What is known as international relations does not come from anywhere else and takes place at all times in, to and through every body. In fact, and certainly just like “states”, bodies are controversial places of (local) global politics to which in life and beyond are relentlessly reacted – to their point of constant restoration and eventual undoing. This has been my assumption for over a decade since I started rethinking the body in global politics and the particular role bodies play in our international system. In fact, as a Masters and PhD student, I could not understand why, as Jan Jindy Pettman noted in 1997, bodies were “unavailable for criticism” and why IR “was practiced as disembodied when there were no bodies” writers and their subjects’ (ibid). Body politics remained a niche and until recently a relatively incoherent field of study within the International Relations (IR) discipline – there was certainly no textbook. In a nutshell, the reason I wrote my first book, Rethinking the Body in Global Politics, was, to quote Toni Morrisson, “If there’s a book you want to read that hasn’t been written, then You.” must write it ‘.
In the 10 years it took me to write Rethink the bodyMy expertise has been misunderstood most of the time, as most of my co-workers, supervisors, and certainly the potential employers who have fired me assumed that I was a “gendered person” (whatever that is) or just plain weird Doing theoretical things would not be “attractive” or have any “implications” for students. Indeed, those devoted to the thinking, writing, and teaching of international relations have for the most part, and for the most part, left the narrowly and broadly defined politics completely out of their bodies since the discipline of IR’s inception in 1919. Maybe they didn’t notice. Finally, when everything seems to be fine, bodies can be forgotten and disappear (see Leder, 1990). Perhaps the embodied subjects who write “the mainstream” glided through life without physical glitch. Whatever the case, as a result of the disciplinary disappearance of bodies, intensely and globally controversial processes by which bodies arise or not (as I have called it) (Re / Dis) embodiment) were ignored and / or denied and therefore closed due to a common preference for the analysis, control and politicization of the other controversial units in our international system – namely man, state and war. In turn, these fetishized levels of analysis have been almost completely disembodied, as they arrive in our texts, lectures, and political recommendations that seem to be done with (in the case of humans) and consist of (in the case of the state and) war) before and a – political bodies. This is completely problematic, since bodies are not outside of politics, but always and already controversial places of world politics. I am therefore writing this short piece for students and scientists interested in the global politics of the body and my approach to it. As such, this short explainer consists of two parts: it describes how bodies are relevant to the study of global politics and how you too could explore (local) global body politics.
In this time of global pandemic, we can’t help but notice how some bodies cough, stutter, and infect other bodies. We know that sometimes this is intentional, but sometimes not, and we recognize that even the dead can do it. We now know only too well that what happens to bodies is the result of political decisions – even if the policy is relatively narrowly defined – as is the case in parliament and government buildings as well as at the international level – what vaccination agreements and – strategies in this case. In this time of global pandemic, some bodies need to “protect” from COVID-19, some bodies are protected from it, some bodies are nursed back to health when needed, while others are made more vulnerable and left behind, and some bodies are used and depleted – they are knowingly exposed to the power of death, succumb and are allowed to die. We now see that in life and otherwise in death, some bodies count and are properly counted while others are lost or discounted. Some bodies are highly valued – considered invaluable and irreplaceable – while most are quickly disposed of out of sight and without fanfare. Even if we physically “miss” these bodies, as hundreds of thousands around the world have done due to an infection with COVID-19, we remain haunted by their “seething presence”. Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic has done a lot of work for me in relation to any body by placing the management techniques and ubiquitous sociopolitical manipulations and interventions in life / death and (re / dis) embodiments of not just seemingly extreme Persons revealed and apparently exposed locally and internationally contested bodies of soldiers and prisoners of war (the ones I would focus on “before” in my writing).
Given the purpose of the IR – to understand and explain the causes of war, peace, and direct political violence – the empirical focus of the IR has resulted in the most explicitly engaging in machines of painful and torn bodies and violent wars arising Frame. This is because IR scientists have rightly shed light on atrocities and injustices and raised important questions about the use and abuse of certain embodied subjects. You have highlighted how gender and race play a crucial role in making some bodies more vulnerable than others and increasingly charting the ways and means by which bodies are made and undone, as well as how bodies are made in global politics by what I do as the dominant (government, military and mass media, elite) body, must be made visible and represented. However, what I have tried to underscore through my recent efforts is this every body has a story to tell about local-global politics and power. In addition, as I found no body is more or less able to inform you about energy operations and the logic, the patterns not only of the current local-global (re / dis) embodiment, but also about the broader behaviors and strategies of international actors of the traditional and non-traditional Actors informs and creates species.
As material – breathing, fleshy, sometimes painful and ultimately sick – bodies, the health, longevity and vulnerability of each of us are equally constructed in socio-political terms. I therefore wanted to suggest and encourage scientists from all fractions and corners of the IR discipline and beyond to carefully examine more obvious, more subtle and, in fact, barely noticeable physical competitions that take place in their empirical setting. Indeed, homing in on anyone If you look carefully you can tell so much beyond this body and its immediate surroundings because each body not only goes ontologically and existentially beyond itself and is therefore deeply dependent and dependent on others, but also through the hierarchical global endoskeleton of the A world that takes up a place and is responsible for every last body and body part – increasingly it counts and takes into account the molecular baseline of life and death. In short, this is due to the fact that every body comes in and out according to a larger logic and agents that go far beyond itself and thus this logic as concretized performative materializations of power / knowledge and local-global, socio-politically embodied competitions which it emerges. Indeed, this is what makes bodies such uniquely rich study sites.
For the reasons stated so far, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I began using the COVID-19 pandemic as a means of demonstrating how bodies, as places of global and general nature, are contested endlessly yet not passively by defined politics which takes place in spaces that extend far beyond our parliament buildings and legislative chambers. Indeed, the bodies discussed in my book are exposed to and exposed to the brunt of dynamics, forces, and imperatives that are so much larger than comparatively small parties and even national politics and the force of state power, but most of the time they don’t stop, ponder this while proceeding with their “private” and mostly more mundane life. As such, I alternatively follow the feminist efforts outlined in this introduction and cited by Cynthia Enloe (1990) to understand international politics as deeply personal, and vice versa. From this opposing position it is understandable that Michel Foucault (1977: 308) reversed the dictum of Carl von Clausewitz, often cited in the canon of war studies, because he heard “the distant roar of struggle” in the center of civil, apparently civil society and society even in so-called normal times. I’ve heard it too, even from my own unique but extremely privileged position at the helm of what Dionne Brand recently and physically referred to as the “world’s global endoskeleton,” as a white English worker who has risen to be an assistant professor and live hence, in a way that makes me safer in many ways than the vast majority of the human population. From this position I have devoted the last decade of my life to thinking in, with and through the body and in the end I saw that “theory can do more, the closer it gets to the skin” (Ahmed, 2017: 10) returned to what I could come closest to and even under: my own.
Since the relationships are always embodied within the international system, there is always the possibility of including every case, every event, every situation or every moment in the analysis of body politics within the framework of the work in the IR. This could include a discussion of how bodies are traded or how they are treated, especially and especially when they are used or challenged less obviously than in the case of the COVID pandemic – how we all get through our daily work while we travel ( or included)) while we rest and while we consume and play. However, starting and ending with bodies (because global politics always does) also means daring to abandon the “methodological safety net” (Zalewski, 2013: 133) provided and maintained by the positivist orthodoxy of the IR, while one opposes “the seductions of quantification” (see Merry, 2016) and the easy acceptance that goes with it. Indeed, my book is presented as a combination of vignettes, auto and digital ethnography, and reflective / reflective essays that bring in the results of broader critical discourse analysis and even a survey, as I have applied the feminist research ethic defined by Brooke Ackerly and Jacqui True ( 2008: 694) as “attention to the power of epistemology, limits, relationships and the position of the researcher” and took into account the role of emotion and positionality in my research process.
As a final piece of advice and warning, it is difficult to start and end with bodies – obsessively following them and figuring out where they are going and what they are becoming – and doing so while being aware of yourself is exhaustive and possibly even extractive and abusive. It is certainly uncomfortable. Indeed write Rethinking the body in global politics On and during the pandemic in spring and summer 2020 was an absolutely haunting, sometimes cathartic, but often intense and intensely exhausting and stressful experience in an already incredibly stressful time. Since then, I have considered using the writing process and the distraction of the upcoming deadline of my manuscript as a coping mechanism to help manage and offset the stress and even trauma of the pandemic on my own. However, turning my lockdown and pandemic experience into work and tasking me with reflexively writing about an already exhausting and risky situation also brought with it additional stressors that serve as a warning and reminder of the violent potential of research and academic life should need a deeper reflection on these always racist, classified and gender issues.
Further reading on e-international relations