2017 was not a great year for international politics. The sentence I heard the most during conferences and other academic gatherings was that “the global order is in crisis.” Granted. It all started in 2016 with the victory of Trump, Brexit and the No to the Peace Agreement in Colombia. Nationalist ideologies have nothing but grown in 2017, when the victories of Marine Le Pen in France and of Geert Wilders in the Netherlands all of a sudden seemed plausible. Luckily, they did not materialise. We also had auto-proclaimed nations that demanded independence, such as Catalonia or Kurdistan. To top it all, the far right did win elections in Hungary, Austria and the Czech Republic. This nationalist move is having consequences across the world. In the Libyan costs migrants are being sold as slaves by smugglers or are locked up in hangars with no access to the most basic needs, after the European Union’s enactment of its policy of helping Libyan authorities intercept people trying to cross the Mediterranean and return them to prison. Continue reading
If anybody is planning to collude with some Russians for New Year’s (but not in order to swing an election), I compiled a brief checklist. Originally, I wanted to take apart an article from a prestigious newspaper that described “a Christmas encounter with a Russian soul”, but then I decided against it. After all, if you don’t buy “the case for colonialism”, then you probably also won’t think that “Russians do not share the ethical heritage of the West, but moral intuition exists everywhere, and is able to be inspired”. But enough with the narcissistic white bigotry, let’s learn about Russia!
In good ol’ orientalist tradition let’s start with drinking. No self-respecting Russian ever says “na zdorovie” while toasting. Ever. You drink for something – “za”. Want to impress some Russians, say either “vashe zdorovie” or “budem!” – both are correct equivalents to “Cheers”.
Another important thing, New Year is THE winter holiday in Russia. Not Christmas. You prepare for it in advance, buy presents, decorate a tree, have a massive meal and get together with the family. Atheist Soviet traditions have stuck pretty well and the reflex of cutting an Olivier salad on December 31st is hard to suppress.
What the hell is an Olivier salad I anticipate you’d ask. It’s a Russian New Year staple food that originally included hazel grouse, crayfish, and a bunch of other expensive ingredients concocted by a French chef in mid 19th century, but gradually became a potato, pea and mayonnaise based delight that you enjoy by the ton.
So what about Christmas (you might wonder)? Most Russians celebrate Christmas (if they do) on January 7th thanks to the power squabbles with the Catholic Church back in the Middle Ages. While after the Revolution Russia moved almost two weeks ahead (hence the Great October Revolution celebration on November 7th), the Russian Orthodox Church stayed behind and insists on celebrating all Christian holidays based on the Julian calendar. Some even celebrate Old New Year on January 13th!
Also, Christmas trees. Again, in a post-Soviet mind – a fir tree is a totally secular New Year tradition that has nothing to do with Christmas. To be fair, they have much more to do with Saturnalia than with Christmas anyway. You know how in America people make fun of those who take down their Christmas lights in February? Try keeping your tree until March!
Last but not least. Russians also have a type of Santa – his name is Father Frost (Ded Moroz), he brings presents, rides a sleigh and he is assisted by his granddaughter Snowmaiden (Snegurochka). Despite his somewhat dubious origin story and unclear family tree (where is his wife? Or Children?!), his is still a far cry from the controversy caused every year by Zwarte Piet in the Netherlands.
I am off to cut the Oliver and obsessively check the statuses of submitted manuscripts. Remember, despite the condescending orientalist horse crap that you might read in the Wall Street Journal, Russians are like everybody else. They just want acceptance with minor revisions.
We knew it was coming and here it is. An open source spreadsheet designed by The Professor Is In blog’s Karen L. Kelsky for the purpose of collecting up stories of sexual harassment, abuse, and plain old taking advantage from within the Academy in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
“I am not surprised at the number. I am surprised at the severity of many of the stories. I expected more quid pro quo or handsy passes made after drinking at an open bar at a conference. I didn’t expect as many stories of rape and stalking and abuse.” (Kelsky)
Unlimited to the discipline of International Relations (IR), we know that stories shared here – and countless like them – derive from inside our Departments, Schools, and conferences. As an extremely male dominated and masculinised discipline, feminist and queer IR have been telling us for years about the profound effects such a gender imbalance has. On not only how women and femininity are treated and so often marginalised but on how such patriarchy has detrimentally produced IR’s traditional and primary units of analysis – man, the state, and war – in the very image of their very particular (male, white, cis etc) authors.
Speaking to the extent of the ‘scourge‘ (as Kelsky puts it), as a recently graduated, female, IR PhD working (happily) in the discipline, I count myself lucky for making it this far without having accumulated much to add to the spreadsheet’s 1,600 (and counting) entries. However, if I’m honest there are probably things that I could/should say. The women coming forward to share their stories – even anonymously – are braver than I.
Of course, in Higher Education, the lines between work/personal life and teacher/student become blurred (and these blurrings are some of what make academia and University life good). Of course, there is a difference between rape and mis-judged flirting or an extra-marital affair. However, consent is complicated and the extreme power imbalance between parties involved make the stakes high and skew the consequences in favour of the most often older, most often senior, most often male participant in even seemingly ‘harmless’ interactions. Just read the spreadsheet to see for yourself. After doing so I’m thinking now is surely the time for us to re-draw the lines and bring to account the ones so far un-named who went too far (we/you know who you are).
For Russia watchers Christmas always comes early (or Hanukkah comes right on time!) when Putin gives his annual presser in mid-December to the journalists from Russia and around the world. This year was no exception, and Putin provided an almost 4-hour spectacle of economic indicator juggling, question evading and what looked like battling the flu. Even devoted supporters noticed that Putin was not on top of his game that day. He had to constantly clear the throat and looked like he had fever.
There was something for everyone. Putin came out against abortion ban and spun a conspiracy theory about the Olympic doping scandal. Accused the US of North Korean missile program development and encouraged rotation of governmental cadres. Explained the rationale behind a possible retirement age increase and advised the head of Rosneft Sechin to show up to court when he is subpoenaed. Many bloggers and mass media outlets have devised several versions of Putin Presser bingo, because every year there seems to be the same number of shticks that come up. These include drinking from a cup with a lid, making a joke – this year a particularly crass one, – providing reassuring mumbo-jumbo about Russian economic growth and an expected tough question from a Ukrainian journalist.
Let’s start with the last one. Questions from UNIAN journalist Tsymbayuk are a rare aberration from the mainstream discourse on the Ukraine crisis in Russia (this time they were met with boos and “provocation” outcries). He asked whether Putin was planning to exchange prisoners of war and reminded that Russia and Ukraine were not one country. Putin had a long comeback arguing that the accent-free Russian of the journalist was already a sign that the countries occupied the same mental space. After that followed quite a long history lesson riddled some historical inaccuracies and an emphasis on the same Christian foundation of the two countries that make up one nation. Later, Putin also quipped about the scandal provoked by the former Georgian President and ex Odessa governor Saakashvili, who is allegedly “spitting in the faces of Ukrainians and Georgians”. Putin even wondered whether there were “real Ukrainians” available in the country. Oh, snap. A lot of Russians don’t believe Ukraine deserves to be a state in the first place…
A guest post by Thomas Pepinsky, is Associate Professor of Government at Cornell University and Stefanie Walter, Full Professor for International Relations and Political Economy at the Department of Political Science at the University of Zurich.
Many observers of contemporary global politics conclude that the present moment represents one of the most unsettled times in global politics since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Shock events such as the Brexit vote, the continued success of radical right populists in continental Europe, the continuing Eurozone crisis, and the unprecedented foreign relations of the Trump presidency all point to a global liberal order under stress. Scholars of comparative and international politics and political economy are now asking questions that would have seemed far-fetched only years ago: how durable is liberal internationalism and the North Atlantic alliance? Will mercantilism replace neoliberalism? Can central bank and supranational economic institutions perform the functions required of them?Continue reading
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the sovereignest of them all? Asked no head of state — ever. And yet, the Russian Parliament is in the process of devising a document, which assesses levels of sovereignty among the G20, and devises punishments for countries or individuals who infringe on state sovereignty. I have to admit, it fits well with the ISQ’s new online symposium on International Systems in World History. Hierarchy, international system, definition of state, coercion – it’s all there! Russian Parliament does not reflect on the Eurocentrism of their concepts though…
The Interim Commission of the Federation Council for the Protection of State Sovereignty has prepared a plan for an annual report on interference in Russia’s internal affairs (securitization alert!). Apparently, the West is stimulating interethnic and interreligious protests in Russia by way of turning the Russian youth “into an instrument of loosening up of national political systems, implementing scenarios of “color revolutions”, coups d’état, and social destabilisation.” So, if we track the empirical application of Butcher and Griffiths’ article, there is in fact a clear delineation between domestic and foreign politics. The foreign part comes in with the “monitoring of the interference of foreign states and international organizations in the political, economic, cultural and humanitarian spheres of activity in Russia”. Especially worrisome for Russian lawmakers is the expected interference with Russia’s presidential election in spring 2018. See, Russia does care about election meddling! Just not the American one.
Picture the scene: throngs of people gathering as the night descends. They are looking up at the building across the way—patiently, expectantly. There is a low-hum of voices. Gradually, the voices converge and they begin singing the same song…
The following is a guest post by Ayelet Harel-Shalev and Shir Daphna-Tekoah.
Ayelet Harel-Shalev is a Senior Lecturer at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Her academic interests include Feminist IR; Women Combatants; Ethnic Conflicts and Democracy; Minority Rights; and Women and Politics. @harelayelet email@example.com
Shir Daphna-Tekoah is a Senior Lecturer at Ashkelon Academic College, and Kaplan Medical Center. Her academic interests include Gender, Health and Violence; Women Combatants; Child Abuse and Neglect; Dissociation and Trauma. firstname.lastname@example.org
In the era of the #MeToo campaign, we call for critical thinking about trauma and suggest engagement with a variety of women’s narratives of trauma. We take our cue from Cynthia Enloe’s advice to scholars to seek questions that are thus far unidentified in International Relations and Political Science. In these spaces of query and in these silences, she notes, one will often find politics.
When one evaluates the history of Trauma Studies, it becomes evident that this field of study was triggered by wars, combat, and their attendant political developments. The study of trauma started by examining the exposure of men to combat experiences. The resulting body of work was subsequently complemented by studies of the trauma of women and children as abused victims. Current knowledge about trauma, therefore, stems from studies on combat men and victim women.
This is a tough post to write. In October, Charli was hospitalized for severe abdominal pain. Surgery revealed a large mass, and Charli was diagnosed with Burkitt’s Lymphoma—a systemic cancer of the immune system. This is a rare cancer, but fortunately it is highly treatable (doctors say the cancer is responding well) and Charli has access to some of the best doctors in the world in Boston. But, the treatment is brutal: an intensive, six month course of chemotherapy. Charli is soldiering on, dealing with the anticipated (the hair!) and unanticipated challenges of cancer diagnosis and treatment with the indomitable spirit we all know.
Like me, I’m sure your response to this news is, how can I help? Charli has an amazing community supporting her on a day-to-day basis, but she needs our help to deal with the financial elephant in the room. Cancer treatment is expensive, and Charli’s insurance doesn’t cover the whole bill. Her family has set up a fundraising site to help defray these substantial medical costs. I hope the Duck community will join all of here at the blog in supporting Charli as she beats down this cancer. Together, we can help to ensure her story is one in which she lives happily ever after.
Google “peer review crisis,” and you will find dozens of pieces — some dating back to the 1990s —lamenting the state of peer reviewing. While these pieces focus in part on research replicability and quality, one major concern has been shortages in academic labor. In one representative article, Fox and Petchey (2010) argue that peer reviewing is characterized by a “tragedy of the commons” that is “increasingly dominated by ‘cheats’ (individuals who submit papers without doing proportionate reviewing).” Other commentators describe the burden faced by “generous peer reviewers” who feel “overwhelmed.”
Dead American soldiers became the objects of highly visible and ongoing contest this week – over the ways and means of grieving America’s fallen. In fact, the events discussed in this short post mark only the latest phase and an escalation in tensions between dominant and challenging bodies over the (in)visibility of suffering and dead American soldiers that have featured throughout the Global War on Terror (GWoT). Such tensions demonstrate not only the competing logics and agendas leading to the blacking out of American repatriations via the 2003Dover Ban (a DoD Directive prohibiting the publication and broadcast of images and videos capturing any part of the repatriation process) but the value of soldier grief claims and speaking for the dead within contemporary American politics and international relations.
This latest round of contest began on Monday, when President Trump responded to criticism over the Administration’s two week wait to make contact with the families of four soldiers killed in action (KIA) in Niger by claiming that predecessors “didn’t make calls” at all. It then came to light that, in an eventual condolence call to Myeshia Johnson made just moments before the above photograph was taken, Trump explained the deceased Sgt. La David Johnson “knew what he signed up for.” Accused of insensitivity by Sgt. Johnson’s Mother, for widowed Myeshia the worst of it was however that “he [Trump] didn’t even know his [Sgt. Johnson’s] name.” To Myeshia and the ones who knew him in life, Sgt. Johnson was a uniquely grievable human being – the ‘Wheelie King‘ from South Florida, who married his high-school sweetheart. However, draped in the flag and conflated into thefallen, such characteristics – those comprising what Jenny Edkins describes as “personhood” – go unseen and uncounted by bodies reliant upon the continuation of conflict for their geo-political, financial, and ontological security. Such bodies (government and military in kind) “don’t do body counts” and regard American soldiers on mass as a “most precious resource” with which to fuel the GWoT.
Captured at Dover Air Force Base (AFB) as pregnant Myeshia wept over the flag-draped coffin carrying her dead husband’s body, the above, touching and moving image is one of a kind hotly contested throughout the GWoT. Indeed, in March 2003 (on the eve of Iraq’s invasion), the Bush Administration extended and enforced the Dover Ban which was originally issued in 1991 (during the Gulf War). However, as the GWoT went on (and I have discussed here and forthcoming) public contests over the (in)visibility of the KIA and the right to publicly count and account for the human cost of America’s ‘forever’ (and everywhere) war rose in the forms of challenges including a protest march against the Ban by Military Families Speak Out, works of art exaggerating the lack of dead American soldiers from the American visual landscape, and the publication of banned images by bodies including The Seattle Times and Associated Press ahead of the ban’s partial revoke in 2009 by then Defence Secretary Robert Gates.
As civilians with close military ties and bonds American military – Gold Star – families comprise a vital yet liminal part of the body politic and are subject to intense pressures from dominant bodies. For example, military families provide vital support to serving soldiers and veterans alike while their sensitivities are invoked by government and military bodies as justification for various (in)actions and policies. Military families are as such are elevated to a pivotal position: “the top one percent” according to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly – himself a Gold Star father – this week. Khizir Khan demonstrated this well with his protest speech against Trump on American patriotism and values at the DNC last year. Crucially, all this goes on while military families are exposed to the excessive violence of war via their soldier kin, and of course, when soldiers are injured and KIA it is military families who see and feel (let alone count) the human cost of war and as such become part of the toll themselves. However, as the events discussed here illustrate, when made visible military families may use their pivotal position to (re)define American values and move other, dominant bodies (as well as the public) towards counting and accounting for the human cost of even a forever war.
Today’s headlines in several international newspapers had to struggle with too many possessive male noun forms: Putin’s mentor’s daughter Ksenia Sobchak announced that she would run for Russian Presidency next year. Russia’s Got Talent!
Not that the Kremlin thought that the upcoming ‘Putin referendum’ is in Jeopardy! The main contender Navalny is currently contemplating whether orange is the new black and will probably not get on the ballot anyway. The usual suspects (such as Zyuganov and Yavlinsky) have been trying to get that rose from the Russian population for too many seasons. Given that next year’s elections are scheduled on “Crimea Re-Unification Day”, there is no way anybody will be able to keep up with the Kardashian.
Sobchak’s bid looks very, very much improbable in this game of thrones. For starters, rumors about her being the ‘spoiler’ candidate that would split the opposition vote have been circulating for months, and even URL about her announcement in Vedomosti Newspaper is backdated to September 30th. Also, her mass media career might sort of arrest this development. To most Russians she is not really familiar as an oppositional journalist, but more so as a reality show host. Sobchak used to help ‘build love’ on a Russian reality TV show ‘Dom-2’ [House-2], where male and female contestants are supposed to build couples and an actual house that the best couple won at the end. The show includes numerous scenes of conflicts, fist fighting, swearing, masturbation and other delightful hallmarks of reality TV.
“The women who accused Harvey Weinstein did not act as women. Because sexual harassment – well, that’s great, honestly. And if you have a role, what difference does it make how you got it. […] In general, how can a man be accused of sexual harassment, is it not what he exists in this world for? If he has the power that he uses in this way, that’s good. It’s wonderful when a man who has so much power is sexually harassing you, isn’t it?”
No, it isn’t. But that is what a relatively famous Russian actress Lyubov Tolkalina had to say about the Hollywood scandal. Even though in the same article about Russian movie industry attitudes to Harvey Weinstein there were other opinions, including from men who sympathized with the victims of sexual assault and derided the hypocrisy of the movie industry in Russia and the US, so far the response to the Hollywood revelations in Russia have not necessarily been #MeToo. The underlying issue here is not just the patriarchal culture, but also the internalized misogyny and victim blaming that go with it, or, as Lyubov Tolkalina puts it, “A woman is always guilty in male sexual assault”. Being a part of a macho patriarchal culture is hard, so a lot of women side with the desirable and hierarchically higher in-group – men – and re-affirm female objectification and disparagement. Moreover, this kind of responses mirror the pushback against the social media campaign #IamNotAfraidtoSayIt (#янебоюсьсказать) initiated by a Ukrainian activist in 2016 where women in Post-Soviet space shared the horrifying stories of sexual abuse.
The stories under those Russian and Ukrainian hashtags showed that sexual assault and violence against women are, unfortunately, everyday and underreported phenomena. Statistics on domestic violence in Russia are disturbing: around 600,000 women suffer annually of domestic abuse, while approximately 60-70% of incidents of domestic abuse never even get reported. This was sarcastically captured in the headline of an article on domestic violence in Rossiyskaya Gazeta: ‘If he kills you, then report it’. In other words, law enforcement officials routinely discard the claims of domestic assault brought forward by women or claim that the women brought the violence on themselves. Apart from the physical violence, there is a general discursive tolerance towards violence against women. Even women who suffered from domestic violence usually tend to justify it or reconcile with their offenders and continue to tolerate the abuse. Continue reading
On one America First issue after another, the data show limited and declining support. On the general issue of maintaining alliances, 49% support compared to 38% who oppose. On NATO, 69% see it as essential to American security and 53% say it benefits the United States as well as the allies, while only 27% see it as mostly benefiting the allies. 59% agree there should be more burden sharing, but only 38% say the U.S. should make our security commitment contingent on that.
Some of these spreads are even greater than a year ago. The 69% support for NATO is up from 65% in 2016. On the general issue of maintaining alliances, the 47% support among Independents is higher than the 34% in 2016 and 26% in 2015, and the 43% among Republicans is up from 40% (2016) and 37% (2014).
A friend posted this piece on facebook: “Why Nerds Should Not Be In Charge of War.” It draws from the new PBS Vietnam War documentary by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick to argue that it happened because of the prominent role played by “generalists.” Yes, Robert McNamara and his gang of Whiz Kids are mighty arrogant, and they have much blame to share for the war. Indeed, McNamara, unlike certain other arrogant former SecDefs, has spent the time since trying to grapple with what he had wrought. There is something to the idea that we need folks involved who are regional experts. Indeed, there has been much debate about whether we political scientists did area studies wrong by insisting on generalizable theory and advanced methods.
This is a guest post by Erik Goepner, a visiting research fellow at the Cato Institute. During his earlier military career, he commanded units in Afghanistan and Iraq. He is currently a doctoral candidate at George Mason University, and his main research interests include civil war, trauma, and terrorism.
Post-traumatic stress disorder afflicts 11 to 20 percent of U.S. military members after they serve in Afghanistan or Iraq. The military expends significant effort to provide them with needed care. Commanders move the psychologically injured out of the combat zone. Medical and mental health providers deliver needed aid. And, commanders may temporarily suspend individuals’ authority to bear firearms to minimize any threat they pose to themselves or others. For good reason: studies indicate that combat veteran status and PTSD associate with a two to three times increase in the risk of violence against others.
A colleague asked me if there will be war between the US and North Korea. I said maybe, which is pretty damned scary, given the likely consequences. Why am I worried? Basically for two reasons that intersect in bad ways, besides the Trumpiness and KJU-ness factors:
the US seems awfully confident that they knew where the line is between what North Korea will perceive as an exercise and what NK will perceive as the start of an attack
This is a guest post by Sahar Khan, a visiting research fellow in the Cato Institute’s Defense and Foreign Policy Department. Sahar holds a PhD in political science from the University of California, Irvine. Follow her at @khansahar1.
The Third World Quarterly (TWQ), a reputable academic journal in international studies, is currently under fire by academics including Ducks. In its latest issue, it published an article titled “The Case for Colonialism” by Dr. Bruce Gilley of Portland State University. In this article, Gilley calls for a return of colonialism, citing the benefits of a “colonial governance” agenda over the “good governance” agenda, which would involve overtaking state bureaucracies, recolonizing some areas, and creating new colonies “from scratch.” He argues that this new colonialism will be: 1) beneficial because it will be chosen by “the colonized,” and hence, will be legitimate; 2) attractive to Western conservatives because they are financially low-risk, and to liberals, because they will be just; and 3) effective because they will be designed like charter cities, which have proven to be efficient and effective at governance.
At first glance, the article seems like a bad joke. Can someone, a scholar no less, actually make a case for colonialism? And advocate for its return? Also, considering that the TWQ is jointly involved in creating an award named after Edward Said, the founder of postcolonial studies, it is especially surprising that the journal would publish a poor quality article on the subject of colonialism. The response has been swift. Though there are some apologists, social media has exploded with criticism against the author and the journal, even sparking a petition calling for the article’s retraction. Within a day, the petition gathered over 1500 signatures, with more signing on.
The problem is not that the article is offensive (which it is). The problem is that it is empirically and historically inaccurate, misuses existing postcolonial scholarship, and largely ignores interdisciplinary approaches to the study of colonial legacies. There are at least five blatant examples of this. Continue reading
The violence has led an estimated 391,000 Rohingya refugees to flee across the border into Bangladesh. There is also evidence that the Tatmadaw, the Armed Forces of Myanmar, have been laying mines along the border with Bangladesh to deliberately target Rohingya refugees crossing the border. And the government has suggested that any civilians seeking to return from Bangladesh will need to show “proof of nationality.”
Over the past week, and following a significant upsurge in reporting on the crisis, the UN system has begun to respond. Continue reading