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Framing the Periphery as a Threat in the IR Discourse Scholarship produced in interstitial centers such as university centers and think tanks in Washington contribute to the national security goals of the United States. What are the arguments for and against bombing Iran? How to build a proper sanctions regime targeting Iran and North Korea? What weapons are ideal for anti-terror operations in foreign locations? Why is supporting Israel critical for the U. Middle East policy? Even broader discussions regarding democracy and development get securitized in which democracy promotion and economic development become diplomatic tools rather than mere theoretical explanations Aning ; Higgott For instance, the India-Pakistan military conflict is framed as a national security threat to the U.

Pakistani nuclear weapons were not considered a threat during the Cold War because the U. Khan network secretly began assembling the Islamic Bomb with Chinese and North Korean assistance and through espionage Corera Since the mid-eighties, the Indian academic and policy community had persisted in their claims that Pakistan trained terror groups operating in border areas along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border present a threat not only to India, but they are also a global security threat.

However U. In the U. Picking up the cues from their professors, students on American campuses in IR courses rely on the first person plural to discuss international events. The reliance on first person plural becomes particularly problematic when students from other countries are present in the classroom ibid. My students, however, tended to see things in a relentlessly America-centric fashion. Students simply had no experience of taking themselves outside the shoes of Americans and viewing historical issues in which the nation was involved from a detached, third-party perspective Miller The sheer volume or the industrial scale of scholarly output coming from the U.

If one wants to study IR, it is almost de rigueur that scholars from the periphery need to visit the U. The process of organizing a syllabus is an ontological challenge for a scholar in the periphery who has to balance local issues with concepts from abroad ibid. An attempt at fostering alternative non-American or non-western perspectives is gaining some momentum Acharya ; Shillman ; Acharya and Buzan However these alternative modes of inquiry have yet to evolve into a full-fledged intellectual movement with the ability to challenge the overwhelming hegemony of American IR. The objective is not oriented towards nativism, but the aim is to create spaces for alternative ways of conceptualizing the IR problematic outside the bounds of dominant theoretical paradigms Behera As in the case of India, which was under British colonial rule for over three centuries, the linguistic influence, political structure, and knowledge construction was mediated through the colonial project; so when the colonialists involuntarily departed, colonial ideas were deployed by Indian intellectuals in the construction of the post-colonial state.

International Relations in India is as much an outcome of the colonial legacy as it is of anti-colonialism and anti-Western thought, which influenced the project of state and nation building. Post-colonial India sought to expand and develop the territorial dimension of the colonial state and reassert its imagined and real glory by drawing on its past.

In India, and more broadly in South Asia and other post-colonial states, the study of IR became associated with the project of nation building Alagappa Indian IR scholarship is predominantly oriented towards the India- Pakistan conflict and India-China strategic competition.


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The reverse situation holds in Pakistan where the focus is entirely India centric, largely the military and nuclear threat posed by India. In Sri Lanka, the scholarship was dominated by the long-running ethnic conflict and its political aftermath. International Relations produced within the national-security context of individual states tend to prioritize local concerns, but the localized focus of the peripheral scholarship forces the periphery to box itself in within its geographic boundaries.

There is very little space for universal or big picture thinking and the scholarship is empirically oriented and governed by immediate national security concerns. The state is intricately intertwined with IR scholarship in South Asia because IR departments almost all social sciences and general sciences are funded and managed exclusively by the state. South Asian universities primarily focus on undergraduate teaching with the exception of national research universities.

Focus on undergraduate education is the primary focus of social science departments.

Innocent in the Ivory Tower

In South Asia, IR scholarship is geographically concentrated in the capital and it is intimately tied to the power structures of the state. South Asian IR is hobbled by structural, institutional, and infrastructural issues such as the lack of support for academic research and over-emphasis on teaching, the lack of funding for travel and research, and the lack of a well-knit community of IR scholars.

Also perhaps there is a grudging acceptance that Western IR theory may have gotten it right Acharya and Buzan ; Bajpai and Mallavarapu The India-Pakistan conflict, the Kashmir issue, the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict, the border issues with China along the Himalayan frontier, and the refugee problem with Bangladesh are the main foci.


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American IR scholarship has moved towards theory building and hypothesis testing, whereas South Asian IR has proceeded in the opposite direction. There is strong resistance to theory, even denigration of theory or studied indifference in the quest to become functional, relevant, and practical Jaffar ; Bajpai , Indian IR is dominated by descriptive area and relational studies Alagappa , Only one strand of theorizing has assumed much significance within South Asian IR, which is realism and nuclear strategy with its emphasis on power and the primacy of the state Chan Many scholars have internalized the inability of Indian IR to breakout of the Western modes of thought or theoretical parameters and they are obsessed with relying on Western thought as a critical reference point Bajpai and Mallavarapu By definition the discipline of IR is viewed as being atheoretical—not amenable to theorizing—and as something that they could be easily picked up by reading newspapers and magazines.

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Given the dominance of the United States, which is acutely felt in the field of IR, it becomes almost inescapable that even knowledge generated in the outer periphery and in the conflict-ridden parts of the world have to pay homage to the theoretical output coming out of the American universities. Adding to the dominance of the American thinking is the very high degree of state control of university curriculum and low-value placed on social science research, especially in fields such as IR, anthropology, history, and sociology Acharya It is inevitable that social science scholars based in India have to work within the paradigmatic frameworks established by American IR scholars because it is easier to rely on ideas already out there rather than attempt anything independently because there are no incentives for such endeavors Bajpai Indian expertise on foreign affairs continues to be concentrated in the Ministry of External Affairs MEA and other alternative venues were not developed.

Although India has produced diplomats of international stature, it has failed to produce any IR scholars of global repute Paul , Ethnicity as a social science category is entirely a derivative of European nation-state construction and it does not fit very nicely into multi-ethnic states such as Sri Lanka.

Naturalization of ethno-religious identity in a post-colonial democratic state increased competition for goods, territory, and positions within the society and this spurred competition between the majority and minority groups, which eventually culminated in the calls for separate sovereignty for the minority Tamils that degenerated into sustained, acute, and brutal violence.

Clearly in this case, the adoption of Western social constructs—ethnic and religious identity—in the context of post-colonial majoritarian democratic processes produced policies of exclusivity that produced intense conflict. Violence in Sri Lanka was not the result of spontaneous instances of real or imagined ethno-religious discrimination by the majority against the minority, but the violence was the direct result of identity construction into specific ethno-linguistic groups in a multi-ethnic state experiencing majoritarian democracy.

When the majoritarian group—the Sinhalese—attempted to dominate the positions of power, educational leadership, and commerce through discrimination and disenfranchisement of the minority Tamils, it spurred inter-ethnic competition and organized violence. Once the episodes of violence began increasing in frequency and the local scholarship became exclusively preoccupied with finding the roots of the ethnic conflict—the Sinhala-Tamil divide--and its manifestations Wickramasinghe ; Jeganathan Funding to address the Sri Lankan civil war was not entirely driven by altruism; rather it was also targeted to stop the flow of refugees into the West Wickramasinghe However, the opposite is true in the case of violence in Africa or South Asia.

Global IR and Planet Politics as Alternatives to Paradigmatic Core- Centric IR Some regard American scholarly hegemony as entirely legitimate for defensible reasons, and believe that this situation is unlikely to change anytime soon Mearsheimer , Others argue that IR theory confronts enduring problems and they are universal in scope because they deal with issues such as causes of war, conditions of peace, anarchy, power, state, sovereignty, law and order, governance, institutions, and non-state actors Ikenberry , Mearsheimer and Ikenberry, among others, persist in believing that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the state of affairs in IR or the range of issues that it is seeking to address.

There is a certain cost associated with IR theories centered in the core that seek to explain the world. Such theories systematically downplay the influence and impact of scholarship and contributions made by the periphery and it ignores the deep-rooted racism, colonialism, and extraction structures that contributed to the peripheralization of the periphery.

Global IR is a call for explicit recognition and inclusion of peoples, places, things, and experiences from the periphery Hurrell , The answer does not lie in reverting back to narrowly constructed national IR schools, which in fact would be counterproductive. It is a proposal for developing alternative theories of IR that have origins in the periphery Acharya The aim of Global IR is to function within the existing frameworks and paradigms by being inclusive, self-aware, and sensitive to contextual knowledge.

The manifesto for transformation of IR outlined in Planet Politics proposes a radical overhaul by completely altering the ontological foundations using the concept of Anthropocene. Authors of Planet Politics contend that IR has failed because it is not able conceptualize and generate useful theories to explain extinction events—climate change, species extinction, and carbon pollution— confronting the planet. According to them, IR theory has not dealt with the growing ecological pressures and the march towards extinction seriously.

Beyond the Ivory Tower

The urgent call delivered in Planet Politics implores IR scholars to make the Anthropocene the central ontological focus of their research and recognize other living species and ecologies as fundamental to the survival of human habitat. Planet Politics is a declaration for transgressing the bounded conversations that happen within IR and engage with wide array of groups both within and outside the academia. The strength of Planet Politics lies not only in the sense of urgency it displays in confronting the political economy of extinction, but also in not respecting the core-periphery divisions and the boundedness of sovereignty.

Planet Politics is also a call for greater inclusivity of other species and ecologies and offers them legal protections. It moves to jolt the ethical framework of IR to be responsive to the high probability of mass extinction. Ultimately Planet Politics is truly global in its foundations because it is concerned with the planetary health and long-term survivability rather than being focused on narrow territorial conflict and inter-state competition.

'American' IR theory and its 'European' critics

In every way, Planet Politics is a manifesto to overcome the ontological limitations of IR that is tied to the notions of state, sovereignty, and security. Conclusion In this article, I have sought to show how the institutional structure of the American academia and its incentive system shapes knowledge production and its consumption in the core and periphery in IR. Particularly this article has made the argument that IR theories are dispassionate and driven by methodological scholasticism, and are not prepared to address big questions regarding extinction and planetary survival because misplaced incentives are forcing IR to become out of touch with new realities.

One reason for this core-periphery separation is the deep theoretical penetration of American IR and its methods everywhere. This American social science of IR is driven by citation counts and dominated by scholasticism. Overwhelming advantages in size, resources, and incentives enjoyed by the West have made it very difficult for the non-West to generate original scholarship and become more than mere objects of study. The number of academic institutions, resource advantages, and academic incentives of merit-based pay, promotion, and tenure, and professionalization have made IR an American social science without any credible non-Western alternatives.

Moreover, the rather uncritical acceptance of IR theories produced in the core combined with the disdain for theoretical work has led to the peripheralization of the periphery. Why some academic trends gain traction while others are abandoned is not a matter of oversight, but it is governed by deliberate decisions ibid. All knowledge is generated within a particular social and academic context, hence the environment and the conditions within which such knowledge is created regulate which trend becomes prominent and which does not.

Since theories are always for someone and for some purpose, it has a tendency to alienate the people, places, and things to which it does not speak of Cox Both Global IR and Planet Politics are promising trends in IR theory that demand an explicit reconceptualization of IR theories to confront pressing and immediate problems that the world is facing such as the bitter regional conflict in Syria and Yemen, and destructive environmental havoc caused by the carbon pollution of from industrial activities. Planet Politics is a proclamation for confronting the critical challenges facing the human condition in the twenty-first century and an argument for stepping away from notions of state sovereignty, boundaries, and territoriality that has dominated IR theorizing.

Acknowledgements The author would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their detailed and sharp comments, which significantly improved the quality of this article. Thanks to Tobias Denskus and Maria Vivod for feedback on the previous drafts. Thanks to Professor Sung- Chull-Kim for his editorial suggestions and many thanks to Benjamin Engel for his deft editing that helped to improve the article.

Notes 1.

Although this survey did not include participants from Southeast Asia, India, Japan, and China, it could be inferred that this trend is likely to be equally pronounced in these countries. This survey did however include several countries from South America.

Well it is not apparently, which is the starting claim of this project of remaking IR into a global discipline. Although the relative number of advertised faculty positions is still high compared to other countries that house IR departments, the total number of jobs in the field of political science has gradually declined over the past decade Straumsheim The U. Job-talk is a formal presentation followed by a question-answer session that determines the intellectual caliber and fit of a candidate for the advertised faculty position.

In smaller colleges, conference papers are counted towards scholarly advancement and they are appropriately weighted for tenure and promotion.

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However, such appointments are highly politicized and based on a patronage system. One of the more disturbing trends in American universities is the rapid expansion of the temporary teaching pool that has increased percent Fruscione ; Curtis and Thornton References Acharya, Amitav. Acharya, Amitav. Acharya, Amitav, New York: Routledge. Acharya, Amitav and Barry Buzan, eds. New York, Routledge. Acharya, Amitav, Pinar Bilgin, and L. Alagappa, Muthiah. Allison, Graham T.

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New York: Holt Paperbacks. Alonso, Carlos. Aning, Kwesi. Ayoob, Mohammed.