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IR and the Politics of Discourse: A Workshop

Mi., 04/30/2008 - Mi., 01/01/1000

30th April 2008

Peter Ives (Winnipeg/Cambridge)
Adam Morton (Nottingham)
David Howarth (Essex)
Mark Devenney (Brighton)
Jutta Weldes (Bristol) [TBC]

The concept of discourse offers a significant analytic resource for
scholars of politics and international relations. Understanding the
manner in which language and signification constitute political action
opens up new analytic avenues. At the heart of discourse is a semiotic
conception of social and political life that understands meaning to be
constructed through various signifying discourses. Political structures
and events are understood as being constituted in and through such
discursive structures of meaning. Most often associated with so-called
‘post-structuralist’ schools of thought, discourse has been deployed to
emphasise the importance of language, films, pictures, fashions and
other signifying regimes. Discourse is, however, a contentious concept.
Often understood as coterminous with language, it has been accused of
bringing about moral relativism and occluding the objective reality of
social relations.

This workshop aims to examine discourse, the resources that theories of
discourse offer for scholars of global politics, and the problems we
might encounter in such analyses. The workshop will comprise three
sessions. The first session will discuss the different theories of
discourse exploring the various ways in which discourses can be
problematised. The second addresses the problem of subjectivity and
agency. As a concept with structuralist debts, discourse has often been
accused of occluding agency. Enquiries onto subjectivity and agency thus
form a natural focus for discussions of discourse. Finally, the workshop
will conclude with a discussion of the politics of discourses and the
issue of the contextualisation of social practices.

The workshop is aimed at researchers and students with an interest in
the area. The aim is to circulate a small number of readings as a basis
for discussion. There will be a brief presentation at the beginning of
each session followed by an open discussion on the theme of the session.
We hope this will provide the basis for a fruitful examination of the
possibilities discourse offers for scholars of politics and
international relations.

Provisional Program

(All sessions take place in Russell 09)

10.30- 11.00: Coffee

11.00-12.30: Session 1: Approaches to discourse

12.30-1.30: Lunch

1.30-3.00: Session 2: Subject and agency in discourse

3.00-3.30: Coffee

3.30-5.00: Session 3: The politics of discursive construction


University of Sussex