We invite paper proposals for the conference "African Voices in the New International Relations Theory”, which will take place from 27-28 May 2013 at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa Half-page abstracts are to reach us by 3rd March 2013.
In recent contributions to what they call “non-Western IR theory”, Amitav Acharya and Barry Buzan argue that the main current theories of IR, especially realism, liberalism and to a lesser extent constructivism are too deeply rooted in, and beholden to, the history, intellectual tradition, and agency claims of the West to accord little more than a marginal place to those of the non-Western world. This creates a “disjuncture”, whereby these supposedly universal theories fail to capture and explain the key trends and puzzles of international relations in the non-Western world. In response, they call for the development of a new paradigm of international relations theory that is more global, open, inclusive, and able to capture the voice and experiences of both Western and non-Western worlds and avoid the present disjunctures between theoretical tools and the ground realities of the world beyond the West.
The reasons for the underdevelopment of IRT outside of the West are many, including cultural, political, institutional factors. These include the perception that Western IRTs might have already discovered the right path to knowledge, the “hegemonic” status of Western IRTs whereby the key institutions, journals and conferences are either located in or controlled by the West, the possibility that indigenous IR theories may exist but remain hidden from public view due to language and other barriers, and finally that local conditions such as lack of institutional resources, and the attractiveness of better paying policy-oriented expertise might detract IR scholars to the neglect of theory.
In this conference and book project, we set out to investigate what are the reasons for Africa’s marginalization in IR discipline and theory, and how this issue can be addressed. One cannot remedy this problem simply by using the Africa as a testing ground to revalidate Western-derived IRTs after a few adjustments and extensions. To have relevance for Africa, the new IRT needs to be more authentically grounded in African history, rather than Western history, and the ideas, institutions, intellectual perspectives and practices of African states and societies. To this end, our approach identifies the following as the sources of an African contribution to IRT: history and culture, thoughts of revolutionary leaders, practices of statecraft, writings of contemporary IR scholars, and distinctive local and regional interaction patterns.
In calling for an African contribution to IR theory, we recognize the limitations of theory-building that relies exclusively on the unique historical and cultural matrix and behaviour patterns of Africa, its sub regions and nations. Relatedly, we believe that the new IRT must develop concepts and approaches from African contexts that are valid locally, but have applicability to the wider world. Such an IRT cannot, and need not, supplant Western IRT but should aim to enrich Western IRT with the voices and experiences of Africa, including its claims to agency in global and regional order.
In this conference, we seek to address the following questions:
1. What are the reasons for Africa’s marginalization in IR theory? Is it the hegemonic status of Western IRT and the related acceptance by African scholars that that Western IRT has found right answers to the major issues of IR? Does it have to do with local conditions, including institutional factors (paucity of good universities, think-tanks and other training centers), the incentive structure (attraction to policy works that pays better at the expense of scholar theoretical work) and political conditions (lack of democracy)?
2. Are there African contributions that are “hidden”?
3. What are the sources of an African contribution to IR theory in terms of history and culture, gender, thoughts of revolutionary leaders, practices of statecraft and regional cooperation, writings of contemporary IR scholars.
4. How to reconcile the local and the global, inside and the outside, in projecting an African contribution to IR theory?
5. Can or should there be an “African school” of IRT? What are benefits and dangers of such an approach?
6. What has been Africa’s contribution to the practice of international relations?
Most participants are envisaged to be from the African continent, representing most of its sub-regions. Invites from abroad include: Amitav Acharya (American University-Washington) and Andrew Hurrell (Oxford)
DEADLINE FOR PAPER PROPOSALS OR ABSTRACTS: 13th FEBRUARY 2013
Participants will be selected on the basis of their abstracts after 13th February.
N.B. The conference fee is R 2 000 (up to 14 March) and R 2700 (after 14 March) (Further details on arrangements to follow).
Paul-Henri Bischoff, Department of Political and International Sudies Rhodes University South Africa
The Conference manager
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