IR: The Resurrection or New Frontiers of Incorporation
CYNTHIA WEBER University of Leeds
By giving center stage to popular ﬁlms rather than to IR theory, this article examines the processes of political evacuation and disciplinary incorporation as they occur to postmodernism and feminism in relation to the discipline of IR, and particularly in relation to Wendtian constructivism and Jonesian gender. This approach enables me to pose two provocative (if necessarily illusive) questions — ‘What constitutes mainstream IR these days?’ and ‘How is this mainstream socially, culturally and popularly constructed?’ The article’s contribution is threefold. It is familiarly ‘critical’, for it draws critical attention to mainstream IR theory, whatever that may be. It is ‘functional’, for it exceeds critique by demonstrating how IR blunts radical critiques like postmodernism and feminism, all the while pointing to their incorporated albeit politically evacuated remnants as evidence of the seriousness with which IR takes pluralized debate. And it is what I would term ‘everyday pedagogical’, not because it uses popular ﬁlms to illustrate IR examples but because by emphasizing the everydayness of ﬁlm over the disciplinarity of IR it teaches us how the social, cultural and popular simultaneously enable and disable IR theory to ‘be’.
Distephano: I thought you were dead. Ellen (alien) Ripley: Yeah, I get that a lot.
European Journal of International Relations 5(4) War or to come up with a compelling vision of the future (not to mention a coherent theory of the present [Walt, 1998a]). Yet somehow, IR appears in sequel after sequel, drawing upon updated special effects (neo-this, globalthat) to attract new generations of viewers/practitioners/scholars. Why we seasoned scholars tolerate this state of affairs is clear enough. We know the plot points, we enjoy the board meetings (particularly when they take us out of our normal production routines), and the money is good in light of what passes as ‘the work’. Even if we agree with Roland Bleiker’s recent call to ‘forget IR theory’ (as I do), this is not so easily done.2 It is all too tempting to make one more movie, so long as we identify it to ourselves as our last, unless, of course, a script that says and does something genuinely new comes along.3 And really good scripts have come along — postmodernism and feminism to name two. The difﬁculty is that these scripts rarely get produced by IR scholars and when they do, they generally bear little resemblance to their early drafts. They appear on IR screens in mutant form — constructivism and gender — the results of Alien 4-like genetic crossings, this time between the reels of IR and selected splicings of alien others. Postmodernism and feminism — like the resurrected Ellen Ripley — perform as IR’s hosts to what IR social scientists are really after. Their scripts do not call for untamable, IR-eating alien beasts, but for crossed species of theory that are useful to speciﬁc IR projects (standpoint feminism for neoliberal institutionalism, for example4). In this way, IR punches up its plots by incorporating dramatic scripts (postmodernism and feminism), but only when casting calls guarantee little drama or trauma for IR in the acting. For example, Alexander Wendt’s constructivism outshines postmodernism thanks in part to Wendt’s practiced technique of ‘method’ acting. And Adam Jones’s gender variable relegates feminism to its all too familiar position as understudy (Zalewski, 1999). This is how IR’s resurrection is performed — by incorporating weakened alien others into its body. And while the cinematic effects are often less than spectacular, the rejuvenating effects on IR are. No longer must IR scholars silently listen as alien others ridicule them with cries of ‘the other is within you’. Now these scholars can self-congratulatorily respond, ‘Yes, they do live inside us, as a part of us. We invited them in.’ IR’s incorporation of these others transforms them (as they are similarly transformed in the Alien series) from lethal weapons aimed at IR into the perfect immune systems. The ironic twist of disciplinary fate is that once incorporated into IR, these perfect immune systems now inoculate IR from the very hosts in which IR bred them. Constructivism fends off postmodernism, just as the gender variable beats back feminism. 436
Weber: IR: The Resurrection Relegated to residues of the newly resurrected IR, the strong storylines of postmodernism and feminism continue to attract young audiences into IR (lecture) theaters. But these would-be challengers to the Realist–Idealist paradigm or the neo-neo debates, for example, have too hard an edge for mass IR appeal, hovering somewhere between NC-17 and X ratings on the IR censor’s scales. This is part of the scholarly logic for replacing them with PG performances that pass as artful articulations of IR because they praise constructivism and the gender variable. In this article, I will brieﬂy read the processes of political evacuation and disciplinary incorporation as they occur to the alien others of postmodernism and feminism in relation to the discipline of IR, and particularly in relation to Wendtian constructivism and Jonesian gender.5 I will do so by forgetting IR as much as possible, pairing each political tradition with a popular ﬁlm that both screens its story and simultaneously demonstrates how IR evacuates its deadly political content, thereby readying it for incorporation. My ‘forgetting’ of IR theory does not mean that I do not make reference to IR. Rather, it means that this disparate turned desperate discipline loses its starring role to popular ﬁlm. This approach, rather than reifying some mainstream of IR theory, enables me to pose two provocative (if necessarily illusive) questions that inform my discussion — ‘What constitutes mainstream IR these days?’ and ‘How is this mainstream socially, culturally and popularly constructed?’ The article’s contribution is threefold. It is familiarly ‘critical’, for it draws critical attention to mainstream IR theory, whatever that may be. It is ‘functional’,6 for it exceeds critique by demonstrating how IR blunts radical critiques like postmodernism and feminism, all the while pointing to their incorporated albeit politically evacuated remnants as evidence of the seriousness with which IR takes pluralized debate. And it is what I would term ‘everyday pedagogical’, not because it uses popular ﬁlms to illustrate IR examples but because by emphasizing the everydayness of ﬁlm over the disciplinarity of IR it teaches us how the social, cultural and popular simultaneously enable and disable IR theory to ‘be’.7
Wag the Dog
Take 1 — Postmodernism When the US president becomes involved in a sex scandal, his spin doctor (Conrad Bream/Robert DeNiro) dreams up a phoney war with Albania and enlists a famed Hollywood producer (Stanley Morris/Dustin Hoffman) to stage-manage it. In this made-for-TV war, sound stages are substituted for 437
European Journal of International Relations 5(4) Balkan battleﬁelds, tightly scripted presidential cameos stand in for presidential character, and the only casualty is the truth. But presidential approval ratings and national morale rebound, thanks to the public’s appreciation for a heroic rescue, even when it is unclear who is being rescued from whom and why. Sounds familiar? If so, this is probably because presidents have been doing this for decades (President Clinton’s Afghanistan–Sudan strikes against terrorists on the heels of his admission of an inappropriate relationship with Monica Lewinski being but the most recent example). It may also be because Wag the Dog can be read as a postmodern parody — not about the death of truth but about its irrelevance. What this ﬁlm aptly demonstrates is the Baudrillardian insight that truth is no match for the spectacle of its hyperproduction, circulation and exchange — for the appearance of truth (Baudrillard, 1983).8 Just as signs of truth are substituted for truth, ‘reel’ power is substituted for ‘real’ power. In Wag the Dog, ‘Power . . . produces nothing but signs of its resemblance’ (Baudrillard, 1983: 45). The war with Albania is ended, for example, when the president’s electoral opponent — armed with CIA evidence that there are no real signs of war — announces the war’s end on television. While Stanley initially protests this ending of the war (‘He can’t end our war’), Conrad replies, ‘It’s over. I saw it on television.’ The political implications of this ironic insight parallel Baudrillard’s conclusions about the politics of production verses seduction. Production ‘means to render visible, to cause to appear and be made to appear’ (Baudrillard, 1987: 21). This is what the evidentiary ending of the Albanian war does. It produces the war’s ending based on observable facts on the ground. Seduction, in contrast, ‘withdraws something from the visible order and so runs counter to production’ (Baudrillard, 1987: 21). For seduction, it is in what we do not see — in what often cannot be visualized or verbalized — that power lies.9 And this, as a postmodern reading of Wag the Dog emphasizes, is ultimately more important than the mere facts. ‘This is nothing’, Stanley decides after a moment’s reﬂection about the war’s televisual ending. ‘This is just Act 1: The War.’ Acts 2 and 3 — the hero trapped behind enemy lines and the hero’s patriotic funeral — do not require a real war. All they require is the record that there had been a war, something that facts on the ground cannot dislodge from the public’s understanding of events. While Stanley understands that facts cannot outmaneuver appearances — that making the real visible cannot rescue it from the reel — this is also his complaint. The part of the production process that really matters can never be credited because it remains invisible (which is the reason Stanley cites for 438
Weber: IR: The Resurrection never having won an Oscar although he produced the Oscar awards ceremony). Or, as Stanley and Conrad put it in the ﬁlm’s dialogue:
Stanley: Thinking ahead. Thinking ahead. That’s what producing is. Conrad: It’s like being a plumber. Stanley: Yes, like being a plumber. If you do your job right, nobody should notice. But when you fuck up, everything gets full of shit.
In this exchange, Stanley recognizes that producing only works effectively when it moves from production to seduction. And for the producer/author, this means that authorship cannot be credited because it cannot be seen. Or, as Foucault puts it, ‘the mark of the writer is reduced to nothing more than the singularity of his absence; he must assume the role of the dead man in the game of writing’ (Foucault, 1984: 102–3). In the reel powerplays of seduction, the author is dead. IR’s Take — Constructivism A constructivist reinterpretation of Wag the Dog might begin with the quip ‘The death of the author is what producers make of it’. This seems to be the only ‘lesson’ that constructivism has taken from postmodernism — that identities are socially constructed through practice. For postmodernism, the implications of identity construction do not lead to a series of agent/ structure, process/institutions or identity/interest debates, but to the conclusion that there is an ontological uncertainty to authorship (which is not the same as the often heard dismissal that postmodernism ‘caves into ontology’). This ﬂows from postmodernism’s epistomological critique of the function of signs (truth, power, authorship) which holds that the meaning of any sign cannot be guaranteed because it can always be substituted for another meaning. Signs of truth circulate in the place of truth. Reel power is substituted for real power. The function of power is of central importance to postmodern analyses. Power is utilized either to create substitutions (as they are by Conrad and Stanley in Wag the Dog) or to give the appearance that one can get to the bottom of things, to the real truth of the matter (as the president’s electoral opponent attempts to do when he ends the TV war by airing the facts). Politics is performing substitutions within the sign or making foundational claims about the sign. Constructivism, in contrast, needs the author function to remain intact. The author is a constructed identity, but it is also the heroic rational actor who restores certainty in the midst of socially constructed chaos, just as its (positivist?) methodology demands. Constructivist IR claims the state as its socially constructed rational decision-maker. Chaos or ‘anarchy is what states make of it’ (Wendt, 1995 ). In this way, constructivism replumbs 439
European Journal of International Relations 5(4) (neo)realism through ‘identity construction’ to resurrect the anarchy myth while the author/state holds the promise of our heroic rescue from the traumas of anarchy.10 But of course this replumbing escapes notice. This is why constructivist IR is a better analogy for Wag the Dog than is postmodernism. Constructivism performs the seductive moves that postmodernism analyzes. This is especially the case in Wendtian constructivism, in which postmodern understandings of ontology are reductively recast as politically innocuous renditions of identity construction, postmodern epistemology is bracketed in the wings of every constructivist performance, and a political commitment to anything but the most banal reading of the author function (decisionmaker, producer, one who gets credit) fails to make an appearance (Wendt, 1995 : 131–2). Seductively alluring, Wendtian constructivism’s most important spin is in fooling many mainstream IR scholars that it incorporates postmodern insights into ‘the strong liberal interest in how institutions transform interests’ (Wendt, 1995 : 132). Modernist IR scholars regularly see Wendt’s work as the bridge Wendt writes of between modernism and postmodernism (Wendt, 1995 : 132 and Walt, 1998b). The ‘truth’ of Wendt’s claims are irrelevant. All that matters is that they circulate well and that they rejuvenate ailing IR myths like anarchy and state centrism while preserving IR’s commitments to positivism and the author/decisionmaker function. Constructivism, therefore, is incapable of analyzing potentially postmodern scenarios like the ﬁlm Wag the Dog because it mimes their content, substituting signs of the real (politics, truth, identity construction, ontology, methodology, epistemology) for the real itself. But the masterful stroke of constructivism is that it does all this while making IR scholars believe that — instead of evacuating the important issues of truth, power and politics from IR — constructivism heroically rescues IR from the ‘reel’ and replaces it into the ‘real’. A constructivist reading of Wag the Dog nicely illustrates this move. Constructivism’s apparent focus on the visible and the real offers up an alternative reading of the author function in Wag the Dog. On this reading, the death of the author is not only ‘reel’ (something constructivism poses as unable to tolerate). It is also ‘real’. Because Stanley is unable to honor the ‘postmodern’ conditions of dead authorship he agreed to while producing the made-for-TV war, the ‘real’ producer (Conrad) gives ‘real’ instructions that bring about Stanley’s ‘real’ death. Just before the ﬁlm closes, we learn of Stanley’s death, a death of an author that brings closure to the ‘real’ events of the ﬁlm which we as audience members identify with at least as much as if not more than the ‘reel’ events of the ﬁlm. Constructivism 440
Weber: IR: The Resurrection seemingly reminds us that there are ‘real’ stakes in politics, beyond the hyperreal spins Wag the Dog (and postmodernism) indulges us in up to this point. Of course, constructivism’s moral message makes sense only so long as it can withhold its own seductive spin techniques from examination, something postmodernism (unpopularly) refuses to allow it to do. But the ﬁlm does not end with this tidy conclusion. The ﬁnal scene returns us to the ‘reel’, as a TV announcer tells us of activities of Albanian revolutionaries. Maybe the real/reel point of this ﬁlm — and of the constructivism/postmodernism debates — is that production or the ‘real’ can never arrest seduction or the ‘reel’. Put differently, meanings do not ultimately rest with the author/producer — Stanley, Wendtian constructivism, postmodernism. But so long as constructivism continues to master the art of seducing as if it were producing the truth, IR scholars are unlikely to reconsider constructivism’s contribution to the discipline.
Take 1 — Feminism Fatal Attraction is a paranoia picture, something the ﬁlm openly discloses early on. As married lawyer Dan Gallagher/Michael Douglas and editor Alex Forrest/Glenn Close share an evening together during their weekend-long affair, they listen to the opera Madame Butterﬂy. Both agree that this is their favorite opera. And then Dan reminisces, ‘My Father told me she was gonna kill herself. I was terriﬁed.’ While Dan’s confession foreshadows Alex’s suicide attempt and her ultimate suicidal gesture of attacking Dan’s wife Beth which results in Beth shooting Alex,11 it does more than this. It begs the question, ‘why was he terriﬁed?’ Terror seems like an unlikely response — even for a young boy — to the information his father has given him. Sad, sorry, upset, even relieved. But terriﬁed? What did this boy have to fear? What does Dan have to fear now? And why — if the conclusion to this opera was so terrifying for young Dan — is it his favorite opera as an adult? As the ﬁlm moves from romance to suspense to horror, it answers these questions. What Dan fears is what the ﬁlm stereotypes as female emotion — an irrationality that knows no bounds and that turns Dan into a victim of Alex’s vengeful anger when Dan tries to end their affair. Fatal Attraction works hard to code Alex as irrational. She is scripted as a literal hysteric. Barrenness is her motif. Not only do we discover that a miscarriage left her believing she was unable to have a child (thus making her impregnation by Dan a joyous surprise to her), but she is also visually and emotionally portrayed as empty. Her sparsely furnished apartment with its 441
European Journal of International Relations 5(4) white decor and wide-open spaces offers up few points of orientation. Alex often dresses in white, the absence of color. Her behavior — like repeatedly pulling the lamp cord on and off — suggests a distracted if not vacuous mind. And of course there is the throwing of acid on Dan’s car, boiling his daughter’s bunny, kidnapping his daughter and attempting to kill his wife. Each irrational gesture has its basis in the classic hysteric’s lack of a child, a family, a man, a fertile womb. Yet Alex is not the only character who is conﬁgured around the traditional hysterical coupling of lack leading to excess. The ﬁlm suggests there is also a fundamental absence in Dan’s life — passion (Conlon, 1996). This Mr Ordinary is not a typical thrill seeker, and so a quick affair on a weekend when his family is out of town seems safe enough. Dan reveals from the beginning that he is married — that he has other commitments that he intends to honor — and he falls back on these ‘adult agreements’ and ‘rules’ when he ﬁnds it necessary to keep Alex at bay. Yet even in this context his behavior goes too far, albeit in different ways than does Alex’s. When, for example, Alex appears at Dan’s ofﬁce to invite him to the opera, Dan refuses. Alex accepts this refusal, gets up to leave, and extends her hand for Dan to shake in good-bye. But Dan embraces her instead while Alex utters, wonderingly, ‘When does no mean no?’ Here it is Dan who crosses a line that Alex offered him and Alex who, in Dan’s words, repeatedly asks the ‘wrong’ questions. Asking the wrong questions is what Alex does best. During the lovers’ weekend, Dan gushes on about his family life explaining how lucky he is. Alex asks, ‘So what are you doing here?’ Dan’s only reply is, ‘Boy, you know how to ask the wrong thing.’ This is illustrated in another scene, this time after Alex turned up at Dan’s apartment, met his wife, and secured his unlisted phone number and new address. Alex tells Dan, ‘I’m not gonna be ignored’ and asks Dan ‘what are you so afraid of?’ Dan gets increasingly agitated and again casts Alex as the hysteric.
Dan: Alex: Dan: Alex: You’re so sad, you know that, Alex. Don’t you ever pity me, you bastard. I’ll pity you. I’ll pity you because you’re sick. Why? Because I won’t allow you to treat me like some slut you can just bang a couple of times and throw in the garbage?
Dan says nothing in reply. It is in moves like these that Fatal Attraction unhinges its own paranoid hysteric’s fantasy of a woman scorned. For what scenes like these between Alex and Dan reveal is that Alex is not necessarily more irrational than is Dan. How delusional must one be to believe that a passionate weekend with another woman can be contained and have no effects on one’s marriage? 442
Weber: IR: The Resurrection And how irrational is it to literally embrace one’s deep-rooted fear — Alex as the symbolically sacriﬁcial woman? Yet while the ﬁlm offers its viewers glimpses of these alternative alignments of rationality, it always immediately undermines them because the ﬁlm tells Dan’s story. From Dan’s paranoid point of view, Alex is indeed a nutcase. That Dan’s paranoia is itself a gendered hysterical discourse is beyond the ﬁlm’s purview. Dan’s narrative makes sense only when structures like the traditional heterosexual family, the profession and the law work to support it in an apparently gender-neutral way. This also explains Dan’s attraction to Alex. While it is unreasonable on many levels, it is something this white, heterosexual professional male ultimately has the power to get away with. After all, it is Dan’s wife (the good woman) who murders Alex (the bad woman) for him. How better could patriarchical institutions maintain their invisibility! Yet it is by asking the ‘wrong’ questions that the seemingly rational terms of Dan’s narrative are contextualized as masculinist and refused by Alex (Zalewski, 1995). This is what a feminist reading of Fatal Attraction does more generally. It points to how power is employed to make it appear as if these institutions, actions and narratives lack gender bias (Enloe, 1989). From a feminist perspective, this presumed lack of gender bias is the ﬁlm’s most hysterical excess and its ultimate victim. IR’s Take — The Gender Variable Since feminism’s formal introduction into the discipline of IR, IR has been fending off its fatal attraction to feminism. One of the ‘lessons’ it learned from the encounter between Dan Gallagher and Alex Forrest is that casual encounters between differently sexed bodies (of literature) can prove fatal. Never mind that it was Alex/the female body/feminism that Fatal Attraction killed off. The torment of Dan’s liaison is too much for a masculinely engendered body to bear. And so in the early years there was little safe disciplinary intercourse between feminists and mainstream IR theorists. The vast majority of scholars — female and male — believed it right and proper to exclude feminism from the traditional IR family romance.12 Certainly, there were attempts to add the study of women and some feminist perspectives into IR. But these incorporations were always on IR’s terms. Women and feminism would be added so long as they enhanced scientiﬁc disciplinary knowledges of IR rather than in any way transformed them.13 Once interactions between IR and feminism increased, IR thought it could contain the disciplinary disruptions feminism promised. Like Dan Gallagher, it was powerful enough to get away with a little diddling here and 443
European Journal of International Relations 5(4) there.14 To its surprise, feminism did not (always) respond like a grateful lover. Like Alex Forrest, it refused to be ignored. It questioned IR’s rules. It demanded to be heard on its own terms (Zalewski, 1999). But IR could allow this only if it were willing to be transformed. And so, not surprisingly, over the years mainstream IR has been recasting what feminism supposedly is and what feminism supposedly does to and for the discipline in order to insulate itself from feminism’s transformatory potential. Its master stroke of the moment is its embracing of ‘the gender variable’. The gender variable functions in IR much like Beth Gallagher functions in Fatal Attraction. Both seem to be natural allies of feminism. For Beth, this is because she is female. While she beneﬁts in many ways from patriarchal privilege, she is also its victim. For it is this same patriarchical privilege that makes her husband Dan believe he can get away with an affair now and then. Beth, therefore, might be open to a feminist agenda, albeit differently than Alex. The gender variable also seems to be on the side of feminism. Indeed, it appears to be precisely what feminists have been clamoring for — a recognition that institutions and activities are not gender neutral and that gender analyses must be integral aspects of all IR analyses. IR’s openness to the gender variable is currently read by some as an openness to feminist projects more generally. But this reading only makes sense if one necessarily neglects to theorize the perspective from which the gender variable functions. This perspective is like that of Dan’s in Fatal Attraction. The gender variable functions to insulate IR from any critical reconsideration of patriarchy. As it has been articulated by Adam Jones (1996), it could not be more anti-feminist. Jones proposes to offer feminists and those interested in the study of gender a service — to build upon their insights ‘by moving beyond feminism’s standard equation of gender, an inclusive designation, with women/femininity, a narrower and more restrictive one’ (p. 407). In so doing, Jones argues feminist ‘partisanship’ and IR ‘scholarship’ can be disentangled, thereby offering both gender scholars and IR scholars a ‘more broadly “gender-informed” stance in international politics and the social sciences more generally’ (p. 407). On the face of it, Jones’s move may seem to be rather innocuous. Indeed, as Jones acknowledges, many feminists have themselves been struggling to make the move from some perceived essentialized notion of woman to a more encompassing category of gender for some time. Yet as Jones’s essay progresses, it reads more and more like the ﬁnal third of Fatal Attraction in which Alex psychotically goes after Dan. For Jones’s essay — like all those anti-feminist reviews of Fatal Attraction — conveniently confounds feminism’s targeting of patriarchy with a targeting of men. After berating feminist scholars like Cynthia Enloe for claiming the victim status of women and 444
Weber: IR: The Resurrection neglecting to theorize men’s gendered positions (even though Enloe clearly does quite the opposite), it is Jones who — doing his best Michael Douglas imitation — screams ‘Men are victims, too’ (pp. 422–9).15 Unfortunately, Jones’s cry is not unfamiliar. It has been heard recently by IR scholars who dismiss feminist tactics as mere ad hominem (while simultaneously confessing their fear of further feminist engagements) or who — confronted by analyses of paranoid male responses to feminism — ask if these are not just the paranoid projections of hysterical women (Brown, 1997; Keohane, 1998). What Jones and his admirers so artfully overlook is that Jones’s gender variable is masculinely engendered. Like Beth, it is the perfect servant of patriarchy because it secures masculine power from either a seemingly gender-neutral standpoint or a supposedly feminist one.
Resurrection and Residues
Cole to Ellen (alien) Ripley: Why do you go on living? How can you stand being what you are?
This exploration of IR’s political evacuation and presumed incorporation of postmodernism and feminism demonstrates how IR rejuvenates itself by reducing alien traditions to residue. My argument is that IR’s manipulations make postmodernism and feminism play host to its strains of constructivism and gender, neither of which bears much resemblance to their species roots. This is not to suggest that the true meanings of postmodernism or feminism can be identiﬁed, and IR simply gets them wrong. Rather, it implies that the politics of these theoretical movements is lost in their incorporation into the discipline of IR. From the standpoint of IR, exploring the frontier of incorporation is a brilliant stroke. It in no way resembles a Kuhnian paradigm shift or any other meaningful transformation of the content of or questions addressed by mainstream IR. Rather, IR as a discipline is revived and recentered in ways that make it appear to be open to new intellectual trends. And, more importantly, these incorporations inoculate IR from many of the threats posed by postmodernism and feminism. From the residual standpoint of postmodernism and feminism, IR’s resurrection is no cause for celebration. While marginalization no longer describes their location in relation to IR because of IR’s adoption and recirculation of their rhetoric, the political content of postmodernism and feminism — like the alien death drive — has disappeared. Wendtian constructivism and Jones’s gender variable pose no threat to IR. Rather, they strengthen IR’s defenses. What’s an alien other to do? How does an 445
European Journal of International Relations 5(4) alien tradition go on living in relation to IR when IR allows it to live only as residue? Bridge building is a precarious practice because too often the bridge becomes the alien other’s back. Setting the record straight does not work because the truth is largely irrelevant. While it may have some effect on scholars entering the discipline, the point of this article has been to show how IR produces and seduces ‘truth effects’ around alien discourses as if some IR scholars actually took these discourses seriously. And sacriﬁce guarantees nothing. Not only is it the other who must always lose their (professional) life, but as Ellen Ripley discovered upon awakening into her nightmare as a clone in Alien 4, one cannot necessarily control the uses s/he will be put to even in death. If, as I have argued, political evacuation is the price of incorporation into IR, the best strategy aliens to IR can take is to heed the advice of Roland Bleiker and ‘forget IR theory’. Of course, it is politically easy for me to embrace Bleiker’s call to ‘forget IR theory’, in part because I am a white, US citizen with a Professorship at a well-respected British university. This privileged status enables me to take up Bleiker’s call not only in my ‘empirical’ writings but also in my more ‘theoretical’ essays that also privilege the everydayness of international politics over the disciplinarity of IR. Even so, much work by untenured and/or otherly marginalized scholars can succeed in professional terms by ‘forgetting the object of IR theory’ — not by drawing attention to their alien status by writing polemics like this one but by doing innovative analyses of international political questions that are not addressed to some disciplinary mainstream of IR. In this respect, Cynthia Enloe’s work is another model for doing ‘alien international politics’ for she changes the object of IR theory by changing the subject to international politics, thereby often changing the subjects/audiences she addresses.16 There is little difference between what Bleiker calls for and what Cynthia Enloe does in Bananas, Beaches, and Bases, for example (Enloe, 1989). The difference is that Bleiker is explicit about his theoretical position while Enloe’s work is seductively alluring. There are many stories to be told about international politics. There is no reason why they ought to be or need to be contextualized in relation to a disciplinary discourse that sucks the very political life out of them so that it can resurrect itself. Rather than just writing critiques of traditional approaches to IR that risk assimilation, postmodernists and feminists must continue to write differently seductive accounts of international political concepts and activities that do not put traditional IR or alternative truths at their center, even as points of departure (see Sylvester, 1998; Weber, 1999). If they refuse to forget IR theory and carry on with their old strategies of engagement with the discipline, they must face Cole’s cruel questions ‘Why do you go on 446
Weber: IR: The Resurrection living? How can you stand being what you are?’ What is the point of your political projects when the price of your incorporation into IR is your politics? My conclusion is that it makes more sense to turn these questions around, asking them instead of IR because today’s contemporary ‘cuttingedge’ IR is the apolitical residue of lively political traditions like postmodernism and feminism. Notes
Because of the kind invitation of Yale Ferguson and Barry Jones, this article was presented at the joint ISA-ECIR conference, Vienna, 16–19 September 1998. Thanks especially to Marysia Zalewski for her intellectual insights and patient consultation on this article. Thanks also to François Debrix, Deems Morrione, Julie Webber and three anonymous referees for their helpful comments. 1. IR may refer to (among other things) some version of Kal Holsti’s classical paradigm or what Ole Wæver recently updated and redescribed as the interparadigm debate. See Holsti (1985) and Wæver (1996). 2. Roland Bleiker’s call to ‘forget IR theory’ is often misunderstood. If one takes the time to get beyond the slogan and engage Bleiker’s argument, one will see Bleiker’s work merits serious consideration. Bleiker’s interest, like mine, is in how to further critiques of IR theory that are not doomed to fail because they conform to too many mainstream constraints. He puts it this way. ‘By articulating critique in relation to arguments advanced by orthodox IR theory, the impact of critical voices remains conﬁned within the larger discursive boundaries that were established through the initial framing of debates. In view of these restraints, this article explores ways though which genealogical critique can be supplemented with a process of forgetting the object of critique, of theorizing world politics without being constrained by the agendas, issues, and terminologies that are presented by orthodox debates’ (italics in original; Bleiker, 1997: 58). 3. On this note, Sigourney Weaver has just signed on for Alien 5. 4. See Keohane (1989). For a critique of Keohane’s uses of feminist IR, see Weber (1994). 5. Certainly, constructivism cannot be reduced to the writings of Alexander Wendt, nor can gender be equated solely with Adam Jones’s ‘gender variable’. There are large and rich traditions of constructivism and gender, just as there are of postmodernism and feminism. I focus only on these two expressions of contructivism and gender because they made some aspect of an alien tradition acceptable to the mainstream of IR by evacuating the alien tradition’s political content. My selected uses of postmodernism (primarily Jean Baudrillard and Michel Foucault) and feminism (often Marysia Zalewski, Cynthia Enloe and Christine Sylvester) should also be read as illustrative rather than reductive. 6. My sense of the functional comes from Roland Barthes. See Barthes (1974). 7. This essay is part of a larger pedagogical project that functionally reconsiders IR theory through popular ﬁlm.
European Journal of International Relations 5(4)
8. For examples of how Baudrillard’s insights on simulation have been applied to explanations of politics, see Rubenstein (1991) and Weber (1995). 9. For an illustration of an earlier application of Baudrillard’s notion of seduction to IR, see Weber (1995). 10. François Debrix comes to similar conclusions about Wendtian constructivism. See Debrix (1999). 11. It is difﬁcult not to read this ﬁnal scene as a suicide because the momentum of the ﬁlm builds up to this ending. For example, when Dan angrily attacks Alex in her apartment, Alex rushes at him with a knife. Dan wrestles the knife from Alex and then Alex crazedly eyes him, almost inviting him to kill her with it. Dan puts the knife down and leaves. It is this same knife that Alex uses in her later attack of Dan’s wife Beth. The ﬁlm’s original ending had Alex committing suicide by slashing her throat while listening to Madame Butterﬂy. 12. A look at the main IR journals bears this out. Millennium launched a special issue on the topic of women and International Relations (co-edited by Rebecca Grant and Kathleen Newland) in the late 1980s and followed that up with occasional articles on women and feminism over the years. Alternatives followed suit some years later with a special issue edited by Christine Sylvester. But more mainstream journals like ISQ and IO took much longer to include feminist topics. IO’s ﬁrst stab at this occurred in the mid-1990s, with the publication of Craig Murphy’s 1996 essay (Murphy, 1996). It wasn’t until the late 1990s that ISQ published a feminist essay. It showcased its second feminist essay in a followup three-essay response/counterresponse format — a conversation in which the senior mainstream male scholar once again ‘is asking feminists to do more of the moving on his continua’ away from epistemological approaches feminists value toward ‘American’ mainstream social science (Tickner, 1998: 209). See Tickner (1997) and the responses — Keohane (1998), Marchand (1998) and Tickner (1998). 13. The best example of this remains Keohane (1989). 14. While Fatal Attraction offers no evidence that Dan Gallagher had other extramarital affairs, the casualness with which he enters his relationship with Alex and his care in covering it up from his wife make one wonder if he has done this before. 15. Michael Douglas is well practiced in his role as male victim in the ‘gender wars’, not to mention the ‘race and class wars’. In addition to Fatal Attraction, see Basic Instincts, Falling Down, and Disclosure. 16. Thanks to Marysia Zalewski for this insight about Enloe changing the subject of/to international politics.
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Baudrillard, Jean (1987) Forget Foucault. P. Foss, P. Patton and P. Beitchman (trans.). New York: Semiotext(e). Bleiker, Roland (1997) ‘Forget IR Theory’, Alternatives 22(1): 57–85. Brown, Chris (1997) Understanding International Relations. New York: St Martin’s Press. Conlon, James (1996) ‘The Place of Passion: Reﬂections on Fatal Attraction’, in Barry Keith Grant (ed.) The Dread of Difference: Gender and the Horror Film, pp. 401–11. Austin: University of Texas Press. Debrix, François (1999) Re-envisioning Peacekeeping. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Enloe, Cynthia (1989) Bananas, Beaches and Bases. Berkeley: University of California Press. Foucault, Michel (1984) ‘What is an Author?’, in Paul Rabinow (ed.) The Foucault Reader, pp. 101–20. New York: Pantheon. Fukuyama, Francis (1992) The End of History and the Last Man. London: Penguin. Holsti, K.J. (1985) The Dividing Discipline: Hegemony and Diversity in International Theory. Boston: Unwin Hyman. Jones, Adam (1996) ‘Does “Gender” Make the World Go Round? Feminist Critiques of International Relations’, Review of International Studies 22(4): 405–29. Keohane, Robert (1989) ‘International Relations Theory: Contributions of a Feminist Standpoint’, Millennium 18(2): 245–54. Keohane, Robert (1998) ‘Beyond Dichotomy: Conversations Between International Relations and Feminist Theory’, International Studies Quarterly 42(1): 193–8. Marchand, Marianne (1998) ‘Different Communities/Different Realities/Different Encounters: A Reply to J. Ann Tickner’, International Studies Quarterly 42(1): 199–204. Murphy, Craig (1996) ‘Seeing Women, Recognizing Gender, Recasting International Relations’, International Organization 50: 513–39. Rubenstein, Diane (1991) ‘This is Not a President: Baudrillard, Bush and Enchanged Simulation’, in Arthur Kroker and Marilouise Kroker (eds) The Hysterical Male: New Feminist Theory, pp. 253–65. New York: St Martin’s Press. Sylvester, Christine (1998) ‘ “Masculinity”, “Femininity”, and “International Relations”: Or Who Goes to the “Moon” with Bonaparte and the Adder?’, in Marysia Zalewski and Jane Parpart (eds) The ‘Man’ Question in International Relations, pp. 185–98. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Tickner, J. Ann (1997) ‘You Just Don’t Understand: Troubled Engagements Between Feminists and IR Theorists’, International Studies Quarterly 41(4): 611–32. Tickner, J. Ann (1998) ‘Continuing the Conversation . . .’, International Studies Quarterly 42(1): 205–210. Wæver, Ole (1996) ‘The Rise and Fall of the Inter-Paradigm Debate’, in Steve Smith, Ken Booth and Marysia Zalewski (eds) International Theory: Positivism and Beyond, pp. 149–85. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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