Best Graduate Paper 2022

The winner of the EISA´s Best Graduate Paper 2022 award is Laura Luciani for her paper "European values, Eurasian family, or neither? A feminist critique of the EU’s agenda to combat domestic violence in Armenia".


The abstract of the paper:

In 2017, in response to conditionality attached by the European Union (EU), Armenia adopted a highly contested national law to prevent domestic violence. This was framed in public debates as a battleground in a ‘values war’ between Western and Russian influences. Literature has begun to explore the outcomes EU gender equality policies bear in a context marked by the Russian rhetoric on traditional values and competing geopolitical alliances. However, these contributions fall short of explaining not only why EU interventions are contested, but also why they ultimately fail to protect women from violence. In contributing to feminist critiques of the EU as a gender(ed) actor in the ‘neighbourhood’, the paper adopts a postcolonial-feminist framework where representation, materiality and agency are interconnected. Through the method of contrapuntal reading, it exposes the EU-centric and neoliberal logics that underpin EU interventions (failing) to combat violence against women, and the unintended outcomes these generate in Armenia’s shifting geo-political context. Furthermore, it uncovers different ways in which Armenian feminist activists negotiate, subvert and resist EU interventions on the ground, ultimately striving to reclaim their politics against their manipulation and selective appropriation for geo-political and neoliberal goals. The paper draws on a combination of in-depth interviews with women’s rights NGOs, feminist activists, EU and Armenian government officials, fieldwork observations and the close reading of policy documents and media sources.


The committee comment:

This paper advances a compelling argument about why EU gender politics often fails despite massive investments, using the case of Armenia. The paper mobilizes and connects a diversity of theories in order to account for why policies that strive to curb violence against women cannot be examined without a proper account of the development model supported and promoted by the EU and the local context imbued with Russian rhetoric and competing values. Thus, the paper advances our understanding of how the EU operates in its neighborhood, widens our knowledge of the transnational stakeholders involved, and provides us with an original account of the postcolonial-feminist critique of neoliberalism with a clear policy import.



The Committee also awarded an honorable mention to

August Danielson for "The Role of Reflexivity in International Practice Theory"


The abstract of the paper:

The inability of individuals to reflect on and directly ‘access’ practices has been a distinguishing feature of the IR practice turn. Despite this, the role that (the absence of) reflection plays in IR practice research is seldom problematized – who is unable to reflect, and what are they unable to reflect upon? By clarifying the epistemological, methodological and moral implications of adopting different perspectives to both of these questions, the article seeks to advance our understanding and study of practices in international politics. In short, I argue that practice theorists need to recognize the implications of the choices we make regarding the perspective from which we assume that practices are accessible or not (practitioners or researchers), as well as which dimension of practices we choose to focus on (a logic of practice or the rules of practice). The need to distinguish between these perspectives and dimensions is illustrated through a review of four of the main approaches to studying practices in IR: Bourdieusian praxeology, the Communities of Practice approach, Schatzki’s ontology of practice, and pragmatic sociology. In doing so, the article contributes to the growing literature on practices in IR by providing scholars a framework for understanding how our definitions of what a practice is not only impacts how we view the ability to reflect on them, but also on the way in which we study them.



About the Best Graduate Paper award

The Best Graduate Paper Award recognizes and supports the contribution of PhD students to the development of the field of International Relations. The paper awarded with this prize must be an original  contribution to existing debates in the field and offer a careful, convincing and rigorous analysis. The recipient will be chosen from the contributions of graduate students to the annual EWIS workshops.