The diary Perspectives of international studies published a forum in December 2020 evaluating methods for teaching international relations (IR) in the Arab world. Nine scholars, eight of whom are Arabs, with the entire group consisting of seven men and two women, contributed. Overall, the discussion provided an assessment of the content that promotes constructive engagement and reflexivity. While the authors claim to criticize dominant Anglo-Saxon IR theories, there is nonetheless a blind acceptance of Western methods. Despite the mention of a few Arabic names (such as Korany, Abu Al-Fadl, Badran, and Amin), the authors nonetheless seem to be convinced that there has been a notable lack of knowledge in the region. I find this claim to be flawed.
Here I am dealing with the entire discussion, not just one specific section. I present four main points of criticism: the first relates to the issue of representation and positionality; the second on knowledge production in the field of IR in the Arab world; The third concerns the ahistorical interpretation of the IR lessons. and the fourth criticism focuses on major fallacies in IR theories relating to the study of the Arab world and the global south in general. While I recognize the negative effects of authoritarian political and educational regimes on the discipline (Darwich et al., Pp. 23, 25), I also argue that the constitutive (ontological, epistemological and methodological) foundations of Euromodernism and the Eurocentric IR- Theories also play an important role in hindering the movement of theories. Taken together, these factors lead to the failure of the IR decolonization project.
I also want to make my own point of view before proceeding: I am from Egypt and first studied IR at a public university in Upper Egypt (Assiut University) in the early 2000s, where both IR and political science were mainly taught Arabic. Before moving to the UK in 2017, I studied Political Science and International Relations at a small university in Upper Egypt, where this course was also mainly taught in Arabic. After graduation, I taught for a few years and then moved to the UAE where I taught IR. From 2017 I studied IR in the UK, where I earned my MSc in IR (at the University of Aberdeen). I am currently enrolled in a doctoral program in IR and have also had the opportunity to teach the subject. In the present correspondence, I have built on my experiences as a student and teacher to question the claims presented in the forum.
The representation and presence of the Arab world in the field of IR
The forum did not include a discussion of the problem of representation and the lack of Arabic perspectives in canonical journals and other influential publications that do not have strong enough intent to really deal with non-Western forms of knowledge. Because of what Stephen Walt once called a “social network”, scholars outside the Anglo-Saxon world do not have access to the same English-language journals and published books that dominate global distribution systems (Walt, 2011). A brief overview of the contributors to magazines such as International Security, International Organization, American Journal of Political Science, European Journal of International Relationsetc. shows the magnitude of the problem as there are very few contributions from authors in the Arab world or the global south as a whole. In the past two years, the situation has improved slightly, particularly taking into account the effects of the Black Lives Matter movement (Howell and Richter-Montpetit, 2020; Shilliam, 2020; Sabaratnam, 2020; Zvobgo and Loken, 2020; Henderson, 2013) ; Le Melle, 2009).
While Sayed Alatas has been known to deconstruct the “lazy native” myth, there is still a prejudice that non-Western scholars lack the cognitive and methodological skills required to publish in these journals or add value to the field to lend. The ugly truth is that many magazines do not embrace other perspectives unless they are written in “perfect” English (even if written by non-native speakers) and conform to “western”, “scientific” and mainstream standards “Traditions” within each sub-area or research program such as realism, liberalism, constructivism or even the critical school. The western IR field is based on Eurocentric ontology, epistemology and methods. Its foundations are not global; on the contrary, they are based on biased ideas of (Western European) Enlightenment, modernization, Westphalia and capitalism. They even build on racist foundations, with Robert Vitalis rigorously and provocatively revealing the racial, segregated, and white emergence of the canonical Anglo-Saxon IR discipline that the forum authors celebrated, promoted and recognized as the ideal pedagogical methodology (Vitalis), 2015; Abozaid, 2021a).
The one-sided, monological, colonial and Eurocentric character of the current IR theories and Middle East studies shows the importance of not recognizing other forms of knowledge generated outside the West with regard to the goals of these areas. We live in a global system that is constantly pushing to silence other (non) Western voices and to make their contributions invisible. According to Grada Kilomba, mainstream Western science has never had an interest in non-Western knowledge as it is embedded in white narcissistic societies (Kilomba, 2010).
Most of the participants in the forum (with the exception of Amira Abou Samra) have lived, studied and worked in the West or at one of the West-oriented (especially American and Anglo-Saxon) universities in the region. Even though most of the authors (with the exception of Morten Valbjørn) are from the region and are native Arabic speakers, their methods are Eurocentric. Most of the “Arabic” authors on the forum (with the exception of Abou Samra) have not published in Arabic, as Western and European scholarship does not recognize publications in Arabic, even if peer-reviewed. This means that publishing in Arabic is viewed as insignificant and meaningless for an academic career in the West, which in turn reveals an explicit prejudice by Western science towards non-Western knowledge.
In addition, the contributors have subtly defended Western and Anglo-Saxon teaching methods (Darwich et al., Pp. 7, 26) on the pretext that IR is an American science (Hoffman, 1977). Although this debate is out of date, it nonetheless fosters the privileges associated with these methods. There is also an educational tendency for Western knowledge to be superior. As a result, other non-Western forms of knowledge do not receive the same space and attention in the forum (Cox, 1992; Dabashi, 2015). The authors intended on the one hand to criticize and dismantle the mainstream methodology and on the other hand to improve the so-called “global IR” turnaround. However, the forum clearly did not do this. Worryingly, the term “decoloniality” was never mentioned. This point is discussed in detail in the section on the fallacies of IR theories.
In addition, the authors lack reflection on positionality, be it in relation to their gender (most are men), their class, or their affiliation. The play gives the impression of portraying the perspectives of the Arab people, but most of the authors’ other publications are in English only. Surprisingly, I couldn’t find any publications in Arabic that actually brought the “missing” theories and “missing” methods with which the authors are concerned into the realm of the Arabic language and thus showed a willingness to compensate for and adapt perceived deficiencies. Accordingly, like the local scholars who criticize them, the authors themselves share the blame for these shortcomings. Instead of making sure that they spread their “original knowledge” in the Arab world, they opt for the “negative criticism”. While “negative criticism” stops highlighting the missing and wrong without effectively attempting to solve the problems, “positive criticism” tries to offer epistemological alternatives or a “third space” to assign Homi Bhabha’s term (Bhabha) use, 1994) and constructive engagement working to fill these gaps and open up new opportunities.
The forum focuses on addressing funding agencies and research institutes in the West – and not on institutes from the East or the Global South. This is not dialogi.e. between the west and the rest, but a monologue only within western science. Such tendencies do not really concern the marginalized. They do not oppose western educational hegemony, which systematically suppresses and ignores non-western perspectives outside the canon. Most importantly, they certainly are not trying to develop educational alternatives that would allow IR to be taught and studied in the region.
Arab knowledge production in IR
One of the issues discussed in the forum was the lack of an authentic Arabic IR scholarship that could improve the quality of teaching in the discipline in the region. According to several contributors, there are visible difficulties in finding sources in Arabic, adding to the challenge of engaging students with common IR theories (Darwich et al., Pp. 7, 21, 23). For example, according to Albloshi:
“Professors often rely on relatively outdated Arabic textbooks or translated books that do not cover the current state of the art in the subject. Few scholars in Kuwait (or the Arab world) write textbooks because they are discouraged by the KU’s funding system, which does not regard textbooks as academic achievements. Due to the lack of academic sources in Arabic and the limited resources and time that academics in the Arab world often struggle with, professors rely on only a few available sources. One of them is the translated Arabic version of the Penguin International Relations Dictionary. “(Darwich et al., P. 23)
Likewise, Adham Saouli stated that the translation of theoretical and “scientific” concepts was poor, even though the evidence for this came from a non-academic book review (Darwich et al., P. 21). These claims are based on a reductionist reading of field history in the region (which I will discuss in detail in the next section) and a lack of familiarity with the literature and Arabic translations of Western and Anglo-Saxon classics in IR and political science, such as the seminal works by Hans Morgenthau, Karl Deutsch, Dougherty and Pfaltzgraff, to name a few. In terms of terminology, Ali Hillal Dessouki’s translation of Robert Dahls Modern political analysis (1991) has seen more than five editions. There are also translations of the works of Kenneth Waltz, Alexander Wendt, Joseph Nye, Robert Gilpin, John Mearsheimer, Richard Lebow, Paul Kennedy, Samuel Huntington, Francis Fukuyama, William Wohlforth and Steven Brooks and others. There are also several translations of French, German, Soviet and Russian texts, not just Anglo-Saxon. The translation into Arabic also includes a number of classic critical IR textbooks that the forum authors have not considered. Examples include Baylis, Owens and Smith (2004), Dunne, Kurki and Smith (2016) and Burchill, Linklater and Devetak (2014). It is surprising that these contributions and efforts have been overlooked by the forum’s authors. There needs to be a more accurate and in-depth historical and chronological study of the IR range in the region.
There are plenty of original grants in IR (and political science in general) written in Arabic. These texts are no less illuminating or rigorous than the Western and Anglo-Saxon texts I studied at two of the best UK schools for international relations. Unfortunately none of the Arabic texts was mentioned by the forum participants; Let me list a few examples. I will start with the classics that are widely recognized and read in the Arab world: Boutros Boutros-Ghali Political science (1966), International organizations (1974) and International right (1978); Ismail Sabri Makleds International Relations Theories (1993, 2018) and Foreign Policy Theories (2013); Ali Hillal Dessouki and Jamil Matar Arab regional system (1982); Ahmed Youssefs Arab-Arab conflicts (1988); Hassan Bakr Hassan’s International Relations Theories (2004) and Crisis management and conflict resolution (2005); Mohamed El Sayed Selims Foreign policy analysis (1996) and IR theories in the 19th and 20th centuries (2002); Nazih Ayubis Overvaluation of the Arab state (1995); Muhammad al-Sayed Saeeds The Arab regional system (1992) and Multinational corporations (1986); Hassanein Tawfiq Ibrahim Arab political regime (2003) and Political violence in the Arab political systems (1992); Abd al-Khaliq of Abdullah The regional golf system (1998); Mohamed Al Romaihi Oil and international relations (1995); and even the controversial work of Nadia Mustafa and other Egyptian School scholarships .
Also noticeable is the lack of familiarity of the participants with the latest developments in the field of IR that occurred in the region after the Arab uprisings. There was no discussion of what I call “the new generation” of Arab IR scholars. Since 2010, several Arab countries (e.g. Egypt, Syria, Algeria and the Arab Gulf States) have experienced a youthful “cognitive” bulge in areas such as sociology, political science and especially IR. In an unprecedented manner, these young scholars have managed to fuel the debate on the study of IR in such a way that I can (optimistically and naively) say that Arab scholars will make a notable contribution to the field of IR in the next decade General and Middle Eastern studies in particular, either in Arabic or in other languages. These writings include, to name a few, those of Eman Rajab, Sally Khalifa and Shaimaa Magued (Egypt), Hamza Al-Mustafa (Syria), Anwar Farag (Iraq), Houcine Chougrani (Morocco), and Sid Goudjili and Mohamed Hamchi (Algeria), along with many others.
The forum also ignored the notable and increasingly numerous contributions of several peer-reviewed Arabic journals such as the Arabic Journal of Political Science and Al-Mustaqbal Al-Arabi, Arabic Journal of Sociology (Lebanon), Al Siyassa Al Dawliya (Published since 1968), Journal for Democracy (under the editorial supervision of Hana Ebid), Strategic studies (under the editorial supervision of Mohamed Fayz Farahat, Egypt), Journal of Social Sciences (Kuwait) (published since 1993), Political Science Journal (Iraq), Siyasaat Arabia (Qatar), Journal of Social Affairs (UAE) (published since 1982), Strategic Research Journal (Bahrain) and many others who add significant added value and present original scholarships in the field of IR in Arabic. The forum only mentioned one of these magazines, Siyasaat Arabia (P. 22) while the rest of these platforms did not get the recognition they deserve.
Although two of the respondents were from Algeria, the forum did not highlight the significant developments that the country has seen over the past decade. Several Algerian public universities (e.g. University of Algiers III, Mohamed Khider Biskra University, Ouargla University, Batna 1 University, Larbi Tebessi de Tébessa University) have flourished in both teaching and publishing in IR experienced. Since 2011, more than 15 new journals in the field of IR and international studies have been published by Algerian universities. Surprisingly, the forum doesn’t mention any of them. Therefore, if the opinions of these Arab scholars are trustworthy for evaluating the standards of the field in the region, as Adham Saouli reports (Darwich et al., Pp. 20-22), that trust would contradict the forum’s claims of the backwardness of the field and the standards of IR teaching. Finally, no attention was paid to another visible development in the region, the increasing number of universities and departments for political science and IR. This is a decisive extension for the understanding of pedagogy.
The ahistorical perspective on IR in the Arab world
In addition to what has already been discussed, most of the content of the forum lacked a clear historical framework or reflection on the diversity of educational schools in the Arab world. With the exception of Saddiki (Darwich et al., P. 16) and a very brief reference to the impact of various colonial and post-colonial histories on the institutional context in which classes are held (Darwich et al., P. 7) there were none Discussion of the emergence of the areas of political science and IR in the region (e.g. contexts, founders, main trends and development stages of the area). Political science has been taught and researched in the Arab world for nearly seventy years. It is important to remember that the “western” IR field celebrated its 100th anniversary two years ago (1919-2019). The first Arab Political Science College was founded in Cairo in 1959, around the same year that the Baghdad Political Science College was founded. Previously, the Institute for Arab Research and Studies, the first institution teaching and researching IR in the region, was founded in 1952 as the first specialized Arab institution under the Arab League. Interestingly, a political science department was established in 1968 at the University of Assiut, an isolated, marginalized, and impoverished region of Upper Egypt. Political science faculties were established in many other Arab countries shortly after they gained independence. Since the early 1970s, countries such as Syria, Tunisia, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Lebanon, and others have successively set up their faculties. Today there is not a single Arab country that does not have at least one political science faculty. Statistically, there are more than fifty political science and IR departments in the Arab world. Thus, contrary to the perception created by the forum, the field has a considerable history and scope.
The standards of these colleges certainly vary due to many factors, not least due to the robust authoritarian and repressive regimes of most Arab countries. These regimes are known for their extreme brutality, particularly with regard to civil liberties and human rights (e.g. freedom of expression, freedom of the press, academic freedom and access to information). As a result, many scholars and journalists have been systematically arrested, forcibly disappeared and even ruthlessly murdered because of their work (Abozaid, 2021b).
In addition, the forum made no reference to the role of Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, Founded in Cairo in 1968. Many prominent IR scientists such as Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Ali Hillal Dessouki, Anwar Abd al-Malik, Syed Yassin, Bahgat Korany, Abdel Moneim Said, Abdel Moneim Al-Mashat and Saad Ibrahim either worked or are still working here. Since the late 1960s, these scholars have played a crucial role in disseminating IR theories in the region, particularly in sub-areas such as regionalism, foreign policy analysis, security studies, and comparative politics.
4. The fallacies of applying IR theories to the study of the Arab world
The main cause of the problem discussed by the forum is neither the lack of reliable sources nor the way in which IR is taught and studied in the Arab world, as most of the contributors noted. The forum presented the educational crisis in the Arab world as a problem for Arab scholars. Such problematic and controversial claims remind me of “the lazy natives” using Alatas’ phrase (Alatas, 1977), or Dabashi’s title, “Can’t- Think Europeans? ” (Dabashi, 2015) referring to their poor knowledge and reliance on poor translations and outdated sources. I believe the main reasons for the crisis (besides the authoritarian features of both the political and educational systems) are inherited errors of Western IR discipline such as foundations of Eurocentrism, Modernism and the Enlightenment, and a monological and exclusive character. Therefore I call for a radical criticism and decolonization of these ontological, epistemological and methodological deficiencies. The following section addresses some inaccuracies relating to the study of the Arab world that have not been adequately discussed or adequately analyzed in the forum.
On page 8 of the forum, Bassel Salloukh asked himself how the “non-West” can become a “knowledge producer” to a greater extent than just an “object of knowledge”, and how insights from different places can be combined into one really international debate? ‘This is a problematic question. First of all, it is assumed that Arab scientists did not contribute any knowledge in the field of IR. Second, non-critical, disadvantageous foundations of the Eurocentric IR field are taken into account. Almost all of the contributors realized that the field focuses on Western methods and forms of knowledge, but instead of questioning this fallacy, the authors decided to co-opt it, that is to say, in Salloukh’s words, bring it into mainstream theoretical debates and criticize it from inside, despite the fact that “the approaches in these textbooks seemed separate from their life and everyday politics around them” (Darwich et al., p. 8). In the words of Audre Lorde, “The Master’s tools will never dismantle the Master’s house.” No wonder the project of decolonizing the methods and pedagogy of IR was not mentioned in the forum (Smith, 1999; Jones, 2006; Taylor, 2012; Mignolo, 2012; Mignolo and Walsh, 2018; Wane and Todd, 2018).
Elsewhere (Abozaid, 2021a) I tried to dispel some of the fallacies of Western IR theories regarding the study of the Arab world, of which I highlighted at least nine, by applying Jackson’s critique of two orders. The first-order critique shows that any discourse is based on a number of highly controversial assumptions and knowledge practices. Second-order criticism reveals how discourse functions politically to naturalize and legitimize certain forms of knowledge and political practices (Jackson, 2008, p. 383). Without this criticism, our understanding of the flaws that characterize the study and teaching of IR theories in the Arab world (and elsewhere, with some caveats) will be incomplete. In addition, Waleed Hazbun presents one of the most common false claims: The critical project to study the IR and Middle East represents a better and more comprehensive alternative to the Anglo-Saxon canonical IR theories (i.e. realism, liberalism and constructivism) (Darwich et al. , Pp. 5-7, 10-13). Contrary to this view, I have argued that the Critical School’s two main projects (i.e. the Neo-Gramscian / Coxian and Habermasian projects) and the prevailing theories of IR share the same fallacies. Therefore, none of them represent an acceptable alternative to studying the Arab world or the global South in general. The solution I propose on the basis of this syndrome is the radical decolonization of the sphere of international relations, internally and externally, or what I call it “inner / outer decoloniality”.
In summary, the monological nature of the so-called “dialogical turn” in the theories of international relations is false and illusory because it has failed to recognize and acknowledge the forms and types of knowledge generated by non-Western societies. In fact, not only “the rest,” as they are called, have not failed to produce or add knowledge to the world or even to speak. on the contrary, they did both things. Basically, however, we live in a (global) system that is constantly pushing to silence other (non) Western voices and to make their contributions invisible. Day after day, more and more scientists from the global south, and people of skin color and minorities in general, believe that mainstream canonical (western) science never bothered (and never bothered with) this problem because it was in the white self live -absorbed societies who don’t want to deal with it. Consequently, the resistance and the questioning of this hegemony of knowledge in science is the only way to reduce the marginalization and outcast status of these voices.
* I would like to thank Darya Tsymbalyuk and Tusharika Deka for their insightful discussion and comments on the early version of this paper.
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Zvobgo, Kelebogile und Loken, Meredith: Warum Rasse in internationalen Beziehungen wichtig ist. Außenpolitik. https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/06/19/why-race-matters-international-relations-ir/
 Dies basiert auf meiner unveröffentlichten Umfrage, die durch Interviews und Feldstudien zum Status der IR-Disziplin (Veröffentlichung, Lehre und Pädagogik) in der arabischen Welt (2000-2020) durchgeführt wurde. In Bezug auf die Behauptungen von Abou Samra ergab meine Umfrage, dass die sogenannte „ägyptische Schule“ von anderen IR-Gelehrten weder innerhalb noch außerhalb der arabischen Welt anerkannt wird. Tatsächlich sind die meisten ägyptischen und arabischen Gelehrten mit ihren ontologischen und erkenntnistheoretischen Grundlagen nicht einverstanden. Das Stipendium dieser kleinen Gruppe von Akademikern (mit Sitz an der Fakultät für Wirtschafts- und Politikwissenschaften der Universität Kairo) zeigt keinen ausreichenden Konsens darüber, was sie als Islamisierung von Wissen und internationalen Beziehungen bezeichnen.
 Diese Zahlen stammen aus meiner Umfrage (unveröffentlicht).
 Eine Liste der Fachzeitschriften für Internationale Beziehungen und Politikwissenschaft finden Sie auf der Algerian Scientific Journals Website der Plattform.
 Diese Zahlen stammen aus meiner Umfrage (unveröffentlicht).
 Basierend auf meiner Umfrage (unveröffentlicht).
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