E18- In Conversation with Stefan Elbe

The Covid 19 Pandemic highlighted, once again, the importance of sharing scientific knowledge about deceases internationally. What are the hurdles to sharing information about the nature of a deadly virus in a timely manner, and how can they be overcome? How does knowledge gathered in medical laboratories become a matter of global politics? In this episode, Professor Stefan Elbe (University of Sussex) addresses these questions through his article “Bioinformational Diplomacy: Global Health Emergencies, Data Sharing and Sequential Life”, which won the EISA’s Best Article in the European Journal of International Relations (EJIR) Award in 2022. We discuss Professor Elbe’s cross-disciplinary research linking IR and the life sciences, the political value of laboratory practices of sequencing life at molecular scale and how it relates to issues of sovereignty, power, and security in international relations, and the need for what he calls ‘bioinformational diplomacy’. Tune in for a stimulating conversation about the potential of IR to complement the technical gaze of the life sciences.


E17- What is…Friendship in International Politics?

How can the study of friendship enhance our understanding of international politics? Evgeny Roshchin (Princeton University) draws on conceptual history inspired by Quentin Skinner to trace the development of the concept of friendship in international diplomatic practice and in Western political philosophy. In conversation with Felix Berenskötter (SOAS University of London), Roshchin discusses his research into contractual forms of friendship, embedded in treaties, and their function in ordering colonial spaces. He explains why this understanding disappeared from social contract thinking following Hobbes and was replaced by an ethical and normative reading that remains dominant today, and why he cannot offer a definition of friendship.


E16- What is…Decolonising Knowledge in IR ?

Decolonising knowledge in academia can be understood as the process of interrogating and reshaping research and teaching born out of a Eurocentric, colonial lens and maintained by power structures invested in it. How is this expressed in and what are the implications for the field of International Relations? What are the challenges? In this episode, we discuss such questions with Meera Sabaratnam (SOAS University of London), who has been working on issues of decolonisation, Eurocentrism, race and methodology in IR for many years and has also been proactive in advancing the decolonisation agenda in academia. In conversation with Felix Berenskötter (SOAS University of London), Meera talks about her personal experiences, engagement and approaches, the role of reflexivity and ethics, as well as obstacles to the practice of decolonising knowledge in scholarship and in the classroom.


E15- In Conversation with Xymena Kurowska and Anatoly Reshetnikov 

This episode takes a closer look at the notion of the ‘trickster’, a figure that seeks to undermine order and sow confusion around their actions by employing contradictory logic. To shed light on this practice and how it exerts power in international politics, we invited Xymena Kurowska (Central European University) and Anatoly Reshetnikov (Webster Vienna Private University) to discuss the themes developed in their article ‘Trickstery: pluralising stigma in international society’, which won the EISA’s Best Article in the European Journal of International Relations (EJIR) Award in 2022. In conversation with Felix Berenskötter (SOAS University of London), Xymena and Anatoly note how digital ethnography, folklore scholarship, and their research on the Russian blogosphere and foreign policy inspired them to develop the concept. They discuss ‘trickstery’ as a form of behaviour that appears to simultaneously conform with and deviate from dominant norms, and how it is linked to humour, manipulation, and destruction. Tune in for an insightful contribution that intriguingly advances IR’s conceptual and analytical lexicon.


E14- What is…Memory Studies in IR? 

What does it mean to remember in IR? How does collective memory shape global politics, including inter-state relations, foreign policy formation, as well as security and peacebuilding? And reversely, what does the erasure of collective memory mean for domestic and international politics? In this episode, Maria Mälksoo (University of Copenhagen) is in conversation with Vineet Thakur (University of Leiden). Apart from her extensive work on memory studies, Maria Mälksoo’s research interest embraces critical security studies, political anthropology, and the political practice of deterrence. Maria Mälksoo’s research project on deterrence has recently been awarded an European Research Council (ERC) Grant. Tune in to this episode that alerts us to the instrumentalization of remembrance, and to the politics at play in acts of commemoration.


E13- What is…Women’s International Thought?

Where are the women in international thought? Why have they been excluded from the discipline of IR, and where does this neglect of female scholars come from? In their Leverhulme project on ‘Women and the History of International Thought’, Patricia Owens, Katharina Rietzler and Kimberly Hutchings recover the contributions of ‘historical women’.  In this episode, host Vineet Thakur (University of Leiden) interviews Patricia Owens (University of Oxford) who discusses the absented presence of women IR history and thinking.


E12- What is…Uneven and Combined Development?

Uneven and Combined Development (UCD) is a social theory of the international. Originating in the writings of Leon Trotsky, most explicitly in the opening chapter of Trotsky’s The History of the Russian Revolution (1932), UCD scholars aim to expand on what Trotsky never fully formulated. UCD was first introduced into the discipline of IR at the 1995 Deutscher Memorial Lecture by Prof. Justin Rosenberg (University of Sussex). Ever since, UCD has gained considerable attention both in IR and Historical Sociology. In this episode Justin Rosenberg – who is until today UCD’s leading scholar – is in conversation with Judith Koch (University of Sussex). Among other things, they talk about UCD’s contemporary applications and its criticisms as well as the theories’ latest wave which is opening up multiple new directions – including ecology, literary theory, and science fiction.


E11- What is…Political Marxism?

Tracing back to Robert Brenner’s seminal work on the transition from feudalism to capitalism, and Ellen Wood’s account of the origin and development of capitalism, Political Marxism continues to inspire generations of scholars. With their rejection of economic determinism and their emphasis on the contested and politically constituted dimension of capitalist social property relations, Political Marxists have produced a variety of compelling contributions. In this episode, Political Marxist Dr Maïa Pal (Brookes University) is in conversation with Judith Koch (University of Sussex). Dr Pal explains the foundations of Political Marxism, the advantages of its radical historicist method, as well as its main critiques. In her own work, Dr Pal engages with the relation between capitalism and law, emphasising jurisdiction as a key concept of international order. Tune in for a deep dive into Political Marxism and its continuing relevance for the analysis of large-scale societal and (geo)political transformations.


E10- What is…Area Studies?

What does it mean to do Area Studies, and what is the relationship between Area Studies and IR? In this podcast, Lindsay Black (Leiden University) explains the research agenda of Area Studies. Area Studies broadens our understanding of how to locate power, uncover inequalities, and re-politicize the effects of globalization. He tells us how area studies approaches open up scope for a more nuanced understanding of the social embeddedness of world politics, as well as of current global conflicts, such as the disentanglement of ethnic groups and state borders through imperialist practices. Tune in to a compelling conversation that stands as the 10th episode of Voices.

E09- What is…Postcolonial Theory? 

Sankaran Krishna (UH Manoa, Hawaii) is a leading postcolonial scholar in International Relations whose work is concerned with the long-ignored but integral elements of the international system – colonialism, racism, genocide, among others. His work, as he says in this podcast with Vineet Thakur (Leiden University), is influenced by scholars such as Samir Amin, Edward Said and Ashis Nandy. He highlights the inseparable relationship between the racialized violence of colonialism and the emergence of the international system. In this conversation, he discusses key elements of postcolonialism, the depoliticizing abstraction of IR theory and critiques of postcolonial approaches, including their ready appropriation by the right wing. Tune in for an illuminating and in-depth conversation on postcolonial approaches in IR, as well as for some valuable reading recommendations.


E08-What is…Geopolitical Theory?

 In the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, geopolitics has assumed greater salience in both public discourse as well as academic discussions. Theoretically, geopolitics is considered integral to Realism in IR. It refers to a particular form of realism which centers the role of geography and technology in the making of state preferences. Continuing the discussion from our previous episode on realism, our interview guest Stefano Guzzini, Professor at Uppsala University and PUC-Rio de Janeiro and Senior Researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies, delineates how geopolitics is very specifically ‘the militaristic gaze of Realism. To learn more about Geopolitical Theory, tune in to the second part of Vineet Thakur’s (Leiden University) conversation with Stefano Guzzini.


E07-What is…Realism?

Realism has been one of the most influential theories in the discipline of International Relations. Its critics often label it variously as positivist, state-centric, militaristic, imperialistic, materialistic, immoral and a warmongering theory. In this episode, Stefano Guzzini, Professor at Uppsala University and PUC-Rio de Janeiro and Senior Researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies, is in conversation with Vineet Thakur (Leiden University). Himself a ‘fallen Realist’, Prof Guzzini discusses the core ideas, theoretical contributions and indeed misunderstandings related to Realism. He differentiates three different dimensions of Realism: as an ontology of politics, as an explanatory theory of power politics, and as a foreign policy strategy of prudent power politics. Tune in to this episode of our ‘What is…’ series that illuminates a theory of default conflictuality in times of global conflict.


E06-What is…Practice Theory in International Relations?

What does a ‘practice turn’ mean in International Relations? In this episode Ingvild Bode (University of Denmark), Associate Professor of International Relations, and Principal Investigator of an ERC research project on autonomous weapons systems and international norms (AUTONORMS) and host Beste İşleyen (University of Amsterdam) engage in an in-depth conversation about Practice Theory in IR. Although IR scholarship, such as Constructivism, has long emphasised the importance of practices in shaping the world, this episode sheds light on the ways practices present

IR scholars with a fruitful concept to engage with the process in which international relations are made. Ingvild Bode’s research agenda covers the area of peace and security, with a theoretical focus combining practice theories and constructivist International Relations. Her ongoing research zooms in on the United Nations and peacekeeping norms. By arguing that a wide gap between established normative understandings of peace and security and the actual norm implementation exists, Ingvild Bode integrates the concept of norm ambiguity to explore this gap.


E05-In Conversation with Kerry Goettlich

How can we theoretically engage with linear borders as cartographic practice, thereby acknowledging their political dimension and place within projects of colonialism and partition? Kerry Goettlich (Reading), winner of the EISA’s Best Dissertation Award 2021 for his thesis “From Frontiers to Borders: The Origins and Consequences of Linear Borders in International Politics” (LSE 2019), suggests to examining linear borders by unpacking their historical causes and consequences. In conversation with Catherine Charrett (Westminster), Kerry Goettlich elaborates on his account which theorizes modern linear borders as an outcome of ‘survey rationality’, and thereby challenges the idea of linear borders as intrinsic to claims of territorial sovereignty. Stressing the political dimension of linear borders, Kerry Goettlich illustrates his argument historically by drawing on colonial projects, and ultimately demonstrates how borders underpin hierarchies by altering the distribution of geographical knowledge resources. Kerry Goettlich’s account does not only contribute to the ‘spatial turn’ in IR, but also to the decolonisation of a prominent and powerful idea.


E04What is…Ontological Security?

In this episode Bahar Rumelili (Koç University, İstanbul) discusses the concept of ontological security (OS) with host Beste İşleyen (University of Amsterdam). By unpacking the notion of ontological security, we learn how OS as a concept relates to, and differs from other critical security concepts within IR scholarship. Arguing that existing critical approaches to security tend to conflate ontological security and physical security, Bahar Rumelili elaborates on the relationship between identity and security, and her work on identity construction through difference.
By drawing on the Hobbesian state of nature and existentialist philosophy, Bahar Rumelili emphasises the constitutive notion of anxiety for state behaviour in international relations, while contending that an integration of anxiety into the study of IR theory enriches our understanding of state ontological security. Finally, Bahar Rumelili explains how her understanding of security in Europe from an OS perspective provides fruitful avenues for the study of contemporary conflicts.


E03- What is…Liberalism?

This first edition of the new VOICES series “What is…?” focuses on liberalism as a concept in International Relations (IR). Liberalism in its many contexts – be it in political tradition, in economic ideology, social understandings, or polemical attacks – elides a single definition. In this episode, Vineet Thakur (Leiden) talks with Prof. Beate Jahn (Sussex), who has devoted much of her academic career to the study of liberalism, about the empirical and methodological potential of the concept for research in IR. Prof. Jahn argues that the consistent failures of liberalism, for example in peacebuilding operations, are inherent in its contradictions. Indeed, war, imperialism, and economic depression are very much features, not anomalies, of the liberal system. For this, and more on liberalism, listen to Prof. Jahn in this episode.


E02- In Conversation with Ida Danewid

What can the Grenfell Tower fire in London 2017 teach us about the racialized structure of the cities we live in? What are the implications of understanding the violence of neoliberal urbanism for the study of global cities in IR? In ‘The Fire This Time: Grenfell, Racial Capitalism and the Urbanisation of Empire’, Ida Danewid (Sussex), award-winner of the 2020 EISA Best Article in the European Journal of International Relations award, argues that the IR literature on global cities has largely neglected questions of race and racism. In this conversation with Maj Grasten (Copenhagen Business School), Ida Danewid discusses how her contribution connects urban studies and IPE with post- and decolonial, black and indigenous studies, and how we must situate our understanding of global cities in a much wider cartography of imperial and racial violence.

We are in conversation with Ida Danewid.


E01- In Conversation with Deepak Nair

What makes ASEAN diplomacy distinct? Deepak Nair (NUS Singapore), the co-winner of EISA’s 2020 best article award, rejects both essentialist/orientalist as well as generic readings of ASEAN diplomacy and presents a micro-sociological account of ‘face-saving’ practices. Vineet Thakur (Leiden University) interviews Deepak about his background, his interest in Southeast Asia and practice theory, his immersive fieldwork, and more.

We are in conversation with Deepak Nair.