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Professors of, not professors in…

So the LSE has appointed — appointed, not hired, which is important — Angelina Jolie Pitt (AJP) as a “Visiting Professor in Practice.” The importance of the hire/appoint distinction: there is a part of me that is somewhat perturbed that an institution that has not once but twice passed on the opportunity to have me join its ranks has made a space for someone whose scholarly CV is, shall we say, somewhat spotty, but the kind of position AJP has been awarded is a very different animal from anything I might have applied for — and presumably she did not have to give a job talk, secure letters of recommendation from senior colleagues, and have her latest book dissected by a faculty search committee, so I think it’s safe to say that there is a different game being played here.

angelina-jolie-hands

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If I could teach anything in an IR theory graduate seminar …

I have the distinct privilege of being allowed to teach under a course number the University of Florida has – INR 6208 – “Advanced IR theory” – for which there is no set curriculum. When I took this course number more than a year ago, I imagined I would teach it much like the class that I took under the same name from Hayward Alker in the Fall of 2001 at the University of Southern California. Hayward used it to historicize, contextualize, and re-read a number of IR paradigms. For example, we read Thucydides, then interpretations of Thucydides which questioned its mapping onto realist IR. We read Locke, then interpretations of Locke which complicated its availability to liberal IR. Much of the reading on the syllabus was from the humanities, relating humanistic thinking to IR. It was in that class that I felt like I found a voice about the complexity and contextualization of IR theory – and I’d always thought I’d teach Hayward’s class someday.

When the time came to make the syllabus, though, I surprised even myself by going pretty significantly the other way – perhaps still in the spirit of Hayward’s class but in a different direction in terms of the substantive content. I picked looking at IR theory now. Like, this decade. The idea is to see what interesting theory work is going on, and how (if?) it matters to conceptualizing (current) disciplinary histories. Rather than Thucydides, Machiavelli, and Locke – I decided I wanted my students Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, Naeem Inayatullah, Michael Horowitz, Dan Levine, and Lauren Wilcox – among others. This is what I’m thinking of, in terms of the course:  Continue reading

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‘Mansplaining’ International Relations?: What Walt Misses

Following the tradition of Saturday Night Live’s Father Sarducci, Steve Walt turned the “Five Minute University” from the 1970s into a lesson for the undergraduate class of 2014 on Foreign Policy yesterday, providing a five-minute lesson as a substitute for a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations. Walt’s lesson included five key concepts: anarchy, balance of power, comparative advantage, misperception/miscalculation, and social constructivism. While Walt acknowledges there is much more to know about the discipline (including deterrence and coercion, institutions, selection effects, democratic peace theory, and international finance), he suggests those might be “graduate level” and that “all you really need to know about the discipline” can be found his five-minute, five-concept lesson.

I’d like to introduce Steve and his audience to a (sixth) concept that comes from outside of International Relations but applies to it: ‘mansplaining.’ A term introduced by Rebecca Solnit in 2008, the idea has gained traction both in popular circles and in academic ones. Though many different ‘definitions’ of ‘mansplaining’ exist, a picture of Steve’s post could be in the dictionary next to mine: it is a short, humorous ‘explanation’ of the discipline of IR, from one of its male/masculine/(masculinist) elite aimed at its feminized/feminine/(female?) margins: new trainees and potential trainees. In that explanation, Walt accounts for a global political arena in which it appears that men and women; sex, gender, and sexualities; masculinities and femininities; masculinizations and feminizations do not exist. This might be where my definition of ‘mansplaining’ differs from others: I think a ‘mansplanation’ is an explanation made in a masculinized tone that endogenizes, makes invisible, or leaves out gender. Walt does this almost artfully: the global political arena that we can learn about from Walt in five minutes is indeed one where it is possible that women do not exist at all. That, among other things, makes it both a ‘mansplanation’, and deeply problematic.

My problems start at what Walt does not talk about, and continues as I read what he does discuss. Let’s start with five ideas that I’d characterize as key to understanding global politics, which Walt leaves out:

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Discourse analysis of “Israel Apartheid Week”: Where’s the peace?

On the Wednesday of Israel Apartheid Week, the daily email announcements from the University included the following:

Palestinian Solidarity, Anti-Zionism, and BDS

Join us for our first event of Israeli Apartheid Week at Hopkins. We will be having members from Jewish Voice for Peace and Hopkins Students for Justice in Palestine speak about anti-Zionism, Palestinian solidarity, and BDS (JHU “Today’s Announcements,” via email, 2/25/2014; italics in original).

In the space of these fifty words, I was struck by the divisiveness and violence of the use of “Anti-Zionism;” conflicted about the invocation of apartheid; strongly opposed to but not at all offended by the advocacy of boycotts of, divestment from, and sanctions on Israel and Israelis (BDS); and, if Palestinian solidarity means caring about the lives and futures of the Palestinian people, then broadly supportive.

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