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Viewing International Relations Theory through the Foucauldian Lens

Rina Kashyap
Simon Fraser University
Rina Kashyap
Simon Fraser University
Open Panel

Abstract

Foucault’s work arrived in international relations theory only in the last decade of the twentieth century. Though the discipline of international relations continues to identify realism/neorealism (and neoliberalim) as mainstream theories of the field, there is growing scholarship in international relations that subscribes to the Foucauldian framework. Foucault’s writings are quarried by international relations scholars for his methods (archaeology and genealogy) and for his key concepts of biopolitics and governmentality which offer a radical notion of power. Foucault helps us understand how the history of international theory has come to privilege a particular understanding and interpretation. The Foucauldian perspective makes it possible for ‘marginal sites of politics’ to be discussed as important concerns in international relations. Foucault’s insight of ‘discourse as practice’ holds accountable the Realpolitik axiom of separation of politics and ethics. Engaging with the Foucauldian paradigm is an opportunity for international relations theory to not just enrich itself but re-envision its ‘problem solving enterprise.’