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What’s the Point of IR?

In celebration of 50 years of International Relations at Sussex, the Department of International Relations is convening a conference on the 10th and 11th of December 2015 entitled ‘What’s the Point of IR?’ The conference asks: ‘what is the distinctiveness, the value, and the purpose of IR today?’

Over the past fifty years IR has changed strikingly, shifting from a narrow focus on the relations between states to a much more wide-ranging and diffuse concern with a spectrum of inter-societal and global processes. Yet, IR faces challenges on at least three fronts: from other social sciences that have eroded IR’s onetime comparative advantage as the scholarly endeavour concerned with the ‘international’; internally, as IR has become home to multiple theoretical traditions and sub-fields that rub against its academic coherence; and practically, as IR faces ever-increasing demands for non-academic—and especially policy—relevance.


With the aim of reflecting on these three inter-linked challenges, the conference asks:

– Is IR a coherent and singular discipline? Should this be its aim?
– What distinctive analytical value does IR possess today? What, if anything, should its distinctive intellectual purchase be?
– Where does IR’s practical importance and value lie? What should IR’s practical functions and purposes be?
– Who and what is IR for? And whose interests should IR serve?
The conference brings together scholars and public intellectuals from within and beyond IR to debate these questions. Organised as a single conversation that unfolds over the course of two days, the conference includes a public lecture and six plenary roundtable discussions organised around a set of key questions. The objective is to foster a genuinely organic conversation that speaks to the core aims of the conference while allowing for diversity and enabling useful departures.
Speakers include:
Tarak Barkawi, LSE
Walden Bello, University of the Philippines
Ken Booth, Aberystwyth University
Catia Confortini, Wellesley College
Lawrence Freedman, King’s College, London
Lene Hansen, University of Copenhagen
Betsy Hartmann, Hampshire College
John M. Hobson, University of Sheffield
Patrick T. Jackson, American University
Beate Jahn, University of Sussex
Sam Knafo, University of Sussex
Stephanie Lawson, Macquarie University
L. H. M. Ling, The New School
Craig Murphy, Wellesley College
Peter Newell, University of Sussex
Inderjeet Parmar, City University
Fabio Petito, University of Sussex
Adrienne Roberts, University of Manchester
Justin Rosenberg, University of Sussex
Laura Sjoberg, University of Florida
Jennifer Sterling-Folker, University of Connecticut
Teivo Teivainen, University of Helsinki
Diana Tussie, Flacso
Achin Vanaik, University of Delhi / TNI
Robert Vitalis, University of Pennsylvania
Catherine Weaver, University of Texas at Austin
Cynthia Weber, University of Sussex
Thomas G. Weiss, CUNY
Rorden Wilkinson, University of Sussex
Yongjin Zhang, University of Bristol
For more information and to register please go to: http://whatsthepointofir.com/  Registration closes on the 15th of November. Attendance is free, but numbers are limited.

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