Chapter 11: Poststructuralism By David Campbell

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Learning outcomes. After this lecture you should be able to:Know the context of the emergence of postructuralismUnderstand what poststructuralism is and how it differs from other IR theoriesExplain the relevance of key poststructural thinkers such as Michel FoucaultBe able to apply poststructuralism to real world examples using texts and images.

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Chapter 11: Poststructuralism By David Campbell

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1. Chapter 11: Poststructuralism By David Campbell

2. Learning outcomes After this lecture you should be able to: Know the context of the emergence of postructuralism Understand what poststructuralism is and how it differs from other IR theories Explain the relevance of key poststructural thinkers such as Michel Foucault Be able to apply poststructuralism to real world examples using texts and images

3. Theory as Knowledge Every understanding of international politics depends upon abstraction, representation and interpretation That is because ‘the world’ does not present itself to us in the form of ready-made categories, theories, observations or statements This does not mean, however, that anyone can simply make things up and have the products of their imagination count as legitimate knowledge Those interpretations which dominate are one among many different possibilities: how they come to dominate is a question that leads us to interrogate the relationship between knowledge and power

4. Intervention in IR Poststructuralism is a critical attitude rather than a ‘paradigm’ Poststructuralism’s entry into IR came in the 1980s through the work of Ashley, Der Derian, Shapiro and Walker. Much of this early writing took on the dominance of realism. For realism, the state marked the border between inside/outside, sovereignty/anarchy, us/them, duty/indifference Poststructuralism questioned how it came to be seen as natural and inevitable to privilege state-centric accounts of world politics Later work has engaged more directly with political events and representations of those events

5. IR’s anxiety Poststructuralist (PS) Response PS is not interested in studying the real world PS ignores key actors such as states PS believe that there is no reality outside the text PS is disinterested in moral judgements PS asks how the ‘real’ has been constructed PS seeks to provide a deeper account of how, for example, state structures are produced Objects exist external to thought but their meaning is constituted by interpretation Focus on inclusion/exclusion makes PS inherently ethical

6. Michel Foucault on Critique In Foucault’s words, ‘A critique is not a matter of saying that things are not right as they are. It is a matter of pointing out on what kinds of assumptions, what kinds of familiar, unchallenged, unconsidered modes of thought the practices that we accept rest’ Foucault challenges all foundational accounts of the human subject. Foucault asks how the category of the human subject has been produced historically In Discipline and Punish (1979) Foucault demonstrates how what the prison confines is as much the identity of society outside the walls as it is the prisoners on the inside

7. Meaning and Discourse Meaning is created by discourse. Discourse refers to a specific series of representations and practices through which meanings are produced, identities constituted, social relations established, and political and ethical outcomes made more or less possible For example, states are made possible by a wide range of discursive practices that include immigration policies, military strategies, cultural debates about normal social behaviour, political speeches and economic investments

8. Case Study: Images of Humanitarian Crisis – Visual Imagery Visual imagery is of particular importance for international politics because it is one of the principal ways in which news from distant places is brought home. Historically, photographs taken by explorers contributed to the development of an imagined geography of east and west, civilized and barbarian etc. Much of today’s international news, through the medium of moving images features stories about disease, famine, war and death

9. Case Study contd: Images of Humanitarian Crisis – Humanitarian Emergencies Humanitarian emergencies are matters of life and death. They are constructed as an event largely through media coverage These media materializations create a range of identities – us/them, victim/saviour – and are necessary for a response to be organised. Pictures draw attention to questions of representation While many readers taken them as representing snapshots of reality, they are constructions which create a particular sense of place populated by a particular kind of people

10. Case Study contd: Images of Humanitarian Crisis – Humanitarian Emergencies Famine images are a good example of the creation of particular kinds of subject Famine is represented as a lack of progress that results in the death of the innocent (as Edkins argues). See Fig 6 News media portray aid agencies as dispensers of charity to natural disaster victims too weak to help themselves This discursive formation has effects on ‘us’ at the same time as it gives meaning to ‘them’ These map onto a series of identity relations that confirm historical notions of self and other, superiority and inferiority, civilized and barbarian

12. So what is the big idea?

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