Race, Racism, and the Teaching of International Relations

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Abstract

Discussions of race and racism are often missing in the curriculum of international relations courses or, when present, categorized as a “critical approach” and placed outside the mainstream. But this absence or marginalization from the mainstream of the discipline does not mean that such discussions are beyond the scope of its primary agenda—that is, theorize interstate relations. On the contrary, questions of race and racism have been foundational to the historical development of international relations. In its formative years, the discipline’s understanding of the global order was shaped by the Darwinist conceptions of racial hierarchies adopted by some its core theorists. They viewed the imperial domination of the “White races” over the “darker peoples of the world” to be justified, considering the immeasurable racial superiority of the former. Revisionist international relations scholars, also active during the formative years of the discipline, worked to upend these racialized hierarchies and underlined the need to account for the struggles and national aspirations of the dominated in international politics. Yet, international relations’ racist disciplinary precepts have persisted, and a color line—both globally and within the discipline—continues to divide the world into racialized, binary categories (e.g., civilized/uncivilized, modern/backward, and developed/undeveloped) that legitimize Western authority in international politics. However, the introduction of race and racism in the teaching of the discipline equally unsettles the assumption that international relations embodies a value-free scientific endeavor. Instead, the role of racist precepts in the making and workings of the field demonstrates that the discipline’s mainstream is deeply positioned in its view of the world and, as a consequence, fails to account for the multiplicity of ways in which international politics is encountered and experienced.

Emneord

  • Race
  • Racism
  • International Relations
  • Pedagogy
  • Teaching
  • Curriculum hierarchy
  • Identity

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