Call for Workshop Participants: ‘Sources of IR in the Philippines’

WISC Exploratory Research Workshop
5th Global International Studies Conference
1-3 April 2017, National Taiwan University, Taipei (Taiwan)

The study of International Relations (IR) in the last thirty years has witnessed the incorporation of theoretical frameworks ranging from institutional and systematic concepts to various articulations of multipolar, multiplex and non-Western conceptions of the ‘international’. The ‘rise’ of the non-West has been the subject matter of theoretical debates within IR theory that have centered mainly on the questions of the possibility of the Global South in postcolonial contexts, the heterogeneity of non-Western cultures and societies, comparisons between the central assumptions of Western and Eastern philosophy, and the explanatory power of parochial theorizing, among others. With the ascendancy of BRICS as regional powers and the ‘pivot’ to Asia, the study of the international too has become inclusive of concerns, concepts and explanatory frameworks based on the experience of ‘non-Western’ regions and populations, both in ‘pragmatic’ aspects such as human security, development/developmentalism, as well as contributions from ‘non-Western’ philosophy and history. This direction does not only have implications on the object of study in International Relations but also on fundamental assumptions about ontology and epistemology.

As part of its research agenda, the Philippine International Studies Organization (PhISO) aims to study Filipino contributions to the understanding of the ‘international’. The experience of the Philippines, which encompasses territories embedded in pre-Hispanic regional trade networks, the Islamic ummah, the Spanish colonial system, the Westphalian state system, nationalist and anti-colonial networks, and various globalizing forces, serves the purpose of developing a complex yet nuanced understanding of the place of the Philippines in the ‘world’ as well as contributing to existing scholarship on postcolonial IR theory and Global International Relations.

A cursory glance at the subject matter of International Relations and studies curricula in the Philippines reveals the inclusion of a wide variety of disciplines ranging from tourism, cultural studies, business, political science, diplomacy and foreign policy. As with other postcolonial states, there are a number of factors that contribute to the construction of curriculum and development of the discourse in the Philippine context, such as

a) The prominence of ‘Western’ theory
While being cognizant of the differences in Western theory and their various purposes in the study of the international (e.g. realism, liberalism, social constructivism, the Frankfurt School of critical theory, etc.), the repetition and privileging of themes such as secularism, positivism and rationality and the marginalization of Eastern philosophy as the ‘other’ exhibiting diametrically opposed characteristics which require further nuancing in order to avoid resorting to a simplistic argumentum ad ignorantiam where the cosmology of the ‘other’ is simply a negation of Western theory. In addition, conceptions that are purported to have local origins and implications are relegated to area studies, primarily because they are not seen as universal theories in IR, being reductionist, or ‘nativist’ at best, or as a replacement for Western hegemony at worst.

b) Training of faculty
Where faculty train and what forms of knowledge are viewed as important are seen as having an impact on the curriculum or course content.

c) Institutional response to externalities
Despite issues raised in section a), the history of IR-related and affiliated research programs has been responsive to the changing international context and discourse, as reflected in the inclusion of regional/area studies in the years following the creation of ASEAN and a concern with transnational politics under globalization.

d) Perceived demands of the market
The issues raised included the mismatch of students’ expectations and reality, the ambiguity between the study of International Relations and International Studies and the practice of foreign policy and diplomacy, and the relationship between the content of a number of International Studies programs and the discipline.

e) The relationship of the Philippines to knowledge production

f) The accessibility and proliferation of predominantly English language materials

g) The construction and configuration of academies

The disjuncture between Western normative and explanatory theories and the lived experience of populations in the Global South creates an impetus to explore local dimensions of the international under the period of globalization, and to capture variables and concepts that can aid in theory generation. In previous PhISO discussions, various issues were raised regarding the research goals stated above, namely (1) the origin of the sources of knowledge, such as the corpora supporting inductive reasoning, (2) the appropriateness of the use of ‘Philippines’ with its colonial and exclusivist origins, (3) the relationship between parochial sources of knowledge and ‘grand theory’ about the international, and (4) the motivation of investigating ‘Philippine IR’.

The workshop primarily aims to explore potential starting points for this investigation. Possibilities include the study of publications , pedagogy, institutionalization and practice of International Relations in the history of the Philippines during its status as a nation-state, the possibility of a history from below with Salazar’s Pantayong Pananaw, examining the role of the Catholic Church and other religions in the Philippines in informing views of the international, and expanding the scope of inquiry to include communities and ideas in the current territories encompassing today’s Philippines prior to the creation of the nation-state.

The goal is to publish the papers in a special issue of a journal or in an edited volume.

Please submit the following on or before 15 July 2016 at

1) 50 to 100-word abstract of your proposed paper with a tentative title.

2) Complete curriculum vitae

3) Biographical sketches (maximum two pages) that include your current affiliation, contact information, educational background, professional positions and appointments, and relevant publications with complete citations.

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