rights NGOs are thriving; the study of human rights takes place in all the great centres of learning and is taken seriously by previously sceptical disciplines (philosophy, anthropology, international relations). At such a time, one of apparent triumph, there has been a spate of titles which give precisely the opposite impression.

Can human rights survive? What is the future for human rights? Who believes in human rights? Does God believe in human rights? At least two titles claim that human rights are in crisis with one of these playing telos off against demise in questioning the end of human rights. This theme is continued with the important but ironic idea that human rights have been silenced – ironic and paradoxical given their loud presence in all manner of global fora. For many, the success of human rights is a triumph of appearance over substance, and what is often most disturbing to commentators (apart from the obvious hypocrisies of human rights politics) is the absence of a coherent theoretical basis for human rights – a question which in turn can only really be answered by going back to more basic questions regarding the idea of justice.

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Grayling’s Eminence; Or, For That Kind Of Money, I Would Demand A Team Of Live-In, Round-The-Clock Tutors, Ready To Fill Me In About Renaissance Art Or Logical Positivism At The Snap Of A Finger.


I do feel somewhat sorry for A.C. Grayling. Following his sudden exit from the Birkbeck scene, former colleagues sent a short but apt letter to The Guardian, expressing appropriate levels of dismay and resistance to the innovation of the New College of the Humanities. They raised basically two objections. First, that the New College is for-profit, substituting the business of teaching in place of the vocation of research. And second, that it is in the ‘vanguard’ of efforts to link education to wealth, partly via a leaching of public resources.

Although many prominent names were used to unveil New College, few seem in sight now that it is under sustained attack (Peter Singer, where are you?). And Grayling, somewhat to his credit, keeps replying to the antiquated nay-sayers desperately clinging to the sinking ship of public provision. Perhaps the fullest public defence has come in response to the Birkbeck letter. Although garlanded by academic niceties (“with respect”; “I would be very grateful”), the ultimate conclusion is that his critics lack some basic faculties of reason: “I have seen only an emotional case for scapegoating our project”.

Surely, then, there are firm responses to the proliferating critiques? Grayling’s fuller case for New College turns primarily on the idea that students are being under-charged rather than over-charged. The relevant comparisons? That an MSc in Finance at LSE for an overseas student costs almost £26,000 (with many other programmes charging in the £15-21,000 range) and that a DPhil in cardiovascular medicine at Oxford will set you back nearly £27,000 if you’re not from the EU. The point being that high fees for some already subsidise lower fees for others. Now, you’ll notice what has been done here: £18,000 for an undergraduate degree for all students is being justified on the grounds that you can find a handful of prominent programmes elsewhere that charge more than this for masters programmes for non-EU students.

As an argument for justice it has some merits (Why the disparity here? What are the ‘real’ costs of educating a doctor or financial specialist?). But as a defence of New College as prosaic rather than parasitic it doesn’t stand up to much. And I’m sure there’s a latin term for this kind of fallacy. A direct comparison with liberal arts funding in the US would have offered us more, but that would have required admitting that there is something new about the New College in the UK setting. You’ll recall that, before people starting off letting flares at Grayling’s talks, this was very much the selling point of New College. Its online welcome still announces: “New College of the Humanities is a new concept in university-level education”.

Lots of the new then, which makes it worth thinking through some of the older ideas of the university, as Steve Fuller did so wonderfully back in February. But there is something yet more damning in Grayling’s reply. He says that his project can’t be vanguardist. In a repeat of the AHRC debacle, apparently bright people conclude that you can’t be complicit if the Minister didn’t call you directly and tell you to do something. Grayling clarifies that he is under no compulsion of Government and has no love for the current reconstitution of UK higher education, as if that matters. Moreover, “we cannot be in the vanguard of what has long been happening”. This is the crux of a claim made before: that New College is simultaneously following an economic pathway outside of its control and that it will have no detrimental impact outside of its own halls.

Other engaged in privatised education do happen to think that the New College will accelerate some market openings. But notice that Grayling can’t have it both ways. His argument against allegations of vanguardism is that New College is too small and insignificant for anyone to follow its lead. But his argument for an £18,000 fee compares New College to comparatively small and unrepresentative courses which charge more than he intends to (about 80 people take that MSc in Finance at LSE). An accidentally immanent critique, this mode of argument illustrates exactly how a vanguardist framing works, and has worked over the last years. Find an institution that charges more than you do and has a good reputation. Point out that you could do more, and do it better, if you had their money. Campaign for that outcome while ignoring or dismissing arguments for higher levels of public investment. Repeat. Change the discursive and economic landscape in a series of comparative expansions.

Grayling suggests high fees elsewhere as justification for his high fees, but then expects us to believe that his high fees (which are much more clearly comparable with undergraduate provision than are the courses he cites) won’t be used by anyone anywhere to militate for a further uncapping or greater move to student debt and ‘consumer-led’ education over equal access and public goods. It is hard to see the logic in such a position, not least when it already provides indications of how such an appeal by others would run:

Note one thing: the deafening silence of the vice-chancellors in the controversy over our college project. Why? Because as the individuals most acutely involved in battling with impossible arithmetic, they understand the realities.

Please.

Andrew McGettigan’s excellent and much circulated analysis points out that marketisation requires the softening up of older providers via the introduction of one or more exemplars of new learning: 1) independent, non-profit providers like the University of Buckingham; 2) private, for-profit providers like BPP and now NCH (perhaps owned by people like Apollo); 3) Edexcel in relation with colleges; 4) Cameron’s planned ‘Big Society University’; and 5) globalised multi-nationals. New College has to be viewed in this context and not, as Grayling wants, as some minor footnote. Here’s McGettigan:

The new market conditions must first be created. A significant amount of intervention is required to bring about a ‘level playing field’ in which new, more commercial, operations can compete successfully to drive down costs. The first steps here have already been achieved. First, the complete removal of central funding to arts, humanities and social science degrees exposes the established provision to potential competition in a manner that gives the lie to Willetts’s claim that the cuts have been ‘scrupulously neutral’. (No new provider is currently planning to offer STEM degrees, which are expensive to run and require large overhead and start-up costs.) Second, students at private establishments have already been granted access to the student loans and grants…Third, when viewed in conjunction with the new visa restrictions on overseas students (a political decision affecting an otherwise independent and substantial income stream) and the cuts just announced from HEFCE for the 2011/12 budget, we can conclude that universities are being softened up. Prior to a major reorganization of higher education these cuts are punitive and part of a concerted effort to destabilize the sector for the entry of new agents… What is proposed does not simply benefit small, niche operations but creates the conditions for ‘creative chaos’ similar to that to be unleashed on the National Health Service.