International relations theory and the third world academic : bridging the gap

Dietrich, Nicholas Julian (2008-12)

Thesis (MA (Political Science. International Studies))--Stellenbosch University, 2008.


This thesis takes as its point of departure the problem that the disciplined study of International Relations (IR), whose very basis of existence makes claims towards universality and international applicability, is seen by some to push pertinent issues relating to the majority of the world’s population to the periphery of its enquiry. It begins by exploring the concept “Third World”, arguing for its continued relevance in the post- Cold War arena as generalised term when referring to the “majority of the world’s population”. It is then theorised that one can parallel the marginalisation of the Third World in the global political economy with a perceived marginalisation of a “Third World academic” in the discipline of IR. By making use of both quantitative and qualitative methods, the thesis investigates the production of knowledge within the discipline of IR theory to argue that a possible root cause for the above problem could be the absence of Third World academic contributions to the core of the discipline. Embarking from the notion that IR theory is dominated by a British-American condominium of authorship, by re-interpreting the data provided by Ole Waever on academic contributions to leading IR journals, the researcher concludes that “Third World academics” find themselves on the periphery of knowledge production within the discipline of IR and are therefore dependent on the core to construct knowledge. A brief critical look at the history of the social sciences dominated by Western science as a hegemonic and specific “ethnoscience” furthermore puts into context the development of IR as a conversation dominated by voices from the First World academic community. With reference to the concepts of “responsibility” and “reflexivity” as they relate to theory, it is proposed that the development of IR as a discipline can be equated to a dialogue/conversation rather than a debate. For the dialogue to be responsible, all voices should be considered valid contributors, while all contributors should themselves act responsibly by being selfreflexive. Ultimately, although the discipline of IR must open up to contributions from the Third World, for the development of a truly global discipline that reflects the diversity of global interactions, it is necessary for academics from the Third World to establish themselves within the discourse by producing valuable contributions towards advancing the discipline as a whole and stepping out of the periphery by realising the importance of teaching and understanding “theory”.

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