Cai Wilkinson

Cai Wilkinson is Senior Lecturer at Deakin University in Melbourne Australia. Cai’s research focuses on societal security in the post-Soviet space, with a particular focus on LGBTQ rights in Kyrgyzstan and Russia.

Securitization Forum: Back on Tour With the Copenhagen School – Better to Travel Than Arrive

A full twelve posts in to the forum, the question posed by Jarrod and Eric about why securitization theory’s travels in the US have been so pedestrian compared to its extensive tour schedule in Europe and elsewhere has already been explored from a considerable number of angles, with various diagnoses made. Details differ, but the overall consensus appears to be that securitization theory (at least in its original theoretical form) is in all respects too alien to the disciplinary ecosystem of American IR to be able to gain any substantive foothold amongst the US discipline’s dominant conceptual and methodological species under current conditions. Furthermore, incentives for its import are lacking on the part of both buyers and sellers: the former argue that it doesn’t provide sufficient added value compared to existing options to justify its price, whilst the strong (mainly) European market for securitization theory has meant that there’s been little incentive to try and crack American IR/Political Science.

If this is the case, then why not just accept this stalemate? Does it really matter if much of American IR simply prefers to stick with its current conceptual toolkit? What’s really to be gained by insisting that all theories are present in all places?

Observed from this perspective, the question of whether we need a theory of securitization even in American IR is too easily dismissed. Certainly Juha provides an excellent overview of what sort of insights securitization theory can generate and effectively dispels some common criticisms which may (hopefully) prompt some in the US to (re)consider their view of securitization theory as a result. Many, however, will remain unconvinced and untroubled. After all, an affirmative answer to the question of whether we need a theory of securitization carries a hefty burden of proof, especially when you’re trying to convince a skeptical audience (mainstream American IR) that they need something that they’re sure they don’t need.

It’s still premature to conclude that American and European IR need to agree to differ, however, and exploring a question that follows on from Juha’s can provide new insights into the curious case of securitization theory’s lack of traction in the US: What is lost, omitted or even prevented as a consequence of securitization’s very limited Stateside travels?

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Continuing the “all-male” theme at EISA

It was with a distinct sinking feeling yesterday that I learnt that conference rooms for the EISA’s upcoming 9th Pan-European Conference on International Relations have been renamed after eminent theorists of European origin and that there is not a single woman amongst those selected to be honored.

A close reading of the conference program brought together the following list of names, which was posted on the Congrats, you have an all-male panel Tumblr:

EISA all male rooms

To add insult to injury, some conference rooms have retained their usual Italian names, so it’s not even as though there wasn’t space to include some female theorists, even if one wished to stick solely to Europeans on the grounds that it’s a European association and  conference (and I’d note that this reasoning is far from unproblematic both in terms of defining “Europe” and deliberately excluding “non-European” theorists from a discipline that purports to be “international”).

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Living IR: Lessons from Manuela Picq’s arrest and detention

Photo of Manuela Picq being arrested. Photo used with permission.

Photo of Manuela Picq being arrested. Photo used with permission.

Over the weekend news came from Ecuador that Dr Manuela Picq of Universidad San Francisco de Quito, had been beaten and arrested while participating in a legal protest over indigenous rights as a journalist. Initially hospitalised as a result of injuries sustained at the hands of police, she was  informed that her visa had been cancelled  due to her having engaged in “political activity” and that she would be deported from Ecuador, where she has lived and worked for the past eight years. She is currently being held in a hotel that is used to detain illegal immigrants until her case is heard this afternoon.

[UPDATE: Manuela has been released after the judge ruled that her arrest was not justified and detention unreasonable.]

Once news had broken, the reaction has been swift and condemnatory from activists and academics alike. A petition on Change.org calling for Manuela’s deportation to be halted has gathered more than 6,000 signatures at the time of writing, letters of support are being sent to President Correa and his government, and a protest has been held in Ecuador.

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Affective or Effective? War Child’s Gamefication of Conflict Experience

Gamification is “is the application of game elements and digital game design techniques to non-game problems, such as business and social impact challenges”, to borrow the course description from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania’s Gamification MOOC.

The approach has been used to try and improve employee productivity, facilitate risk prevention education (and indeed many other forms of education) , resolve social conflict, and, perhaps less surprisingly, in marketing. And just in case you thought there were any contexts in which gamification couldn’t be used, militaries are already in on the act, with both the US military and the Israeli Defence Force using it to try and cultivate favourable attitudes and support and get their message out to target audiences. Gamifiying conflict by militaries was always going to be controversial, especially when they’re actively engaged in warfare as the IDF discovered in 2012, although gamification guru Yu-kai Chou argues that this is actually just coming full circle given that most games are predicated on mimicking the essential characteristics of war in the first place.

But if trying to make war appealing and “fun” will strike many people as a negative (or at least highly pragmatic) use of gamification, what about efforts aimed at highlighting the horrors of war? Helen Berents recently responded to the release of a viral advert from UK charity War Child that is designed to raise awareness of children’s experiences of conflict. Using Storify, this post presents the debate that ensued (minus the bit that happened on Facebook, which I’ll leave Helen to summarise), and considers the role and efficacy of emotion in trying to mobilize people in support of a particular cause.

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LGBT Rights: The Perils of Becoming Mainstream

To begin with a confession, I have spent far too long contemplating what to write about as my first post, due in no small part to sharing fellow Guest Duck Tom‘s nerves about joining such formidable paddling of regular Ducks. However, Wendy‘s post on human rights having gone mainstream and no longer being revolutionary has given me exactly the push I needed to get started.

Specifically, I want to explore Wendy’s argument in relation to claims for LGBT rights. My aim is not to counter Wendy’s argument, which I find persuasive, but rather to use it as a starting point for thinking through the implications of becoming mainstream and, in particular, consider the potential downsides of becoming “accepted and discussed” – what is lost when one’s claims cease to be revolutionary and/or “subversive”?

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