Review of Naeem Inayatullah and David L. Blaney, International Relations and the Problem of Difference

The conventional IR theorists have long sidelined the voices of the post colonial world in conceptualising IR, and there is a need for recognition of such voices.

International Relations and the Problem of Difference

International relations discourse has been understood in a linear manner, undermining the existence of difference in the diverse temporality and spatiality. Conventional IR theorists basically confined to the European domain in understanding the international relations and most of them do not even acknowledge the possibility of understanding IR from the domain beyond the European knowledge.

The existence of differential perceptions in Europe were subsumed in the context such as that of christian doctrine of one God and equality among human race, notion of science and natural law, and so on.  The non-European perspectives are often dismissed as inadequate to understand the international concepts, but is useful for understanding only the specific or particular regions

The difference in IR has been traditionally represented as inferior, uncivilized or barbaric which needs to be tamed to reach the level of civilization. Like for instance, Indians were always represented as barbaric and also the Indian culture of human sacrifice were considered as inhuman practice while at the same time overlooking the culture of human cannibalism during the period of war and famine in Europe.

Also through the theory of modernisation in IR, IR theorists tried to do away with the different binary of inside and outside, tradition and modern so on without actually taking into account the perspectives of how the modernisation theory are understood beyond the European perspectives.

The point of comparison in modernisation theory are also used as differentiating the others as less developed or as part of the homogeneous humanity overlooking the multiplicity of humanity beyond the European real. This type of understanding the IR places the non-western practices and their notions of international on the negative side and thus can lead to difference.

The conventional IR, as mentioned above, did not recognised the possibilities of alternative knowledge to understand the international relations. However, core concept in the International Political Economy (IPE) is competition which offers that there is a possibility of difference. However, conventionally IPE puts the individual within the society, overlooking the interest of the individual. The concept of competition is a social construct and no two individual are same in any given society. The notion to “uncover the other within the self” (Todorov and Nandy ) shows that the understanding of the self needs continuous conversation with the others.

Likewise the concept of sovereignty can be understood beyond the linear understanding of territoriality and authority such as in pre-colonial India and Jerusalem beyond the national territorial boundaries and legitimacy. The notion that nation-states are the unit actors in the international system does not hold true like for instance Jerusalem where national space remains fluid.

The conventional IR theorists have long sidelined the voices of the post colonial world in conceptualising IR, and there is a need for recognition of such voices. The alternative perspectives can be recognised through “self reflection”, because IR is based on the cultural interactions, in which culture is fluid and not static and  the changing structures and processes of the international system. The difference in notion can be highlighted by engaging with the traditional notion and exploration of the diverse ideological views within. The existence of differences and the possibility of conflict and contrast can emerge in the cultural “contact zone”, but only through this dialogue can the alternative perspectives be heard in the IR domain without keeping them in the zone of difference.

*Review of Naeen Inayatullah and David L. Blaney, 2003, International Relations and the Problem of Difference, Taylor & Francis.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s