Episodes

E25-What is…Precarity in Academia? – Exploring Migrant Academics’ Narratives   

This episode explores the experiences of migrant academics. We are joined by Olga Burlyuk (University of Amsterdam) and Ladan Rahbari (University of Amsterdam), editors of “Migrant Academics’ Narratives of Precarity and Resilience in Europe” (2023, Open Book Publishers) who have curated this essential collection of narratives by migrant academics. In conversation with host Polly Pallister-Wilkins, they tease out the multifaceted experiences of migrant academics, shedding light on various forms of precarity. From challenging hiring practices and systemic sexism and racism to economic disadvantages and the often ‘culturally accepted’ yet problematic divisions of labour within academic spaces, these narratives are both eye-opening and crucial for the academic community.

In their own words, Olga Burlyuk and Ladan Rahbari emphasize the importance of recognizing that academia, despite its status and prestige, is not immune to precarity. They remind us of the systemic power imbalances that permeate all social strata, including the academic environment. Don’t miss this wake-up call for academia to strive for a more just and inclusive space.

 

E24-What is…Genocide?

Since South Africa brought the case of applying the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in the Gaza Strip before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on 29 December 2023, the topic of genocide has re-entered both popular and scholarly debates.

How is genocide comprehended – or rather, misunderstood – within International Relations, and as a legal concept? In this episode Jo Bluen, educator, writer, and PhD researcher (University of Cape town & London School of Economics) is in conversation with Polly Pallister-Wilkins (University of Amsterdam). Jo Bluen explores the multifaceted interpretations and political ramifications of genocide, highlighting the inherent inadequacies of legal structures in fully grasping the complexity of genocidal violence. Arguing for a critical reassessment of our perception of genocide as a systemic issue, Jo Bluen challenges the traditional paradigms of International Relations rooted in colonial modernity, a history deeply intertwined with acts of genocide. The episode further delves into the nuances of intentionality, practices, and complicity behind genocidal acts, and offers a curated selection of essential readings. Tune in to this timely episode for a compelling exploration of one of the most pressing issues of our time.

 

E23-What is…Academic Freedom? 

In times marked by escalating challenges to academic freedom, this episode unravels the essence of academic freedom, its significance, and the pressing need to safeguard it. From institutional repression and public curtailment to professional reprisals faced by academic staff due to their research findings and public advocacy, this episode explores one of the timeliest issues of our era. In conversation with Toni Haastrup (University of Manchester), Lewis Turner (Newcastle University), and Joel Quirk (University of the Witwatersrand), host Polly Pallister-Wilkins (University of Amsterdam) tackles pivotal questions: What does academic freedom entail? And, more importantly, how can the scholarly community rally together to defend this fundamental principle?

 

E22-In Conversation with Jonathan White

This episode delves into the dynamics of institutional power and explores the implications when power in transnational orders, such as the EU, undergoes de-institutionalization. Jonathan White (LSE)´s article “The De-institutionalisation of Power beyond the State” which has been awarded the EISA`s Best Article in EJIR 2023, introduces a groundbreaking perspective on the normative consequences of informality in global politics. In conversation with Host Polly Pallister-Wilkins, Jonathan White explains how recent crisis politics has shifted the balance, with individuals and their networks reshaping institutions. He argues that informal diplomacy, such as Commission President Ursula von der Leyen´s WhatsApp diplomacy during the Covid-19 pandemic undermines accountability in power dynamics, shedding light on its broader implications for governance and, notably, sovereignty. Rather than acclaimed as flexible problem-solving, the step back from institutions should be viewed as a challenge to accountable rule. Tune in for a compelling listen on an outstanding paper. Tune in to this compelling first episode of the new year!

E21-In Conversation with Uygar Başpehlivan

Almost every major political event over the past decade has been “memed”. This episode delves into the dynamic world of internet memes and their significance for the study of International Relations. In his paper “Cucktales: Race, Sex, and Enjoyment in The Reactionary Memescape”, that has been awarded the EISA´s Best Graduate Paper 2023, Uygar Başpehlivan, PhD candidate at the University of Bristol, takes us on a journey into the world of internet memes. In conversation with host Polly Pallister-Wilkins (University of Amsterdam), he explains the ways in which memes are integral to the political space by being simultaneously used by political subjects and being themselves political. Introducing his concept of the memescape, Uygar Başpehlivan contends that the creation and consumption of memes shapes political relations, including resistance, reaction, capture, and excess. Envisioning memes as architects of a spatial realm, the memescape thus captures the agency of political subjects, as well as aesthetic objects, discourses, affects, and technological infrastructures that converge, interact, and transform across time and space. Inspired by Deleuze and Guattari´s concepts, Uygar Başpehlivan talks us through his notion of memes as “smooth spaces” that challenge the traditional “striated space” of the international, thereby offering unique political possibilities. In his paper, Uygar Başpehlivan further dissects how the reactionary memescape gives rise to racist and misogynistic politics through the infamous meme, “the cuck”. Tune in to learn about meme´s role in knowledge production, and their specific relevance for the study of International Relations.


E20- What is…the new Voices in IR Book Series?

This episode introduces the new EISA “Voices in International Relations” book series, published with Oxford University Press (OUP). Professor Debbie Lisle (Queen’s University Belfast), and series editor of the EISA/OUP book series talks us through EISA´s new initiative that seeks to further the contours of IR by going beyond the conventional boundaries of the field. In conversation with our new host, Polly Pallister-Wilkins (University of Amsterdam), Debbie Lisle elucidates the new book series´ mission to foster innovative scholarship that not only broadens discussions on key IR debates but also reimagines and challenges the discipline itself. Bridging gaps with sociology, history, anthropology, geography, economics, political theory, and law, “Voices in International Relations” is also committed to furthering diversity and inclusion in terms of authorship, location, topics and approaches from both inside and outside Europe. But there’s more: Debbie Lisle shares the hidden gems of academic book publishing. Uncovering the academic book publishing process – from crafting a compelling book proposal to writing an original introduction – this episode uncovers the key elements that make academic book proposals truly stand out amid tough competition. Join us in this episode on the importance of thinking beyond the ordinary in academic book publishing.


E19- What is…Technology in IR?

Why should IR scholars pay attention to new technologies, big data, and algorithms? In this episode, we are joined by Claudia Aradau, Professor of International Politics at King’s College London, who unpacks the significance of digital technologies for practices of governance. In conversation with Felix Berenskötter (SOAS University of London), Professor Aradau shares her research into the datafication of border security, the operation of algorithms in producing identities and controversies around them. They discuss the importance of a critical and interdisciplinary approach that captures what these new technologies do, who uses them and to what effect. Tune in to this episode exploring the transformative potential and the complexities of technological innovation for the study of IR, shedding light on the impact of algorithmic assemblages on contemporary global politics. 

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.