IR theory and Area Studies: a plea for displaced knowledge about international politics

Kaczmarska, Katarzyna and Ortmann, Stefanie (2021) IR theory and Area Studies: a plea for displaced knowledge about international politics. Journal of International Relations and Development. ISSN 1408-6980

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This article critically engages with the hierarchical binary between theory and area research in the study of international politics. We pose questions about the processes which construct and reaffirm the theory/area distinction in IR and show that the binary creates structural pressures and reinscribes hierarchies for individual scholars. We notice that IR’s Euro/West-centrism is directly linked to and perpetuated by the divide that privileges IR theorising over empirical research both on and from places outside of the West. We show how this divide has been institutionalised with the effect of producing separate but intertwined academic fields of ‘IR’ and ‘Area Studies’. The hitherto voiced calls to overcome the divide have largely focused on the question of how to give more weight to knowledge produced about the ‘non-West’ in IR. This, we argue, overlooks the broader significance of the theory/area divide, which lies in the socio-instructional structures maintaining it and the concrete effects they have on researchers from the ‘peripheries’. This article, therefore, aims to examine the construction of Area Studies’ peripherality and to rethink possible solutions. To better illustrate the intersection of epistemic politics and political economy of knowledge production, we highlight the experience of researchers from the Global East.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > International Relations
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 16 Nov 2021 08:26
Last Modified: 04 Nov 2022 02:00

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