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Securitization Forum: Securitization Theory is All Very Well, But Will it Sell?

This is the sixth contribution in our forum on securitization theory in the U.S. Monika Barthwal-Datta is Senior Lecturer in International Security at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Australia. Her research focuses on critical approaches to security, food security, and the international politics of South Asia. 

It’s quite simple, I’m told. Securitization Theory doesn’t sell in North America.

Why? Because it’s not a ‘central’ IR theory.

I know this is not an earth-shattering revelation, and that it is actually widely accepted within the discipline that in the US, most people who study and ‘do’ IR prefer to stick to the mainstream theories. Still, it was quite sobering and ultimately insightful to be at the receiving end of this bias. Continue reading


Migration as Protest

This is a guest post by Leila Kawar, Assistant Professor of Legal Studies at University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is the author of Contesting Immigration Policy in Court: Legal Activism and Its Radiating Effects in the United States and France (Cambridge University Press 2015) and a cofounder of the Migration and Citizenship Section of the American Political Science Association. In 2000-2001, she spent a year in residence at the Institut français du Proche-Orient in Damascus, Syria.

migrantsThis summer, the ramparts of “Fortress Europe” were breached by a mass exodus undertaken by young Syrians, Iraqis, and Afghans. News coverage has described them as “migrants.” But I would argue that this term is a misnomer; rather than “migration,” what we are witnessing is a collective act of “protest” against the current governance regime that quarantines conflict outside of Europe’s borders. Continue reading

Securitization Forum: Three challenges to securitization theory in the U.S.

This is the fifth contribution in our forum on securitization theory in the U.S.  Sirin Duygulu recently got her PhD in political science from UMass, Amherst and currently teaches at Okan University, Istanbul. Her research focuses on the use of security language by transnational advocacy campaigns.

I believe when questioning the reasons behind the limited traction that securitization literature has so far had in American IR, three set of factors worth consideration. These factors are: the historical development of IR scholarship; the relatively close ties between the policy world and the academic world in the US; and the limited dialogue between framing and securitization literatures. Continue reading

Securitization Forum: Why Does American IR Ignore Securitization Theory?

This is the fourth contribution in our forum on securitization theory in the U.S.  Ido Oren is associate professor and chair of the department of political science at the University of Florida and can be reached at Ty Solomon is Lecturer in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Glasgow and can be reached at

Eric Van Rythoven and Jarrod Hayes ask the timely question of why securitization theory has gained so little traction in American IR. They suggest that we should be puzzled by the absence of securitization theory from American IR given the high citation counts for the theory’s seminal works, its growing attractiveness to scholars in other disciplines, and the thirst for a power-oriented constructivism as an alternative to the liberal idealism that pervades American constructivist scholarship. We wish to make two inter-related points regarding the politics of securitization theory. First, somewhat in contrast to Eric and Jarrod, we argue that the absence of securitization theory from American IR should hardly be puzzling given the embeddedness of American IR in American political science, which is dominated by a neopositivist orthodoxy. Second, we want to sharpen Eric and Jarrod’s characterization of the geography of securitization theory. We suggest that the divide is not merely between the US and Europe, but that securitization theory has begun to take root wherever IR enjoys greater autonomy from political science, and/or wherever political science is not strongly attached to neopositivism, including Australia and Canada. Continue reading

Securitization Forum: Are they just not that into it?

This is the third contribution in our forum on securitization theory in the U.S.  Amir Lupovici is a lecturer in the Department of Political Science at Tel Aviv University. His book The Power of Deterrence is forthcoming in Cambridge University Press. His previous publications appeared in International Studies Quarterly, Review of International Studies, International Studies Review, International Studies, Perspectives and Foreign Policy Analysis. His research interests include constructivism, cyberspace, securitization, and deterrence.

In their preamble, Hayes and Van Rythoven clearly justify the need to address why securitization theory has had little traction in American IR—a tendency that is puzzling not only given this theory’s prominence outside the US (e.g., in Europe), but also when we consider its important implications for so many fields of research and relevance to policy making. I address this puzzle here by comparing it to a similar case—that is, the curious absence of Israel from the study of securitization. While the comparison doesn’t fully explain the scant use of the theory in the US, it lets us place it in a larger context and elaborate on what exactly it means. In other words, although (and maybe because) the two cases are significantly different, we can contrast key characteristics of Israel’s absence in securitization studies with characteristics of the American case. Continue reading

Securitization Forum: The Transatlantic Divide: Why Securitization Has Not Secured a Place in American IR, Why It Should, and How It Can

This is the second contribution in our forum on securitization theory in the U.S.  Stacie E. Goddard is the Jane Bishop ’51 Associate Professor of Political Science at Wellesley College.  Her book, Indivisible Territory and the Politics of Legitimacy: Jerusalem and Northern Ireland, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2010.  Ronald R. Krebs is Beverly and Richard Fink Professor in the Liberal Arts and Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Minnesota. He is the author most recently of Narrative and the Making of US National Security.

We want to thank the editors of this forum, as well as the Duck of Minerva, for inviting us to this discussion. As Jarrod and Eric note in their introduction, securitization theory is, if not dominant in European IR, then pretty close: one of us recently taught a week-long graduate seminar in Europe, and it was all the students seemed to know about IR theory. But it has barely penetrated the American academy, and deep, explicit engagement with securitization confines one to the margins—as a reviewer of one of our draft book manuscripts once warned, in urging that the relevant paragraphs be excised. We often speak of the transatlantic divide in the scholarly study of international relations: nowhere is it more starkly apparent than when it comes to securitization. This is puzzling not only because the regional difference in the research programs’ relative influence is astonishing, but because scholars of securitization are clearly on to something quite important and because there would seem to be obvious affinities to, or at least large points of intersection with, mainstream constructivism. Continue reading

Stanley Hoffmann’s approach to studying politics: in memoriam 1928-2015 .

[Note: This is a guest post by Peter Gourevitch, Founding Dean and Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California San Diego. He is currently Visiting Professor at the Watson Institute, Brown University.]

Stanley Hoffmann influenced the study of international relations greatly. From the 1960s on, generations of professors in training read his work. All were affected by doing so. Some reacted negatively, some positively, some indirectly, but all were affected because of its clarity and utility. He laid out argumentation in the sharpest way — stereotypical of the best part of French analytic training — defining all the variables, categories, dimensions, and their combinations. It was perfect for preparing comprehensive exams, or defining issues for a thesis prospectus or an article. Contemporary Theory in International Relations, (Prentice-Hall, 1960) and The State of War: Essays on the Theory and Practice of International Politics, (Praeger, 1965) were the most notable examples.

At the same time, Hoffmann did not like the trend toward social scientific theorizing of international relations. He believed in his French mentor Raymond Aron’s comparative historical sociology: the rich systematic comparison of situations in historical context, a kind of Weberian construction and comparison of ideal types. Some books were written following Aron’s approach, but not many. The field was moving against Hoffmann. Mostly the study of international relations went the way of most social science in those days, ever sharper definition of dependent and independent variables and their testing, or careful construction of deductive reasoning (think, game theory , Schelling, Waltz. ) That was not Hoffmann’s approach, so while he was widely read, he was not widely followed in a self conscious way. Continue reading

Foreign Policy in the Second GOP Presidential Candidate Debate

Last night was the second debate between the GOP presidential candidates. So, as I did with the first one, let’s take a look back at the foreign policy aspects, shall we? I’ll be working off of the debate transcript published by the Washington Post. And, like last time, I won’t be considering immigration as a foreign policy issue because a) the candidates are dealing with it as a domestic policy issue and b) I don’t know much about the politics of immigration. I also won’t engage the question of whether Donald Trump can be trusted with access to the US nuclear arsenal.

(I apologize for the lateness of the post…teaching tends to get in the way of blogging)

The first serious foreign policy question was to Trump concerning Russia:

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Market Values: Why Local Human Rights Work Needs Global Funding?

As IR scholars thinking about the role of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in shaping international norms, we rarely think to ask those doing the work on the ground what they think (this author is guilty as charged).  Plenty of work has gone into researching how others NGOs think of one another (Murdie and Davis, Hadden) and try to shape one another’s’ behavior (Deloffre), how international NGOs shape international norms through their work with other political actors (Carpenter, among others), and how NGOs might censor themselves (Bush).  Others have also looked at how external, in particular, Western donors, can shape the NGO-scape in a certain country (Luong and Weinthal, Sundstrom), but very few of us have then thought about where else the money would come from if not from outsiders meddling in the internal politics of state-society relations (see however, Brass, Dupuy et al. for a view of Ethiopia, work by Gugerty and Suarez).   Continue reading

Bottom’s Up: Exploring the Resource Mobilization of Local Human Rights Organizations

James Ron, Archana Pandya, and David Crow’s article investigates the resource mobilization of local human rights organizations (LHROs) in India, Mexico, Morocco and Nigeria. Having theorized the transnational networks, strategies, politics and influence of NGOs, Ron, Pandya and Crow now turn the attention of international relations scholars to the local contexts in which NGOs work. Drawing on original data including 263 semi-structured interviews with key informants and LHRO staff in 60 countries as well as public perceptions surveys in each of the four cases (n= 6,180), they find that although there is widespread public support of human rights and trust in LHROs, domestic publics do not donate to LHROs. They call this the “resource-rights” puzzle.

One nagging implicit normative assumption in the article is that somehow the resource-rights puzzle has negative or adverse effects on the work and impacts of LHROs. One obvious reason why LHROs might want to raise funds locally is the sense that Northern donors push Northern agendas and raising funds from local communities would empower LHROs to better represent local interests (Bradshaw 2006). Ron, Pandya and Crow’s public perceptions data however, show that the surveyed publics in the four cases generally support the broader human rights agenda. So while the funding might come from the global North, substantial local support for human rights principles and groups exists. Continue reading

Securitization Forum: Introduction and Setting the Scene

The following is a lead piece for a forum discussing why securitization theory has had so little traction in American IR.  Drawing on established and emerging scholars from around the world, the forum will run from September 16th – 30th and feature guest posts every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Two years ago Dan Nexon approached Eric, a petulant graduate student, about organizing such a forum with the support of Patrick T. Jackson.  Dan and Patrick soon had to leave Duck of Minerva for International Studies Quarterly.  The project was put on hold until Eric met Jarrod at ISA in New Orleans.  What follows is almost certainly different from Dan’s vision, but if anything good comes of it, then it is in no small part due to Dan and Patrick’s early entrepreneurship.  Finally, both Eric and Jarrod are immensely grateful to the contributors for their time and their insight.

Eric Van Rythoven and Jarrod Hayes

Foreign ideas don’t always go the distance. As Amitav Acharya (2004) has argued, outsider ideas always undergo a process of localisation when they spread. Local forces determine to what extent – if any – an idea can be adapted to domestic circumstances. When looking at the sociology of knowledge in IR finding an idea resonates with a particular region can be revealing, but equally revealing is when an idea is ignored or passed over. While these observations are as old as human society, when it comes to IR theory, they introduce implications that are ill at ease with the conception of IR as a social scientific enterprise. At least in the U.S., the ontological and epistemological underpinnings of IR as a discipline hold that theories are measured not by their foreignness but rather by their ability to explain the world. If that is the case, rejection of foreign theories is deeply problematic. Unless of course the claim is that the theory is invalid, but that begs the question why is it invalid in one place, but not in others?  Continue reading

Civilian? Not an Insult

Over the past week, in reaction to the reports about the gender-integrated Marine study, I have seen plenty of pushback mostly against women who tweet but also some male tweeps that basically say: “civ? Of course.”  Which basically says that if you are civilian, you will have dumb opinions about the military.  Kind of like today’s NYPD message to the media that they cannot understand policing because they are not police.

This is so wrong in so many ways.  I will focus on the military side of things, but the problem is the same for police and other folks who think that only members of the particular profession can understand their profession:

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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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Excluding Women from the Band of Brothers: the False Flag of Small Unit Cohesion

The following is a guest post by Kirstin J.H. Brathwaite, Postdoctoral Fellow at James Madison College, Michigan State University.

The graduation of two women from Army Ranger school last month along with the apparent intention of the Marine Corps to request an exemption to the Department of Defense’s plan to lift the combat exclusion policy has led to an outpouring of opinion pieces regarding the advisability of allowing women to participate in combat operations. Some argue that Capt. Greist and Lt. Haver’s success in one of the most demanding military training courses in the world proves that women are physically able to do the job. Others suggest that a few exceptions should not overthrow the rule. But a large number of those arguing against the inclusion of women in combat units accept that while some women may be physically capable of combat, their sex is a disruption to the most sacred of military institutions – the socially cohesive Band of Brothers.

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Guts, God and Mystery: how the women and combat debate is all about emotion

War on the Rocks published an exceptionally written piece by Lieutenant General (ret.) Gregory Newbold called “What Tempers the Steel of an Infantry Unit” that has gone viral. Here, Newbold eloquently draws out an argument that has tended to only be implied- or lurking behind much of the debate on women in combat for decades. The argument is simple: infantry units require a special, indescribable bond and dynamic that women spoil. Certainly this argument is not unique, but the beauty of Newbold’s piece that he boldly puts the emotional arguments- rather than physical ones– front and center. Newbold’s piece is somewhat enticing and romantic to read because he is recreating a familiar narrative and myth- that of the band of brothers. The band of brothers myths stems back to Shakespeare, Darwin and Freud, who all used the myth to help make broader arguments about male superiority and relationships. The myth has evolved through time and popular culture, but the general message of the myth remains the same: men form unique, mysterious bonds that render them superior warriors. What cannot be forgotten about this myth is that women’s exclusion is key to sustaining the mystery, bonds, and superiority.

In my recent book, Beyond the Band of Brothers: the US Military and the Myth that Women Can’t Fight, I argue that it is emotion- not logic, research, or evidence of women’s performance- that has always driven debates on women in combat. I summarize the common emotional reactions against women in combat in terms of their reference to guts, God and mystery. Continue reading

Foreign Affairs Iran Deal Poll – Congrats You Have Nearly an All Male Panel

It looks like the Obama administration has secured 42 votes for the Iran deal in the Senate, enough to filibuster even a vote, and despite today’s machinations in the House, the Iran Deal will likely go through. Indeed, when Republicans agreed back in May to a review process that would require a super-majority in both chambers to overturn the deal, the die was already somewhat cast.  Still, I’m thrilled that supporters have been able to hold the line in the face of a multi-million dollar campaign against the agreement. In the final days, we’re seeing a surge in efforts to get views on the table from supporters and opponents.

In a stock-taking exercise, Foreign Affairs released the results ($) of a survey of a “broad pool of experts” about whether Congress should approve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or the Iran Deal for short. 32 of the 52 experts — 62% – answered  “strongly agree” in support of Iran Deal. Adding in the “agree,” support rises to 72%.

The virtue of this survey is that individual respondents are on the record about where they stand. For many of them, there is a bit of explanatory text about their reasons. As the graphic above shows, they are asked to rate their level of support on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from “strongly agree” to “strong disagree.” They were asked to provide their confidence in their assessment on a 10 point scale, which, as my collaborator Craig Kafura noted, showed an extraordinarily high level of confidence in their judgments.

The public stance of individual respondents is important. Other magazine elite surveys will reveal who was surveyed but not their answers to particular questions so you can’t create a dataset to examine crosstabs between salient demographic characteristics and survey answers. Even anonymized versions of answers are almost never provided so you can read the write-up but not much more; the recent release of the revised Chicago Council elite surveys in which I participated is an exception.

Still, some of the attributes of this particular survey raise important questions about representativeness and who is actually being surveyed. I took the liberty of coding all the respondents’ responses, their gender, citizenship (to the extent this was easy to find), and I made some preliminary efforts to code partisanship (a Google doc is here, and if useful, I could crowd-source the partisanship field).

Congrats – You Have an (Almost) All Male Panel

Only 3 of the 52 — roughly 6% — respondents are women (including former head of the Carnegie Endowment Jessica Mathews, European-based Iran analyst Ellie Geranmayeh, and CNAS’ Elizabeth Rosenberg). Now, I know that international security and nuclear policy are male-dominated areas, but there were some obvious omissions of women expert in this arena, Cheryl Rofer and Kori Schake for starters, who could have been surveyed. To be fair, Foreign Affairs might have asked them or other women to participate and just had to go to press with whoever responded. That said, some of my concerns about the pool go beyond gender and raise other questions about how to draw inferences from surveys of elites in general and samples of convenience in particular. [Addendum: Foreign Affairs reached out to comment that the low response rates among women accounts for the final tally. They wrote: “In fact, we asked nearly a dozen women to participate in that survey–mostly actual Iran experts, fwiw–but only three of them responded.” The wider survey included people with deep expertise in nonproliferation or Iran, with a few prominent general figures of authority.] Continue reading

Play it Cool

Yesterday I had the great fortune to sit on a faculty panel discussing the Iran nuclear deal put on by my colleagues at Georgia Tech [I will link to the video when it is available]. A logic of thought that came up, in different formulations, related to the idea that the nuclear deal might transform US-Iran relations and/or change Iran’s domestic politics. Coincidentally, the New York Times reported yesterday the answer is apparently a resounding no from the Ayatollah Khamenei–Iran would not be having anything more to do with the US lest the Great Satan “sneak back in through the window.”  As a bonus, he predicted Israel will “not be around in 25 years’ time.” These comments are almost certain to provoke anxiety in Israel and give renewed strength to critics of the nuclear deal in the US. I would caution them to hold their fire.

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Want to Help the Refugees? Teach Migration as Part of IR

The following is a guest post by Margaret Peters, who teaches political economy and migration at Yale University.    She is currently finishing her book project When Business Abandoned Immigration: Firms and the Remaking of Globalization.”

Recent pictures of Syrian refugee crisis from 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi lying dead on a beach in Turkey to migrants sitting in camps in Hungary have increased the calls for the West to “do something.” Instead of doing the easiest, most effective, and least expensive thing to protect Syrians (and other refugees) – allowing them to enter and stay in wealthy countries as refugees – there has been much buck passing about whose responsibility it is to protect these refugees.

Increasing anti-immigrant sentiment has been blamed for most of the unwillingness on the part of both the OECD countries and wealthy autocracy to resettle the refugees.  Yet, the problem is not an increase in anti-immigrant sentiment – as Judith Goldstein and I show, anti-immigrant sentiment, even towards low-skill immigrants, has fallen since the Great Recession in the US and probably in Europe as well – instead, the problem is the lack of a powerful, pro-immigration lobby.

While refugee and asylum policy have, at least since World War II, been used to reward allies and humiliate adversaries, these policies are not solely determined by foreign policy concerns. Instead, they are part and parcel of the larger immigration policy debate, determined by competing domestic demands.  On the side of greater openness have stood business, immigrants themselves, and humanitarians and cosmopolitans.  On the side of more restrictions have been native labor (although not all unions), fiscal conservatives worried about the impact of immigration.

What has changed the balance of power between these two sides? Why do the nativists seem to be winning? Continue reading

Against Policy Relevance: A Polemic


Over on my Facebook feed, there’s a good discussion going on about Adam Elkus’ “The Problem of Bridging the Gap.” Elkus’ post amounts to, quite deliberately, a medium-length polemic against “policy relevance.” That is, he aims to provoke.

For example, Elkus argues that:

It judges the value of academic inquiry from the perspective of whether or not it concords with the values, aims, preferences, and policy concerns and goals of a few powerful elites. Why, if anything, do we judge “policy relevance” by whether or not it helps governmentpolicy elites? Surely governmental elites, politicians, think-tankers, etc aren’t the only people who care about policy! The “policy relevance” model is simply a normatively unjustified statement that political scientists and social scientists in general ought to cater to the desires and whims of elite governmental policymakers.


It demands that academic inquiry ought to be formulated around the whims and desires of the people being studied. One does not see this demand outside of the political science policy relevance wars. No one asks psychologists whether experiments are “relevant” to lab rats because it would be absurd to base research around what the experimental subject wants. Psychologists also do not care whether or not the college students that are paid to populate their experiments find their research “relevant” or understandable. Nor do neuroscientists inquire about the preferences of neuronal populations or biologists the opinions of ant colonies. Yet political scientists ought to cater to a narrow set of policy elites that they (partly) study?

You should go read the whole thing. Continue reading

Some Thoughts on the Great APSA Baby Ban of 2015

I don’t attend the American Political Science  Conference these days (I explained why in this post last year). But many of my colleagues do, so every year at this time I participate vicariously by watching what is going on in my Facebook feed.

Yesterday, I was surprised by Page Fortna’s status update which read as follows:

A new mom attending APSA was denied entry to the book room today because she had her 9 week old with her. They claimed insurance doesn’t cover babies. WTF APSA? Family-unfriendly much

That’s right: as if it’s not enough already to face childhood as a “polisci brat,” now nine-week-old babies are being banned from the book room by conference staff.

Why am I surprised? Aside from the date of the conference, I have always thought of APSA as one of the more family friendly professional venues I’ve had the pleasure to spend time in. I raised my kids on the conference circuit and have been grateful to APSA and other political science conferences for providing some of the best childcare facilities and benefits imaginable. When my children were small, I never had any problem accessing the entire conference with them in tow if I liked. At APSA and at other conference in the profession, my toddlers followed me to exhibit halls, rode the hotel escalators, and played at my feet at panels. Conference-goers and staff were unfailingly pleasant and accommodating, even welcoming of my children. I have long thought of APSA’s childcare policy as enlightened and supportive of parents.

Well, my surprise turned to SHOCK this morning after APSA issued this statement justifying its behavior:

APSA makes great efforts to be as welcoming and open to all attendees as possible. Conventions of our size require event insurance to secure contracts and use space at any hotels or convention centers. Event insurance does not cover children in an Exhibit Hall due to liability. We are committed to making the Annual Meeting as convenient as we can, but, unfortunately, this is not an area where we have flexibility.

We are pleased to continue offering onsite Child Care and a Mother’s Room for nursing and pumping.

We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause members or attendees, but, unfortunately, we are not able to allow children into the Exhibit Hall. We invite you to leave your comments here for discussion.

OK,  first of all, if the insurance company is the problem APSA needs a new insurance carrier. Any insurance policy that covers drunken political scientists but not their sober children is not worth its salt.

Secondly, a “Mother’s Room”? Let’s not pretend this is a women’s issue only or that setting aside space for breastfeeding moms will do the trick. Fathers also attend APSA with their children: single fathers, spouses supporting their career wives, dual-career spouses tag-teaming between panels and events, and two-father households. A pumping room is certainly important, but the idea that this is constitutes sufficient child-friendly space, rather than allowing parents of both sexes and their children access to the entire event, is retrograde and non-family-friendly. It rolls back the sense of progress that families were feeling they were making in the profession – progress that was especially helpful to women and whose rollback will especially hurt women, but which affects all professional parents. And based on APSA’s and ISA’s of yore,  it is wholly unnecessary.

If you agree, please click this link and leave comments to the APSA leadership in support of children and families in our profession. Seriously, these kids are being raised by political scientists! They need all the support they can get.


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