International Theory at CIPS: Past and Coming Attractions

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The origins of CIPS’s International Theory Network (ITN) go back to an inspiring talk in 2010 by McGill’s Vincent Pouliot. A treatment of the evolution of NATO–Russia relations from a Bourdieusian perspective, Pouliot’s seminar led some folks in the audience to demand more such theory-laden talks. At least 67 people in the National Capital Region did International Relations (IR) “for a living,” so why not?

The theme of ITN’s first year was history and historiography. The inaugural seminar was held by Brian Schmidt from Carleton’s political science department who presented his work on IR’s “First Great Debate.” The success of the event compelled us to emphasize “local talent” ever since. We thus heard Michael C. Williams (GSPIA, uOttawa) on “Liberal Realism,” Philippe Beaulieu-Brossard (then GSPIA SSHRC Fellow, now CFC) on “Critical Thinking in Armed Forces,” plus several Carleton political science colleagues: Hans-Martin Jaeger on “The Political Beyond Global Governmentality,” Mira Sucharov onBeing a Scholar-Blogger” (blog post), William Walters on “Material Publics and the Flux of Secrecy: The Case of the 9/11 Commission,” and Stephen Saideman, that whirlwind of energy from NPSIA, on NATO in Afghanistan (blog post).

We also held two “local talent IR book launches”: The Return of the Public in Global Governance, edited by our colleagues Alexandra Gheciu and Jacqueline Best, which we hosted together with uOttawa’s Political Studies, and The Constitution of Social Practices by Kevin McMillan, my fellow ITN co-coordinator (check out our podcast too).

Local talent naturally includes students. Here, the inaugural event honours went to the 2012 brown bag workshop “What’s Bourdieu done for/to me?” Co-organized by then uOttawa political science PhD student Félix Grenier — now Dr. Grenier — and GSPIA MA student Erica van Wyngaarden, the workshop brought together both Carleton and uOttawa students for a day discussing the work of the French sociologist.

In the same spirit, we have also sought to bring in IR stars who hail from the capital region but now teach elsewhere. Krzysztof J. Pelc (McGill) presented on “The Politics of Precedent in International Law,” and Bentley Allan (Johns Hopkins) on “Scientists, States, and the Emergence of Global Climate Governance.” (We remain grateful to both of them for finding time for us while visiting their families locally.)

Mind you, not all of our Canadian guests came from the Ottawa–Montreal corridor. Among IR-ists from Canadian universities, we hosted David Mutimer and Elizabeth Dauphinee, both from York University, who came to talk about, respectively, “Militarization and Popular Culture in Canada” (blog post), and “Narrative as Scholarship in International Relations.” Last month we had our first West Coast guest: UBC’s Sheryl Lightfoot presented her book Global Indigenous Politics: A Subtle Revolution (see the video as well as my blog post inspired by the event).

The first cross-border visitor was Minnesota’s Roland Krebs; his 2011 seminar on what became the much-awarded Narrative and the Making of U.S. National Security helped us make the case for formalizing the network. Other IR theorists, from both the US and Europe, who have enriched ITN over the years include the following:

As the smallest of the CIPS networks, ITN has always relied on partnerships. Carleton’s Political Science department counts as one of those, and has yielded two well-attended events: “the first cross-town IR symposium” on “The End of IR” in 2013 and a two-day event with philosopher John Gunnell (SUNY Albany and University of California) in 2014. Individual and institutional actors at uOttawa have been a tremendous help: Nisha Shah from Political Studies, for one; Security Studies Network (SSN), for another.

Thanks to the latter we had Thierry Balzacq (University of Edinburgh and University of Namur) talk about “Théorie de la performance rituelle en Relations internationales,” Jarrod Hayes (Georgia Institute of Technology, now University of Massachusetts) present his book Identity and the Construction of Security (blog post), as well as two more brilliant “visiting locals”: Samer Abboud (Arcadia University and St. Andrew’s University) on “Critical Security Studies in the Arab World,” and Philippe Frowd (University of York) who presented on border security in West Africa (blog post). Ad hoc partnerships are what made possible, last year, a seminar by Hashmat Khan (Economics, Carleton) on “Technology and Innovation” (co-organized with GSPIA), and a talk by Diana Allan (McGill) on “Solidarity and Subterfuge in a Palestinian Camp” (with uOttawa’s School of Anthropology and Sociology).

ITN attractions this semester are Slava Morozov (Tartu, Estonia) on Russia’s difference (January 30); Marina Duque (Florida International and Princeton University) on measuring international status (February 21); David McDonald (Guelph) on “Canada’s Indian Residential Schools, the UN Genocide Convention, and Indigenous–Settler Relations” (March 2); and Nolen Gertz (Twente) on “Nihilism and Technology” (March 27). As always, all are welcome!

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