Best Article in the European Journal of International Relations 2019

The winner of the EISA´s Best Article in EJIR 2019 is Joanne Yao for her article “Conquest from barbarism’: The Danube Commission, international order and the control of nature as a Standard of Civilization”.


The abstract of the article:

In recent years, International Relations scholarship has looked back to the 19th century as a watershed epoch for the formation of the current international order and the development of ‘Standards of Civilization’ to legitimate that order. However, limited attention has been paid to the role played by society’s relationship with the natural world in constructing these civilizational standards. This article argues that the control and exploitation of nature as a standard of civilization developed in the 19th century to constitute membership in a civilized European international society. The standard dictated that civilized polities must both demonstrate internal territorial control and uphold external obligations towards other actors. In examining 19th-century political contestations over the Danube River as a natural highway between Europe and the near periphery, I demonstrate that in the eyes of Western Europe, Russia failed to uphold the taming of nature as a civilizational standard, contributing to the delegitimization of its authority over the Danube. In its place, the Western powers following the Crimean War created an international commission to manage the Danube delta — a rational and scientific body to rectify the troublesome absence of civilized authority. These civilizational assumptions underpin the 1856 Danube Commission as an early international organization, and through its success, continue to have implications for today’s international order.


The committee comment:

'This article uses the method of historical sociology to re-examine 19th century contestations over the governance of the Danube river. It makes a number of theoretical contributions. First and foremost, it shows how 19th century differentiations between civilized and uncivilized nations were predicated not just on ideas about the governance of people, but also the successful conquest of nature. Second, it draws our attention to aesthetic imaginaries of the navigable river as a conduit of civilization, conveying trade, prosperity and order; but also at risk of carrying chaos and barbarism in the opposite direction. Third, it historicises the ideological underpinnings of seemingly technocratic institutions such as the Danube Commission. The article is meticulously researched and makes riveting reading.’

About the Best Article in the EJIR award

The prize recognizes and supports the crucial role of theory and theoretical pluralism in and for International Relations in Europe. It is awarded to theoretically innovative articles that elaborate a novel idea, make a significant contribution to existing debates, provide a rigorous analysis and impetus for new research.


Log in to MY EISA and read the article here.