Is IR Theory White?

Present by: Dr Meera Sabaratnam, SOAS University of London/POLSIS, UQ Visiting Fellow

In this talk, I explore the question of whiteness within International Relations (IR) Theory, through an analysis of three seminal disciplinary texts. These texts are Kenneth Waltz’s Theory of International Politics, Robert Keohane’s After Hegemony, and Alexander Wendt’s Social Theory of International Politics. I will begin by exploring the scholarship on whiteness, which understands it as a set of historically specific hierarchies of entitlement, which produce particular kinds of subject-positions in the world. Specifically, I explore these subject positions as expressing the interlocking of epistemologies of ignorance (Mills), innocence (Wekker) and immanence (Bhambra). The analysis of this paper explores how white subject-positions permeate the core of influential contemporary IR theories and argues that the common sense they produce is foundational for their central analytic claims, such as those regarding sovereignty, security, co-operation and norms.

About School Research Seminar Series

This series brings together the School’s research community and domestic as well as international leaders in the field of politics and international affairs. Across each semester, the series showcases a diverse and exciting range of topics. We welcome anyone who might be interested in attending.

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