Decentering International Relations

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Decentering International Relations seeks to actively confront, resist, and rewrite International Relations (IR), a heavily politicized field that is deeply centered in the North/West and privileges certain perspectives, pedagogies, and practices. Is it possible to break the chain of signifiers that always leads IR studies back to the US and its European allies?  Through engagement with a variety of theories (ranging beyond the usual mainstream versus critical/alternative binary), conversations with scholars, activists, and students, and consultation of IR syllabi and conference proceedings, the authors invite the reader to participate in an accessible yet provocative experiment to decenter the North/West when we learn, study, and do IR. In particular, they examine how the pressing issues of human rights, globalization, peace and security, and indigeneity are simultaneously normative inventions meant to sustain particular power structures and sites for insurgent and subversive attempts to live IR at the margins. Selbin and Nayak have written a remarkable and provokative re-envisioning of a globally important subject.

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About the Author:

Meghana Nayak is Associate Professor of Political Science and teaches in the Women's and Gender Studies Department at Pace University-New York. She has published in International Feminist Journal of Politics, International Studies Review, Women and Politics, and has a chapter in Theorizing Sexual Violence by Renee Heberle and Victoria Grace. Her work focuses on social movements, the politics of gender violence, and feminist and critical approaches to hegemony, security, and identity.

Eric Selbin is Professor and University Scholar at Southwestern University.  His books include Modern Latin American Revolutions; Revolution, Rebellion, Resistance: The Power of Story, and he is currently completing Understanding Revolutions with John Foran and Jack Goldstone.  In 2007 he was selected as one of Southwestern University's all-time "Fav Five" Faculty and received an Exemplary Teaching Award in 2001-2002. 

 

Review:

"Critical projects in International Relations in recent decades have identified biases and exclusions in the discourse and practice of the discipline. Nayak and Selbin, however, articulate IR as 'centered' in a way that is creative, comprehensive, lucid, and accessible. This book is an impressive contribution for that reason alone, but all the more impressive because it goes further - it not only talks about critical theorizing as a transformative project, but also transforms IR (by 'decentering') in critical terms. This text is engaging and stimulating, and IR is better off for its existence." —Laura Sjoberg, University of Florida "The most innovative and urgent book about international relations theory and practice I've read in decades" —Cynthia Weber, Lancaster University "Nayak and Selbin effectively engage all of us as students, as people trying to make more reliable, less blinkered sense of international politics. Their style is accessible, the questions they pose crucial. They challenge each of us to seriously think about who "we" are when we talk about "them". That's IR at its best." —Cynthia Enloe, author of Nimo's War, Emma's War: Making Feminist Sense of the Iraq War "This is a refreshingly unusual book on International Relations. It asks all the right questions, not only about world politics but about the ways they are seen and theorised. Disquisitions on theory tend to be ponderous and demanding, but the almost chatty style of the authors is not only light but almost wickedly humane. It is a book against obfuscation, on behalf of clarity, against the reification of the world into the vocabulary of an elite species, but expert in what that vocabulary should have demanded - shedding light upon the world instead of the genealogy of vocabulary." —Stephen Chan, SOAS and author of The End of Certainty "This superb book audaciously undermines International Relations theory conceived in Western conceit. Without denying Western power, the book asks whether the peoples of the world wake each day forming privileged opinions about us, presuming to give us their prescriptions for what they think we should do." —Richard Peet, Clark University and author of Unholy Trinity "Nayak and Selbin's well-crafted new volume contributes to the small but growing literature that seeks to 'decenter, unsettle, relativize and provincialize' the pseudo-universalisms of a profoundly (neo)colonial International Relations (IR) discipline fundamentally rooted in and reproductive of the self-understandings of the U.S./North/West. Starting from four central (sets of) concepts - indigeneity, human rights, globalization, and peace and security - the authors not only expose the workings of the hegemonic politics of the largely Anglo-American IR discipline, but convincingly deploy those concepts as sites at which radically to politicise, rethink and reconstruct and 'insurgent IR'." —Jutta Weldes, University of Bristol

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