Following the success of the 1st PHISO International Conference held at the Far Eastern University in March of 2017, the 2nd PHISO International Conference was held at the Ateneo de Davao University, in Davao City, the Philippines. It was quite an appropriate venue for the theme: “Re-Thinking Regions in Global International Relations.” In addition to local attendees, the conference was able to gather a number of foreign participants, who were mindless of the negative news reports on Mindanao. Like any academic gathering the 2nd PHISO International Conference was an open and candid exchange of ideas. Yet unlike other conferences which in the words of one scholar has become stogy and adversarial, the 2nd PHISO International Conference was quite welcoming and friendly. Criticisms from seasoned academics were done in the spirit of helping and encouraging future IR scholars.
The Ateneo de Davao University campus served as an excellent venue to a high profile conference. Academics and scholars the world over had the pleasure of seeing first-hand the Mindanaoan inspired motif of the buildings. The Finster Auditorium, the largest indoor hall in the university with which the plenary sessions took place, was where the heaviest hitters among the scholars such as Baogang He, Alan Chong, Kerstin Steiner, and Kelly Kadera presented their views and researches on International Relations. It was also where the distinguished Bulawan speakers delivered their own insights on the overarching theme. In the open forum after each presentation the audience had the chance to raise questions, clarify key points, and offer dissenting analysis. Exchanges between speakers and audience also took place in between sessions and lunch time.
There were a total of sixteen panels with themes ranging from IR theory, area studies, security studies, and foreign policy to name a few. This was a chance for senior scholars, graduate and even undergraduate students to share their researches. Discussions in these panels undoubtedly helped in fostering the development of another generation of International Relations scholars and in furthering the development of the discipline.
Every evening, conference participants were entertained with a cultural presentation showcasing the diverse cultures in Mindanao. On the first night, PHISO conferred its first distinguished scholar’s award to seven individuals for their notable contributions to the field of International Relations. Albeit technical difficulties, Amitav Acharya was able to deliver his insights via skype. He called on PHISO to pay attention to the non-parochial positions of the local and the regional in the global and include inclusivity that projects local voices and agencies critical to IR so as to be able to manifest Global IR. The second night, which was also the closing event, ended with thought provoking insights from Alan Chong who illustrated how indigenous East Asian sources could shed new light to IR.
The conference itself was indeed a rousing success as everybody who participated went on their way happy and with a treasure trove of knowledge gathered from the most renowned names in the field. The conference was made possible through the indefatigable efforts of the PHISO Conference Team to conceptualize the conference, invite distinguished scholars, and gather the initial funds. The conference success also owes a lot to the generous support of the Ateneo de Davao University, especially the International Studies Department, the Center for Politics and International Affairs, and the University Research Council. The student volunteers through the Ateneo International Studies Students Organization (AISSO) was also an integral part as they provided the much needed logistical support before and during the conference.
Truly, the 2nd PHISO International Conference was one for the books as it highlighted the robust nature of IR in the Philippines.
Asst. Prof. John Harvey D. Gamas
Trustee, Mindanao Representative, and Conference Lead Organizer
26 April 2018, Davao City
Luis Antonio R. Cunanan
Student, AB International Studies – American Studies
Ateneo de Davao University
I don’t know if I can possibly give justice to the conference after a keynote speech like the one we just had. At any rate, I can at least try. Perhaps to sum up what has gone on since the beginning of this conference and workshop series, I can begin with an anecdote. When we started PHISO, most of us probably were not quite aware what we were getting into. It began merely as an idea in cyberspace, roughly three years ago in 2015. What many of us who eventually came together had in common were 1) we wanted to participate in IR-related events, 2) we wanted to help in creating venues and possibilities for such events, 3) we wanted to meet like-minded people with whom we could share our research interests, and 4) we wanted to explore how to do IR in our own context. I think all of us were very much inspired when presented with the possibility that there were scholars in IR who pushed for a more pluralist and inclusive field.
A field that took note of what was occurring in the Global South, in Asia, Africa, Latin America, one that considered identities and histories. Ever since our beginnings, we have organized many events in pursuit of these potentials. This happens to be one of them. If you look at Davao, you see a city that is very frequently left out of the national narrative. It is invariably characterized as an unsafe and difficult neighborhood by the media and other states. Travel warnings are, and have been, issued to those whose governments believe that it is far too dangerous to visit. Yet, you are all still here, and you are all, if my vision serves me correctly, very much alive. And if word of mouth is to be believed, most of you claim to have had a wonderful time during your brief sojourn here. Perhaps if IR opens its eyes to alternative narratives and knowledge-claims, as we all have in some way here, we can have a better understanding of the world, and the various meanings of the ‘good life’.
We have heard from scholars from so many disciplines, from Languages to Law, to Geography and Political Science. That is what makes IR so exciting and dynamic. We have witnessed Asians speaking the language of Western theory and Europeans speaking the language of our experiences and lived lives in Southeast Asia. We have seen with our own eyes the emergence of the peripheries. PHISO, perhaps like these ideas, started out small. But now we find ourselves here, in this encouraging and friendly atmosphere, surrounded by motivating and supportive scholars and friends from all over the world.
And for this I would like to thank all of you. I would like to thank you for taking a chance on us, many of you coming from far away to the Southern Philippines; I would like to thank you for giving your time and effort to support this conference. I would like to thank ADDU and its International Studies Chair, John Harvey Gamas, its faculty members and students, for taking care of us, if we are to take our humanistic cue from the East Asian IR of the last presentation. And last but not least, to the PHISO Members and Board of Trustees, Nassef, Archill, Brian, Riro and Erick for the inspiration. In our years together, we have grown together like a family and for that I am very grateful. Maraming salamat sa lahat. Thank you all and I wish you a good night ahead.
Asst. Prof. Frances Antoinette Cruz
Trustee and the President
24 March 2018, Davao City
A repository of photos collected by the host organizers is available here.