Tag: shameless self-promotion (page 1 of 5)

The merits of the concept of terrorism

About a week ago I published a piece with the International Relations and Security Network (ISN) on the analytical and political utility (or lack thereof) of the concept of terrorism.  I cannot reproduce it here in full for Duck readers because the ISN owns it.  But, since I think the topic might be of interest to readers, here is a taste of what I argue in hopes of prompting a discussion:

With high-profile incidents of political violence continuing to make headlines, the time has come to question the labeling of these events as ‘terrorism.’ While politically or ideologically motivated violence remains all too real, approaching events such as these through the framework of ‘terrorism’ does little to help academics or policymakers understand or prevent them. Fourteen years into the Global War on Terror, the political and security baggage that accompanies the label ‘terrorism’ may even undermine such efforts. This is because the term terrorism creates the false impression that the actions it describes represent a special or unique phenomenon. Because this confusion impedes our ability to understand politically motivated violence as part of broader social and political systems, the costs of continuing to use the concept of terrorism outweigh the benefits. The simplest solution to this problem would be for scholars and policymakers alike to jettison the term…

 

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Theory as thought

Recently a friend and colleague wrote me to say:

 

“The SS piece is actually really useful to me as a model for dealing with Political Science post paradigm wars.”

 

Which prompts me (as if academics ever need such a prompt) to revisit an issue I raised almost a year ago: the role of theory in policymaking. In that long ago post, I mentioned that Patrick James and I had an article under review that addressed the relationship between theory and policy from a fairly novel perspective, and I am happy to say that article—entitled “Theory as Thought: Britain and German Unification”—came out earlier this year in Security Studies.

 

In the piece, we derive inspiration from analytic eclecticism in an effort to develop a more nuanced and useful understanding of how theory interacts with the real world. In pursuit of that agenda, we make a simple but potentially controversial claim: rather than represent objective descriptions/explanations of the world, theories of international relations represent different modes of thinking about the world. These different modes are intersubjective structures and discourses that enable shared efforts to understand and explain the world. Thus, theories are actually shared logics embedded in society that enable policymakers to make sense of the world. As such, IR scholars are embedded within and develop their theories from broader currents of social meaning-making.

 

To make the argument work, we distil the core operative logics underlying realism, liberal institutionalism, and constructivism. Rather than derive explanatory building blocks from theories and apply them to empirical sources, we analyze policy-makers’ modes of thought to investigate whether they contain patterns of IR theory. We realize that doing so is part of the controversial nature of the article, as scholars operating within these traditions may reject the simplifications we undertake, or in the case of constructivism that it has enough coherence to have a unifying logic. We spend some time justifying these decisions in the article, so I leave it to readers to look there for our defense.

 

After establishing the logics, we apply them to our case study—British policymaking toward German unification. We find that, contrary to claims that these theories only explain the international system, they actually represent modes of thought that shape how actors see the world. Moreover, all three logics play a critical role in the British policymaking process, interweaving to produce a complex constructed social reality. The logic of realism clearly played an important role in shaping the perceptions of top British leadership, particularly Thatcher, of German unification as a problem. This foundational assessment played a crucial role in shaping how the British understood the events of 1989 and 1990. But it did not play an important role in how the British responded to the process of German unification. By turning to NATO, the CSCE, and the EU to integrate an expanded and quasi-hegemonic Germany within the existing network of institutions, the logic of neoliberal institutionalism played a critical role in how British policymakers constructed their policy response. Why did the logic of neoliberal institutionalism prevail over the logic of realism in directing British policy? Here the power of the logic of constructivism is evident, particularly the role of identity and rhetorical entrapment. These logics constrained British policymakers to cooperative policy options.

 

A range of implications arise from our argument, and we spend considerable time in the conclusion talking about them so I only present a couple highlights here. One of the implications that comes out of our argument is that no theory of international relations is consistently applicable across space and time. Rather, the applicability of theory to events depends on the particular mix of theoretical logics in a particular time and space. These logics, like other socially constructed systems of meaning and relation (e.g. identity) may come to be sedimented (in strategic culture for example) and thus relatively stable over the short to medium term. But scholars would be well served to problematize what theoretical logics constitute the dominant discourses and narrative in the times and places they are interested in studying.

 

Another implication addresses the divide between material and ideational approaches to IR. Material versus ideational analysis emerges as what Brecher calls a “flawed dichotomy.” Regardless of the approach under consideration, it is not possible to comprehend how policymakers understood German transformation without both. The most convincing account is one that recognizes the contributions of multiple paradigms to understanding complex international events with intertwining logics. For such reasons, frameworks ranging from the streamlined realism to the more intricate constructivism should be regarded as complementary rather than competitive in resolving the mysteries of IR.

 

A final implication regards the separation between theory and reality, and the gap between academics and policymakers. If we are right about the basis of theory, that means that theoretical development corresponds with changes in the world and how state leaders and societies come to terms with those changes. But the influence is not unidirectional. Theories also shape the world, providing systems of meaning that are taken up and integrated into shared logics. Thus, at a fundamental level there is no gap between academics and policymakers even if on a day-to-day basis such a gap seems yawning.

 

Theory is thought, both in the minds of scholars as well as actors in the ‘real’ world. Incorporating that simple observation into research on international relations holds the potential of greater illumination—from theory development to analytical veracity to bridging the gap between IR scholars and practitioners.

Iraq's Chemical Arsenal: Justification for War?

Yesterday, a student asked me about the recent news reports indicating that Iraq did, in fact, have “weapons of mass destruction” back in 2002 and 2003 when the U.S. was attempting to justify a “preemptive” war. The New York Times reported that American soldiers were injured in the past decade by chemically-armed munitions found in Iraq.

Already, a slew of articles in the media have debunked the claim that this vindicates George W. Bush and his Iraq misadventure. This Washington Post piece is perhaps the best since it primarily quotes Bush administration claims from the pre-war period.

The Times piece certainly does not try to claim that Bush is vindicated:

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New Research on Issue Selection in Global Policy Networks

At long last, the journal article version* of the research my team conducted on the human security network is published (complete with color-coded tag clouds and network graphs)! International Organization has very kindly agreed to temporary un-gate the article until May 30, so check out the TUG.pdf here!

tag cloudMy co-authors Sirin Duygulu, Alexander Montgomery, Anna Rapp and I analyze focus group data to explore how elites in global policy networks make judgments on which issues are worthy of their organizations’ attention.

We find practitioners pay lip-service to a confluence of factors corresponding in predictable ways to various streams in the scholarly literature, but we also find that factors within the network are especially important:

Through a series of focus groups with human security practitioners, we examined how powerful organizations at the center of advocacy networks select issues for attention. Participants emphasized five sets of factors: entrepreneur attributes, adopter attributes, the broader political context, issue attributes, and intranetwork relations. However, the last two were much more consistently invoked by practitioners in their evaluations of specific candidate issues. Scholars of global agenda setting should pay particular attention to how intranetwork relations structure gatekeeper preferences within transnational advocacy spaces because these help constitute perceptions of issues’ and actors’ attributes in networks.

*White paper version here. Book version with longer discussion of network theory, exciting illustrative case studies and many more color graphs is out from Cornell in June. Continue reading

Tuesday Linkage

Editor’s note: this post previously appeared on my personal blog. I’ve been doing links posts on Tuesdays over there for a while now, so I guess I might as well start cross-listing them.

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An Academic Woman’s Rant of the Week: Self-Promotion

This week’s installment of An Academic Woman’s Rant of the Week concerns self-promotion and self-citation differences between men and women.

The idea for this installment came to me while I was having a celebratory drink with K. Chad Clay and Jim Piazza at ISA.  We were celebrating our recent Political Research Quarterly article (also coauthored with Sam Bell).[1]  Chad had just presented a new Bell, Clay, Murdie paper[2] at a panel that I wasn’t able to attend.  When I asked Chad if he had any questions from the floor, Chad said that he did get some questions but that he was able to answer them with reference to our forthcoming International Studies Quarterly article (coauthored also with Colin Barry, Sam Bell, and Mike Flynn).[3]

“Doesn’t that make you feel bad?” I said, “It always embarrasses me to have to reference one of my other pieces.”

“No,” Chad replied, “Given all of the recent stuff about the citation gap, I think that’s a gendered-thing.”

A gendered-thing?  Really?

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“The UN v. Skynet?” An ISA Teaser

As the gods of the International Studies Association have seen fit to place my panel at 8:15 on a Saturday morning, I decided to advertise my talk in the blogosphere in hopes of drumming up some attendees. Below please see the teaser trailer for my working paper this year, which explores the impact of science fiction on global policy making in the area of autonomous weapons.

The paper itself is not yet ready for distribution (research is still in progress), but I should be able to circulate later this year and feedback at the panel will help me refine my conceptual framework – so if you are interested in these matters please come join us in the Richmond Room at the Toronto Hilton this Saturday! The panel, organized by UBC’s Chris Tenove, is entitled “Representation Across Borders”: Richard Price is chairing and other speakers include Wendy Wong, Sirin Duygulu and Hans-Peter Schmitz. Panel abstract is below the fold.

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The Cash Prize: A Decision Experiment

Tomorrow, my great friend and coauthor Dursun Peksen and I will collect our $200 for winning the best paper award at the annual meeting of ISA-Midwest in St. Louis.  The paper, which I’ve talked about a little bit before at the Duck, is actually forthcoming now at the Journal of Politics.[1]  Dursun has won quite a few prizes before but this is my first time winning any sort of best paper award.[2] The award information says the prize is supposed to be in cash.  I’m hoping it is because this will probably be the first time I’ve had access to cash with my name on it since I was a kid.[3] I’m unsure what to do with my take of the winnings but I know the money has to be spent while I’m at the conference – otherwise, I’m sure I’ll rethink my plan of action and want to do something sensible with it.[4]  Here are my ideas:

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What’s Wrong with FETs? Thoughts from Gendering Global Conflict

(Note: This post is cross-posted at the Columbia University Press Authors’ Blog

Over the last couple of years, the US military has begun to employ FETs (Female Engagement Teams) in Afghanistan, characterizing their purpose as “to engage the female populace” of the country. The mission of these groups of female soldiers seems to be divided between victim services, trust building, influence seeking, and intelligence gathering. Many feminist scholars (e.g., Keally McBride and Annick T. R. Wibben) have expressed their deep concerns about both the effectiveness of FETs and the ideas about sex, gender, and warfare that their deployments suggest the US military holds.

My recent book, Gendering Global Conflict, is not about FETs specifically, but it does provide insight into this (and hopefully a number of other) problems of sex, gender, and war. It argues that, in order to understand fully how something like an FET became possible, we have to be able to see gender subordination and war-fighing as mutually constituted. Understanding that, it argues, provides insight into a number of other policy choices and theoretical assumptions in the security sector that might initially appear paradoxical when approached from a feminist perspective. The rest of this post discusses that with regard to FETs.

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Intervention to Punish? Or to Protect?

stopsyriaTwo kinds of military intervention are being discussed and conflated by political elites (like Nicholas Kristof) and international diplomats. The first is an enforcement operation to punish a state for violating a widespread and nearly universal global prohibition norm against the use of chemical weapons. This is what Kristof refers to in the title of his Times op-ed, “Reinforce a Norm in Syria.”  The second is a humanitarian operation to protect civilians against a predatory government. This is what Kristof means when he compares proposed military strikes in Syria to intervention that happened in Bosnia and Kosovo and (tragically) didn’t happen in Rwanda.

Well, it’s useful to clarify which we are talking about since both kinds of operation involve very different tactics and different kinds of legal and moral reasoning. I discuss both at Foreign Affairs this morning:

[If punishing norm violators is the goal], the appropriate course of action would be to, first, independently verify who violated it…. Second, the United States would have to consider a range of policy options for affirming, condemning, and lawfully punishing the perpetrator before resorting to force, particularly unlawful force… Third, should the United States decide on military action, with or without a UN Security Council resolution, it would need to adhere to international norms regulating the use of specific weapons in combat.

But such a strike should not be confused with military action to protect civilians.   Continue reading

Put Middle East Peace Process to a Vote

Always good to start out blogging with a non-controversial topic, like the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.   But just before the Israeli Knesset went into recess, they advanced a bill requiring that any land ceded in a peace process be approved  in a national referendum. The bill could become a Basic Law–tantamount to a constitutional amendment–when the Knesset returns in the fall.  My take on this is in the  International Herald Tribune/New York Times:

The argument in brief: Far from undercutting the peace process, a referendum is necessary to the legitimacy of a two-state solution. Formal public support of a potential deal could, in fact, be one of the keys to long-term sustainability of peace. Supporters of the peace process should get behind the referendum proposal.

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The State of the Killer Robot Debate

In a new piece up at Foreign Affairs on the killer robot debate, I attempt to distinguish between what we know and what we can only speculate about around the ethics / legality of autonomous weapons. The gist:

Both camps have more speculation than facts on their side… [But] the bigger problem isn’t that some claims in this debate are open to question on empirical grounds, rather that so many of them simply cannot be evaluated empirically, since there is no data or precedent with which to weigh discrimination and proportionality against military necessity.

So, instead of resting on discrimination and proportionality principles as with earlier weapons ban campaigns, the lethal machines debate is converging around two very different questions. First, in situations of uncertainty, does the burden of proof rest on governments, to show that emerging technologies meet humanitarian standards, or on global civil society, to show that they don’t? And second, even if autonomous systems could one day be shown to be useful and lawful in utilitarian terms, is a deeper underlying moral principle at stake in outsourcing matters of life or death to machines?

The disarmament camp argues yes to both; techno-optimists argue no. To some extent these are questions of values, but each can also be empirically evaluated by the social realities of international normative precedent. In each case, those cautioning against the untrammeled development of unmanned military technology are on firmer ground.

Read the whole thing hereContinue reading

A Network Explanation for the Rise of Global Social Issues

I am delighted to report that as of last Friday at 7:02pm I have completed final revisions on my latest book manuscript. This culminates a project on issue neglect that started with my observations about children born of war, emerged as a theory of “agenda-vetting,” and involved a detailed NSF-funded study of the rise and fall of issues in the human security network. It also includes detailed case studies on several norm-building campaigns I’ve been following since 2007: the campaign to make amends to civilians harmed in legitimate battle operations, the campaign to ban infant male circumcision, and the campaign to ban the development and use of autonomous weapons.

I am told by the editor at Cornell University Press it should hopefully be on the shelves in time for next year’s ISA conference. For readers who have long followed my work on this project, which coincided with the start of my blogging career, I offer below the fold the first few paragraphs of the book as a sneak preview. Continue reading

Note to Bahrain: Release Prisoners and Provide More Social Services

Thanks to a very awesome grad student of mine, I just realized that last week marked the second anniversary of the start of the Bahrain uprising.  Fueled by protests in Tunisia and Egypt, citizens of this small and very beautiful island state took to the streets to demand political changes.  For two years, the protests have not completely dissipated but haven’t escalated to the point of civil war either. What explains this continued state of violent limbo?

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Delegation Leads to Shirking, Shirking Leads to Failure …

and Failure leads to Fear, Anger and all that Stuff.  In the renewed discussion of the Battle of Hoth and other failures of the Galactic Empire, there is a running theme throughout many of the posts: how does a leader get the underlings to do what they are supposed to do.  Given the affinity between the dark side of the force and Principal-Agency theory,* it is somewhat surprising that nearly all of these analyses have been atheoretical and have ignored the most applicable framework.

As the great Jedi Mace Windu once said, it is principals and agents all the way down.  The Emperor is the boss, who delegates to Vader.  Vader often serves as the proximate principal, delegating some of the authority delegated to himself to various agents, including Admirals who he subsequently force-chokes, and on and on.  The basic problem in P-A is that the agent often has more information about what is going on than the principal.  When the principal is running a galactic empire, this is more likely to be the case.  Sure, the Emperor can get some information via the dark side of the Force, but there are limits to this.  As a result, his agent could be (and often is) conspiring against him.  This problem of hidden information facilitates shirking–which does not always mean doing less than what the principal wants but often more.

How do principals address this challenge?  Well, there are four primary means: selecting compatible agents, defining the discretion they have, engaging in oversight and providing incentives/sanctions (see forthcoming book on NATO-Afghanistan in late 2013).

As the previous entries in this discussion at Wired and now at Duck indicate, the principals here often have limited choices of agents.  How many folks are left that can use the force well and might be bent to the dark side?  Given how well Order 66 was carried out at the end of the Clone Wars, not too many potential agents remain for Palpatine to employ (he was also pretty willing to sacrifice his previous apprentices–Darth Maul and Darth Tyranus).  Vader is pretty much the only game in town until the younger Skywalker can be converted.  So, the Emperor has to go to war with the agent he has, rather than the agent he wishes he had.

Over the course of the movies, the Emperor alters how much authority Vader has.  After his repeated failures at Hoth and Bespin, he finds himself restricted to overseeing the second death star’s construction (see Crispin’s take).  This shows that the principal has learned to change the “delegation contract” to restrict the discretion the under-performing agent has.

The Emperor and Vader demonstrate very different patterns of oversight.  The Emperor is in frequent contact with his agents, making sure that they stay within his intent.  Vader, on the other hand, is actually quite lax.  While Admiral Ozzel is planning the attack on Hoth, Vader is snoozing away.  Only when he checks on the plans as the attack is begun does he realize that Ozzel planned poorly.  Why did Vader not oversee the operation, ask questions about the plan, and revise accordingly?  Perhaps the classic P-A analogy of police patrols vs fire alarms is apt, as Vader responded to problems after they arose, whereas the Emperor was constantly trying to watch his agents (including sending Vader to oversee other agents).

Imperial oversight illustrated here.

The last remaining tool are incentives–do the principals provide rewards for agents who behave well and penalties for agents who behave poorly?  This is where Vader does better than the Emperor.  The Emperor repeatedly kills good behaving agents because of his long game–Count Dooku to help Anakin along the dark path, he tries to sacrifice Vader to get Luke on the dark side, and so on.  Why should his agents do the Emperor’s bidding if they know that they will be killed regardless of performance?   Vader, on the other hand, may overreact a tad, but he saves his force-choking for those that have already under-performed.

To be sure, the Rebels had their own P-A problems: they could not be choosy about agents, so farmboys and smugglers were welcome.  Consequently, their agents were a bit hard to control, especially Luke who would fly off to unauthorized locales to meet with strange disseminators of old-school training and then quit training early to hang out with his friends.  However, Oversight was easier as well for the Rebellion, since there were far fewer rebels to oversee, especially after the Battle of Yavin reduced the number of pilots most dramatically.  The Rebel Alliance did manage to provide incentives to encourage agents to behave well: cash, pretty princesses (yes, I am suggesting that Leia manipulated the men around her with her pulchritude, handing out kisses to any nearby aspiring hero, related or not), quick promotion (Commander? Skywalker, General? Solo, etc.), and shiny medals (well, to the humans, Chewie is still owed a medal).  Moreover, forgiveness can sometimes work better than harsh penalties, as the formerly traitorous Lando Calrissian performed above and beyond the call of duty at the Battle of Endor.

 

* In a grad school in a time long ago and far away (UCSD in the early 90’s), the students considered the main proponent of P-A theory to be of the dark side, so much so that this professor once wore a Darth Vader mask to a defense (dissertation or comprehensive exam, I forget which).

 

 

 

Nobody cares about foreign policy

It bears repeating that nobody votes on foreign policy, and most folks don’t know anything about it anyway (remember that a nontrivial number of Americans think South Korea is our greatest enemy). I’ll quote myself:

[N]obody gives a damn about foreign policy. Theories of democratic responsiveness and empirical models of foreign policy choice need to begin with this fact. Nobody cares! That thing we do? The international relations bit? It’s somewhat less important than professional bowling or HGTV. [Americans] only care about security–and their understanding of that is about as sophisticated as the Toby Keith song about the Statue of Liberty. …

[O]ur brilliant little theories about how voters express their desires over foreign policy rest on the idea that voters have some utility over foreign-policy choices. That, in turn, may also be flatly wrong. When voters vote, their choices are likely wholly driven by domestic factors. If that’s the case, there’s no residual term–foreign-policy voting is in the error term. This means that foreign policy should be relatively unconstrained, both ideologically (except among a very few elites) and in its implementation (because nobody cares).

I make the same point more diplomatically and, at much greater length, in my dissertation. I should note that the professional bowling jest was an exaggeration, but foreign affairs is demonstrably less important to voting behavior than college football (e.g., e.g.. I also point out that sometimes it’s okay to exaggerate for rhetorical effect.

Below the fold, I adduce new evidence that even the Council on Foreign Relations is somewhat ambivalent about foreign policy.
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Nexon: Right on Motivations… Outcome Pending

Me:

And, in fact, bargaining theory suggests that [abandoning the “platinum coin” option] strengthens Obama’s hand.

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2nd Annual International Feminist Journal of Politics Conference

The International Feminist Journal of Politics announces its 2nd Annual IFjP Conference, May 17-19, 2013, University of Sussex, Brighton, England: (Im)possibly Queer International Feminisms

General Keynote: Lisa Duggan, American Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, NYU

Queer Film Screening: Circumstance (2011), Introduced by Director Maryam Keshavarzwith Q&A to follow

Conference Theme Keynotes: Jon Binnie, Geography, Manchester Metropolitan University, Vivienne JabriWar Studies, Kings College London; V Spike Peterson, International Relations/Gender Studies, University of Arizona; Rahul RaoPolitics and International Studies, SOAS

Other confirmed speakers:  Rosalind Galt, Film Studies, University of Sussex; Akshay Khanna, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex; Louiza Odysseos, International Relations, University of Sussex; Laura Sjoberg, Political Science, University of Florida

The aim of this conference is to serve as a forum for developing and discussing papers that IFjP hopes to publish.  These can be on the conference theme or on any other feminist IR-related questions.

Apply by January 31!

Call for papers

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My Interview with Ken MacLeod

The New Books in Science Fiction and Fantasy channel of the New Books Network launched today. In its inaugural podcast, I interview Ken MacLeod about The Night Sessions. From my summary:

As I hope comes through in the interview, I found The Night Sessions (Pyr, 2012) both fun to read and intellectually stimulating. It centers on DI Adam Ferguson as he investigates the murder of a priest in a near-future Edinburgh. Following the “Faith Wars” of the early twenty-first century the world has experienced a “Second Enlightenment” and aggressive secularism enjoys intellectual and political hegemony. But not every soul, whether organic or mechanical, is happy with this state of affairs….

This was my first interview, and I have to admit that I’m pretty rough (in fact, I’m still pretty early on the learning curve even now). Ken is terrific, though, and makes up for my foibles.

So, in an act of shameless self-promotion, I ask that our readers not only listen to the podcast, but tweet it, google+ it, like it on Facebook, and so forth. Ken is the first of a terrific series of guests. The only way to do justice to authors is to promote it heavily. For that, I need your help.

Hanging Out on the Theory-Practice-Policy Divide

In Spring of 2006, I was nearing the end of data collection on my investigation into the human rights of children born of rape and exploitation in conflict zones, and I presented my preliminary findings on the topic atUniversity of Pittsburgh’s Research in International Politics (RIP) monthly brown-bag. In such circles, heavily dominated by empirical approaches, one does not present normative theory (that is, value-laden arguments about how the world should look) or policy-oriented sets of recommendations about particular problems. Rather, one identifies empirical puzzles about the world and then goes
about solving them by applying or modifying existing theories. Theories, in this sense, are lenses said to explain and predict major patterns in world affairs. 

Therefore, I had organized this particular paper not as a problem-focused human rights argument about children born of war, but rather as an empirical study on “issue non-emergence” within advocacy networks. I presented the subject of “children born of war” as a negative case and demonstrated why, from the perspective of agenda-setting theory, this might be considered an interesting puzzle. The case, I argued, showed that we needed a different understanding of the obstacles to issue emergence. This was the working paper version of a longer book project exploring why children born of war rape had received so little attention from advocacy organizations aiming to protect war-affected children. 

My colleagues provided a variety of suggestions on the theory, the methods, and the structure of the argument. But one piece of advice particularly sticks out in my mind. “You’d better stop talking to international organizations about this issue until you publish,” said one senior faculty member. “Otherwise, before you know it, you will no longer have a puzzle to explain, because these children will be on the agenda.”  

Two things struck me about this comment. First was the suggestion that in researching the non-emergence of “children born of war,” I might in fact be engaged in a form of issue entrepreneurship that could alter the research findings. Second was the suggestion that the idea that more attention to this population should have been less preferable to me (or anyone) than the ability to advance my career by publishing an interesting paper. In this essay, I grapple with those two problematiques as a way of thinking about what we aim for when we choose political science as a vocation, and to what extent our answers to that question are implicated in the social constructions we study.

Thus begins my reflection essay in this month’s issue of Perspectives on Politics. This piece began as the concluding chapter of the my book on human rights agenda-setting, but I was asked to remove it by the Columbia University Press editor as the price of publication. The essay reflects on that maneuver and its meaning in the context of a wider set of ruminations about academic norms, scholarly inquiry and the ways we interface with and affect the world we study.  We do this both through our practices as scholars and through our many every-day interactions with the public, practitioners and policy-makers on the research frontier, but this dialectic is masked by our professional norms. I hope that’s starting to change.

This set of ruminations from my professional journey along theory-data-practitioner-policy-public-sphere continuum remains very relevant to my new book project. These days, I think of what I learned on the Bosnia project constantly as I navigate semi-structured interviews and informal conversations with human security elites in the areas of civilian protection, children’s health, and arms control. I hope that in my new manuscript I can find a way to acknowledge my embeddedness within these communities of practice as a methodological choice in a way that nonetheless passes academic peer review.

Along those lines, Stephen Walt reminds us in an new important essay that hanging out on the divide between academe and the real world is necessary, yet full of pitfalls. He proposes a menu of strategies by which academic institutions can incentivize an ethical, reflexive and transparent approach that encourages such bridge-building. But he also insists we must acknowledge and render transparent the academic and political significance of such interactions between scholars and practitioners, policymakers and the public. If we can find a way to do that without unhelpfully blurring the line between academe and the ‘rest’ perhaps we can rescue the discipline from what he calls the “cult of irrelevance.”

To do it, we need to rethink how we train and socialize students, reward our junior colleagues, and report on our consulting relationships, as Walt points out. But in my view we also need to change our publishing norms to include and honor scholarly reflections on one’s journey through one’s subject matter as a staple component of analytical presentations.

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