The Imperial Discipline: Race and the Founding of International Relations

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    Alexander E. Davis, Vineet Thakur, Peter Vale

    Publisher: Pluto Books

    Year: 2020

    Format: Paperback

    Size: 208 pages

    ISBN: 9780745340623

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An analysis of the origins of the field of International Relations from a decolonial perspective

This book questions the accepted origins of the field of International Relations (IR). Commonly understood to have emerged from the horrors of WW1 with the goal of bringing about world peace, the authors argue that on the contrary, IR came from a somewhat less noble tradition – that of the Round Table.

The Round Table were a network of imperialists emerging in the late 1800s across five key British imperial societies: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and India. Their aim was to improve imperial governance, placing the empire into a position to control world affairs. Although they ultimately failed to rearrange world order according to their vision, they did help to build what we now call the discipline of IR.

The Round Table's 'scientific method' for the study of world affairs was rapidly subsumed into each geopolitical context. Through telling this story, the authors recover it, and interrogate its meanings for the discipline of IR today. They show the importance of the Global South to IR's foundations, and argue that IR scholarship in this period was intertwined with imperial racial thought in ways that it should not and cannot forget.

About the Authors

Alexander E. Davis is a postdoctoral research fellow at La Trobe University's Department of Politics, Media and Philosophy, Australia.

Vineet Thakur is University Lecturer in History and International Relations at Leiden University, the Netherlands.

Peter Vale was the founding director of the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study, and Nelson Mandela Professor of Politics Emeritus, Rhodes University, South Africa.

What People Are Saying

"As calls to decolonise the university become widespread, this critique of the discipline of IR is ideal for classroom teaching." Bob Vitalis, Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania and author of White World Order, Black Power Politics: The Birth of American International Relations (Cornell University Press, 2017)

"A timely and important contribution to critical efforts revealing the racial and imperial orders undergirding the discipline of IR." Asli Calkivik, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Istanbul Technical University, and Theory Section Chair of the International Studies Association 

Table of Contents

Introduction: Race, Empire and the Founding of International Relations
1. An Edwardian Fantasy: The Empire-Wide Origins of International Relations
2. Canada: From Imperial Federationism to Liberal Imperialism
3. Australia: Race, Settlement and Understandings of the International
4. South Africa: Race Relations, the International and the Rise of Apartheid
5. New Zealand: Exceptionalism and Isolation in the South Pacific
6. India: The Imperial Discipline Meets Anti-Colonial Nationalism
Conclusion: The Past of International Relations and Its Future
Select Bibliography
Notes on Authors

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