The academic discipline of International Relations (IR) has long pondered the questions of what it means to act in international politics and who can do so. However, the particular way in which IR has approached the problem of agency has somewhat masked important dynamics in international politics. By approaching the question of agency as an analytical problem that needs to be resolved before engaging with empirical material, IR has failed to see that who can act is often uncertain and contested. This special issue examines the emergence of international agency as an empirical phenomenon. Rather than analysing what given agents do, the contributions study how practices, performances and networks create and transform agency. In this introductory article, we prepare the ground for this distinct approach to studying international politics. We review how IR has addressed the problem of agency, and we discuss three social–theoretical traditions that see agency as an emergent phenomenon: poststructuralism, performance studies and actor-network theory. Finally, we highlight four insights that emerge from the contributions and challenge how IR has traditionally imagined agency.
HYBRID PRACTICES OF DIPLOMACY AND WARFARE (DIPLOWAR)
Summary: Hybrid Practices of Diplomacy and Warfare (DIPLOWAR) is a transdisciplinary research project that will shed light on the changing relationship between diplomacy and warfare. An important analytical move of the project is to understand diplomacy and warfare not primarily as political or legal relations between states, but as structuring principles of peaceful and violent political practices. This reconceptualization makes it possible to bring together insights from research on the "new diplomacy" and research on the "new wars", two literatures that have not yet been systematically linked to each other. Through two explorative studies of foreign policy decision-making processes in the United States and (West) Germany from 1945 to the present, the project will trace how practices of diplomacy and warfare, which were previously clearly separated, have increasingly formed hybrid constellations. DIPLOWAR seeks to both sharpen our analytical vocabulary and deepen our empirical understanding of these processes of hybridization to help scholars, practitioners, and the public to better grasp the new realities of war and peace. The first phase of the project will be hosted by the Arnold A. Saltzman Institute for War and Peace Studies at Columbia University in the City of New York, the second by the Cluster of Excellence "The Formation of Normative Orders" at Goethe University Frankfurt.
Funding: European Comission, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Global Fellowship (2018-2020)
RETHINKING AGENCY IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
With Dr. Benjamin Braun (MPI Cologne) & Dr. Sebastian Schindler (Goethe University Frankfurt)
Summary: The academic discipline of International Relations (IR) has long pondered the questions of what it means to act in international politics and who can do so. However, the particular way in which IR has approached the problem of agency has masked important dynamics in international politics. By approaching the question of agency as an analytical problem that needs to be resolved before engaging with empirical material, IR has failed to see that who can act is often uncertain and contested. This research project examines the emergence of international agency. Rather than analyzing what given agents do, the contributions study how practices, performances, and networks create and transform agency. As the contributions highlight, who can act is often a controversial political question that is closely related to questions of moral responsibility, legal obligation, and political representation. Studying agency this way brings into view an aspect of many conflicts that is too often ignored, namely that they are about the identity and agency of those who are engaged in them.
Funding: Fritz Thyssen Foundation, Workshop Grant (2014; application with Prof. Dr. Christopher Daase)
KOSOVO'S WAY TO DIPLOMACY: AN INQUIRY INTO HOW DIPLOMACY FORMS INTERNATIONAL ACTORS
Summary: In my PhD thesis, I traced how Kosovo's political elites in a long and often laborious process since the early 1990s have learned how to move competently in the world of diplomacy. This detailed engagement with the history of Kosovo's diplomacy had two goals. First, Kosovo is an important point of reference in many academic debates, including those on civil wars, humanitarian interventions, state-building, and non-recognized and contested states. The contributions to these debates, however, only use parts of the history of Kosovo’s diplomacy as case studies; what has been missing so far is a comprehensive account of the socialization of Kosovo's political elites into diplomacy and international politics since the end of the Cold War. Second, the purpose of my examination of the history of Kosovo's diplomacy was to deepen our theoretical understanding of what diplomacy is and what it does. Following an abductive research logic, I used the history of Kosovo's diplomats to explore how diplomacy appears from the perspective of those involved and what it can do for them. In other words, I examined the problems that diplomacy posed to the Kosovars and the solutions it offered them to gain general insights into the nature of diplomacy. Through my study, I was able to show that diplomacy is not just an instrument with which international actors communicate, symbolize their status, or negotiate agreements. Rather, diplomacy gives entities the ability to act in international politics, making them international actors in the first place.
Funding: German National Academic Foundation (Studienstiftung des dt. Volkes), PhD Fellowship (2011-2014); Fazit Foundation, PhD Fellowship (2014-2015)