Ir As Western Centric Disciplines Cultural Studies Essay


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In order to assess whether International Relations, the study of relationships between countries and various organizations on a global scale, is a Western-centric discipline, this essay will start with investigating past as well as contemporary IR, focusing on power structures, historical developments, representations and its claim to be 'universal'. The Western founding of many theories, and the use of discourse and English in the field of IR?, explain the dominance of the 'core' (Western) countries. The subsequent sections will critique the Western-dominant study (privileged discipline of IR) using a post-colonial perspective, followed by an explanation of this new school of thought. Moreover this paper will refer to Edward Said, an important academic popular for his term of 'Orientalism'. Finally this essay will look at the U.S. led War in Iraq to prove some 'Western-centric' and post-colonial key points.

The study of IR is often referred to as a scholarly discipline , area of the West - a 'not so international' if not 'hegemonic discipline' (Bilgin, 2008, p.5). Historically, IR has been limited to a few hypotheses in the core countries, however is displayed as universal knowledge (Tickner, 2003, p.306). Throughout history the West has imposed itself on the rest of the world, marginalizing and silencing various standpoints (De Sousa Santos, 2009, p.104). Scholars such as Vásquez, claim that IR's theory-building roots in the realist paradigm, due to its founding in the West (in Tickner, 2003, p.295, 297). IR remains principally the analysis of power struggles, war and peace with states as actors. The 'ghost of realism past' manifests itself in the notion of 'global order and political practice' (Tickner, 2003, p.298). Events such as the Bush Administration's war doctrine and the 'War on Terror' confirm realist assumptions about warfare's nature and power politics (Tickner, 2003, p.310). President Bush announced in June 2005 '…we fight today because terrorists want to attack our country and kill our citizens...We will defend our freedom…There is only one course of action against them: to defeat them abroad before they attack us at home' (Gill, 2005). In the same year, Bush declared: 'We will not rest until victory is America's and our freedom is secure' (Loven, 2005). These are realist arguments of sovereignty and self-control: states are driven by security and the 'pursuit of the 'national interest'', which remains vital in modern-day politics (Steans, et al., 2010, p.54, 57). In different terms, the concept of political realism creates a discourse that sustains the use of international power and rule (Ashley in Tickner, 2003, p.300).

Furthermore there is a notable dichotomy between the representations of the West and East, focusing on their differences, creating a ''Western' hegemony of the non-European, peripheral world' by 'universalized' knowledge (Said in Moore-Gilbert, Staton and Maley, 1997, p.138; Nair, 2002, p.16). The use of English as the appropriate language of IR, divides U.S. and Europe, which are active partners in setting principal research agendas, from scholars in other parts of the world. IR has focused on the 'interaction between members of the academic community', rather than on the outside world itself, thus has no correct worldview (Tickner, 2003, p.300, 301). The discipline's main professional organization, the International Studies Association (ISA), should support knowledge of global topics and 'intellectual exchange between scholars from distinct parts of the world'. Controversially, IR ignored the representation of 'non-Western' countries, labelling them as 'others' through discourse and claimed that conventional IR language is multinational, hence gives 'authority to speak for and about others' (Nair, 2002, p.16). Nevertheless the 'others' were invisible and insignificant; discourse is rooted, roots in core labels, such as 'the West' and 'the others' while, and these classifications are displayed as binary opposites (Nair, 2002, p.16, Jackson, 2007, p.401).

False and incomplete uses of area studies and the insufficient number of academics from the 'non-West', failed to turn the social sciences into a complete and 'universal' study (Bilgin, 2008, p.11, 12). The privilege of specific knowledge is IR's premise of the Western world, ignoring the fact that race, history and gender play a decisive role in the creation of nations and identity, (Nair, 2002, p.20; Tickner, 2003, p.300). This leads to the emergence of a new type of literature, regarding IR differently, in order to broaden and transform it into a cosmopolitan analysis (Tickner, 2003, p.296, 297). Slemon explains that the school, theory? of post-colonialism focuses on diverse factors and criticizes exclusionary forms of Western reasoning and domination, from various cultures' viewpoints (in Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin, 2006, p.51; Quayson, 2000, p.3; Young, 2001, p.66). Post-colonialism is a cultural analysis which 'has been concerned with the elaboration of theoretical structures that contest the previous Western ways of seeing things' (Young, 2003, p.5). Post-colonists stresses that colonial history still persists and influences modern day world politics and Western culture is intertwined with imperialism and domination over the non-Western world (Said in Smith and Owens, p.188). Scholars rejected the 'universal' knowledge as not being adequate; acknowledging that the selected number of IR academics comes primarily from nations of the core, not incorporating multiple perspectives into the analysis (Tickner, 2003, p. 296). This study aims to challenge the Western mode of discourse, the culturalized academic knowledge and analyses a wider range of IR (Quayson, 2000, p.2: Young, 2001, p.4).

Imperialism constructed national identities of post-colonial countries, in opposition to the West (Nair, 2002, p.2; Young, 2001, p.8). Post-colonialism endeavours to create rights for excluded or misrepresented groups to represent themselves in political, cultural and intellectual domains (Said in Moore-Gilbert, Staton and Maley, 1997, p.129). Additionally, it represents different cultures and societies, considers their history and focuses on the relationship of power and knowledge between, of largely ignored nations in IR on a global scale, regarding its. the study's state-centric view (Said in Moore-Gilbert, Staton and Maley, 1997, p.130; Smith and Owens, 2008, p.188). Post-colonialists recognize that the criteria for defining 'authoritative knowledge of the world' are numerous, and various experiences of global politics need consideration (Tickner, 2003, p.302). The dominant Western knowledge often dismisses and naturalizes gendered, cultural, ethnical differences, anti-colonial struggles and ignores the significance of various experiences and knowledge from distinctive communities (Young, 2001, p.8, 10; Nair, 2002, p.2). Overall, the aim of post-colonialism is the attempt to correct the imbalance of knowledge, power and significance in the world (Quayson, 2000, p.12). It attempts to undermine various dominations, whether they are economic, religious or ethnical and to declare shared forms of cultural and political identity (Young, 2001, p.11). Hence it supersedes the binary oppositions of West vs. non-West, creating a new type of analysis of plural objects, (Said in Moore-Gilbert, Staton and Maley, 1997, p. 139, p.142).

Post-colonialism leads to Edward Said and his study of 'Orientalism', which criticizes the Western's ideological supposition about the Orient (Moore- Gilbert, Staton and Maley, 1997, p.131). The Orient was a production of Western imagination; described as a place full of romance and exotic people (Said, 2003, p.1; Quayson, 2000, p.4). Said explains 'Orientalism', as the counter-image of Occidentalism and the hegemonic way of representing 'the East' and its people (Smith and Owens, 2008, p.188; De Sousa Santos, 2009, p.105). The Orient aids to define the West, preserving complementary ideas, personality and knowledge, by utilizing the term 'otherness' (Said, 2003, p.1; Quayson, 2000, p.4). The link between knowledge and power appears as the reason and justification to rank non-Western peoples as 'others', while allowing economical and military dominance of the West (Quayson, 2000, p.5; Smith and Owens, 2008, p.188). The Orient remained the silent 'other' and never arose as Europe's interlocutor (Said in Moore-Gilbert, Staton, and Maley, 1997, p.131). Said presents the West as a power which endeavoured to dominate of the rest of the world; nowadays it tries, seeks to impose its politics onto the Middle East, creating a 'Occident' vs. 'Orient' mentality (Moore-Gilbert, Staton and Maley, 1997, p.126, 131).

Since ancient history, the hostility towards Islam by the Christian West has gone hand in hand and still seems to be indoctrinated in certain people's minds (Said in Moore-Gilbert, Staton and Maley, 1997, p.136). People's views on seeing Islam as a nuisance rather than a culture are reinforced; the U.S. creates the notion of terrorism by projecting images of Muslims failing at self-representing and self-understanding themselves in Islam (Said in Moore-Gilbert, Staton and Maley, 1997, p.134, 135).

The non-existence of exchange between Islam's view and outsider's, is due to misrepresentation and ignorance on both sides (Said in Moore-Gilbert, Staton and Maley, 1997, p.134). Threat is constructed through language which gives 'the perception that the attackers are inhuman killing machines who cannot be deterred or reasoned with' (Jackson, 2007, p.424). The US tries, aims, attempts preserving the Western-dominated international order, using discourse as a justifiable response to terrorist acts (Jackson, 2007, p.422). The 'West' characterized itself as being under threat by Islamic terrorist forces (Bilgin, 2008, p.19). Bush, for example, described the terrorists, as '…men, with blind hatred and armed with lethal weapons who are capable of any atrocity' (2005). 'Peaceful efforts to disarm the Iraq regime have failed again and again because we are not dealing with peaceful men (Bush, BBC, 2003). In sum, this image of Muslims is constructed by the production of unequally distributed information, media and knowledge, mainly located in the 'metropolitan West' (Said in Moore-Gilbert, Staton and Maley, 1997, p.137).

This paper concludes that IR remains partially a Western-centric discipline, due to the core of academia, the use of English in the area of study and the notion of the 'others'. Realism still drives states; an argument proved by the U.S. led war in Iraq, protecting themselves from terrorist threats. Post-colonialist scholars demand the Western dominate field of IR to introduce new approaches and actors, marginalized in the past due to imperialism and domination of the West. Furthermore they focus on gendered, racial and cultural differences, attempting to broaden IR's agenda. International politics should encompass the interaction of states and other global players, along with local cultural and social structures in order to become truly universal.

Word count: 1653

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