Over at TRAFO, a Germany-based blog of for transregional research, Professor Amitav Acharya has penned a useful post titled “Doing Global International Relations” that offers a point of view on how a global history perspective could contribute to scholarship on international relations. As we have explored in Global History Forum pieces, like our conversation with Robert Vitalis on the role of race in the making of international relations, a dogmatic insistence on the timeless existence of schools of realism, liberalism, and constructivism doesn’t quite capture the history of the discipline. Nor, Acharya suggests, does it account for the ways in which non-Western actors have experienced the international system and theorized about it.
In his piece, Acharya asks the question of what an alternative perspective might look like:
So what does it mean to “do” Global IR? Doing Global IR is not simply adding a case-study from non-Western parts of the world, or having a regional perspective on world politics. Such works mainly end up applying theories from the West. It is also not done by simply highlighting the exclusion of regions, themes, or non-Western voices. This has already been done in a good deal of recent work on postcolonialism and Non-Western IR Theory. Finally, it is also not done by treating Global IR as if it were a theory in itself that merely needs to be “applied” to different world contexts. So what then?
He suggests a few possible answers to this question:
There are multiple pathways to “doing” Global IR. No single way can be imposed. But the key to any approach to Global IR is to “bring the Rest in”: to end the marginalization of the non-Western and Global South’s ideas, history, voices, and agency. Hence, in developing Global IR, it is important to have as many voices as possible, representing different subfields: development, security, feminist IR, foreign policy, IR theory, and other sections. This will be consistent with a core principle of Global IR, which is to engage in broad conversation across perspectives, rather than a dialogue of the like-minded, or preaching to the converted.
In my view, “doing” and writing Global IR thus involves:
• Bringing in multiple and global origins of concepts and processes
• Focusing on time and context
• Paying attention to both material and ideational/normative causes and consequences
• Comparing and generalizing from the local to the global and vice versa; a two-way process acknowledging diversity and circularity but seeking to identifying shared and common patterns
• Drawing from global history and philosophy, and developing narratives on the basis of autonomous, comparative and connected histories
• Shedding Westphalianism and acknowledging the contribution of classical and hierarchical (international) systems
• Focusing on agency of the states and societies other than the West
Attentive readers will note that these priorities share much with feminist critiques of international relations, or theories of IR that situate themselves within established schools, like Mohammed Ayoob’s subaltern realism. Archarya, however, calls for new institutional endeavours to build up the field of global international relations including blogs, journals, and awards devoted to fostering the new field.
For more, read the blog post here!