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Latest documents

  • Reflex to turn: the rise of turn-talk in International Relations

    The field of International Relations (IR) is being spun around by a seemingly endless number of ‘turns’. Existing analyses of turning are few in number and predominantly concerned with the most prominent recent turns. By excavating the forgotten history of IR’s earliest turns from the 1980s and tracing the evolution of turn-talk over time, this article reveals a crucial yet overlooked internalist driver behind the phenomenon: the rise of reflexivity. Rather than emerging in the 21st century, turn-talk began at the end of the 1980s as a series of turns away from positivism and towards reflexivity. Cumulatively, this first wave of turns would denaturalise IR’s state-centric ontology while enshrining reflexivity as a canonical good among critical scholars. By the mid-1990s, however, these metatheoretical critiques of positivism had produced a substantial backlash. Charged with fostering an esoteric deconstructivism, a new generation of reflexivists set out to demonstrate the feasibility of post-positivist empirical research. As a result, IR’s turning also took on a different form from the 2000s: whereas the first wave of turns had mounted an epistemological and methodological attack against the positivist mainstream, the second wave set about bringing new ontological objects under the scrutiny of reflexivist scholars. This shift from anti-positivist to mostly intra-reflexivist turning was facilitated by the institutionalisation of critical IR as a major subfield of the discipline. It is the privileged position of reflexivity among critical IR scholars that is the condition of possibility for endless turning, accentuated by mounting pressures to demonstrate novelty in an increasingly competitive environment

  • Hidden figures: how legal experts influence the design of international institutions

    Whose preferences influence the design of international institutions? Scholarship on the legalization of international politics and creation of international legal institutions largely adopts a state-centric perspective. Existing accounts, however, fail to recognize how states often delegate authority over institutional design tasks to independent legal experts whose preferences may diverge from those of states. We develop a principal–agent (PA) framework for theorizing relations between states (collective principals) and legal actors (agents) in the design process, and for explaining how legal actors influence the design of international institutions. The legal dimensions of the PA relationship increase the likelihood of preference divergence between the collective principal and the agent, but also create conditions that enable the agent to opportunistically advance its own design preferences. We argue that the more information on states’ preferences the agent has, the more effectively it can exploit its legal expertise to strategically select and justify design choices that maximize its own preferences and the likelihood of states’ acceptance. Our analysis of two cases of delegated institutional design concerning international criminal law at the United Nations and the African Union supports our theoretical expectations. Extensive archival and interview data elucidate how agents’ variable information on states’ preferences affects their ability to effectively advance their design preferences. Our theory reveals how independent legal experts with delegated authority over design tasks influence institutional design processes and outcomes, which has practical and normative implications for the legalization of international politics

  • Securitizing the nation beyond the state: diasporas as threats, victims, and assets

    Securitization theory has paid extensive attention to transnational issues, actors, and processes. Surprisingly, however, only little attention has been paid to the securitization of diaspora communities, defined as overseas citizens or co-nationals abroad. This article fills this gap by developing an analytical framework to study the securitization of diasporas, focusing on three discursive formations: diasporas as threatening actors, as objects under threat, or as security resources. Building upon the recent literature on state–diaspora engagement and drawing on an analysis of Israeli elite discourse (from 1948 to 2022), this article demonstrates how the securitization of diasporas serves as a discursive mechanism that naturalizes and legitimizes extra-territorial policies towards Jews abroad. Thus, the article complements structural and rational explanations of state–diaspora engagement by examining the intersubjective process that endows diaspora policymaking with meaning. Against the backdrop of extensive securitization scholarship that focuses on attempts to keep “foreigners” out, this article shows how securitization justifies bringing certain people in or governing their national identity abroad

  • The international dynamics of counter-peace

    Peace processes and international order are interdependent: while the latter provides the normative framework for the former, peacemaking tools and their underlying ideology also maintain international order. They indicate its viability and legitimacy partly by meeting local claims as well as though the maintenance of geopolitical balances. In the emerging multipolar order, the international peace architecture (IPA), dominated by the liberal international order (LIO), is contested through counter-peace processes. These processes contest the nature of the state, state-society relations and increasingly international order itself. This paper investigates the tactics and strategies of regional actors and great powers, where they engage in peace and order related activities or interventions. Given the weakness and inconsistency of the IPA and the LIO, such contestation leads to challenges to international order itself, often at the expense of the claims of social movements and civil society networks

  • How trust is lost: the Food Systems Summit 2021 and the delegitimation of UN food governance

    Social movements see participation formats of international organizations (IOs) with suspicion. They increasingly retreat from cooperation to contest IOs from the outside, because they fear co-optation without real policy impact. However, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) was an exception to this trend because its opening up was seen as long-term dialogue facilitating discussions about the nature of food production, and because it created credible institutional mechanisms that were trusted by activists to give influence to farmers and peasant movements. Therefore, the food sovereignty movement participated within the FAO framework in a remarkably institutionalized way throughout the 2010s. But in 2019, when the United Nations (UN) announced to hold a food systems summit (United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS)), this changed dramatically. The food sovereignty movement, many non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and eventually scientists, decided to boycott the summit, instead organizing an alternative Peoples’ Summit, and withdrawing from long-held institutional roles in the FAO. How can this be explained? This article traces the process from the announcement of the UNFSS to its implementation, stressing how institutional trust was damaged by several decisions in the process that undermined the good faith of activists. As we show in detail, the circumvention of established institutional mechanisms, and the feeling of betrayal on the side of the movement, was decisive for losing institutional trust. Importantly, a mixture of substantive and institutional changes in the context of UNFSS not only undermined the movement’s trust into the integrity and ability of the summit organizers, but thereby also provoked movement efforts to delegitimize UN food governance at large

  • How love orders: an engagement with disciplinary International Relations

    Love plays an important role in the normative production and sustenance of order. Historically implicated in imaginaries of order, it has been evoked to constitute community, legitimate coercion and (dis)empower. Put differently, love provides the affective glue that binds groups, frames feelings to enable and constrain action and is integral to the workings of power. Love can be evoked and governed for various political ends. Complicating accounts of love as a positive emotion, this article uncovers love’s neglected history in disciplinary International Relations (IR) as an ideological mask that conceals its implication in violent worldmaking projects of empire, war and domination. To illustrate this, it identifies three ideal-typical – or Hegelian, Augustinian and Nietzschean – logics that exemplify love’s ordering work and examines how they find expression in the work of three leading figures of disciplinary IR, namely Alfred Zimmern (1859–1957), Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971) and Hans Morgenthau (1904–1980)

  • The law and politics of funding armed groups in Syria: how states (fail to) counter terrorism

    This article examines the political and legal controversies around a counterterrorism programme conducted by the Dutch government to support the so-called moderate groups in Syria between 2015 and 2018. The controversies centred around the question how the Dutch government was able to define and support armed moderate groups in Syria and distinguish them from terrorist organizations. The objective of the article is to take up this question and unpack how the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs constructed and justified their definition of material support for moderate groups deployed in this programme, against existing definitions of terrorism funding and terrorist groups embedded in European counterterrorism financing regulations. Connecting to the debates around materiality in both International Relations and International Law, this article follows the material-semiotic practices through which definitions of terrorism come into being. The empirical analysis draws on interviews with legal professionals, policy documents and court transcripts, and provides a detailed overview of how multiple and even conflicting definitions of terrorism and terrorism financing are constructed by the Dutch state. Taking this interdisciplinary approach to materiality and based on the empirical analysis, I propose that this controversy on defining terrorism and terrorism financing reflects a Eurocentric assumption about the knowledge and responsibilities of the Western state in the War on Terror. While the empirics are grounded in the Dutch context, my analysis is relevant for multiple European countries who engaged in similar operations between 2015 and 2018, as well as for future counterterrorism efforts targeting terrorist groups

  • What makes a spokesperson? Delegation and symbolic power in Crimea

    This article argues that spokespersons who claim to speak on behalf of a social group cannot escape the structural problem of delegation whereby speaking in someone’s name entails speaking instead of someone. This form of delegated and authorised silencing through the promise of empowerment imposes symbolic violence on a group which recognises the spokesperson as a valid representative, without recognising its own potential disenfranchisement. I build on Pierre Bourdieu’s sociological writings on language and symbolic power to theorise the trajectories of authorisation of spokespersons. In doing so, I critically engage with theories in International Relations which rely on a separation between speaker and audience to analyse the legitimation of political speech. Instead, I reformulate the speaker/audience relation through the concept of symbolic power and introduce the category of the spoken-for. When spokespersons struggle over symbolic power, they seek to impose social classificatory categories on social groups and spaces. I illustrate these dynamics in the context of human rights politics in Crimea, showing how various spokespersons are engaged in a symbolic struggle over ‘authenticity’ of their speech and the ‘universal’ of human rights. I conclude by suggesting new lines of inquiry to analyse creative strategies to mitigate the spokesperson problem

  • “The biggest thing you can rob is somebody's time”: Exploring how the carceral state bankrupts fathers through temporal debt

    Over the last several decades, research has demonstrated the adverse impact incarceration has on sustaining and strengthening familial bonds. Physical and communication barriers are often noted as lead sources of strain in relationships between incarcerated individuals and their loved ones. Studies have shown that the financial burden of prison can also have deleterious impacts on the family reintegration process upon release, particularly for minoritized populations. The current study adds to the discussion on collateral consequences of the carceral state by introducing temporal debt; a novel concept similar to financial debt in that it results from oppressive policies and builds over generations. Findings detail how the carceral state impacts fathers’ regard for temporal provision and enters Black men into a cycle of temporal poverty. The results encourage readers to consider novel means of addressing harm and violence to decrease the perpetuation of familial harm committed by the criminal legal system beyond reformist efforts that often aim to ease parenting from prison.

  • “A prison is no place for a pandemic”: Canadian prisoners’ collective action in the time of COVID-19

    Since the onset of COVID-19, social protest has expanded significantly. Little, however, has been written on prison-led and prison justice organizing in the wake of the pandemic—particularly in the Canadian context. This article is a case study of prisoner organizing in Canada throughout the first 18 months of COVID-19, which draws on qualitative interviews, media, and documentary analysis. We argue that the pandemic generated conditions under which the grievances raised by prisoners, and the strategies through which they were articulated, made possible a discursive bridge to the anxieties and grievances experienced by those in the community, thinning the walls of state-imposed societal exclusion. We demonstrate that prisons are sites of fierce contestation and are deeply embedded in, rather than separate from, our society. An important lesson learned from this case study is the need for prison organizing campaigns to strategically embrace multi-issue framing and engage in sustained coalition building.

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