Friday, January 14, 2011

My Research Plan on "Islam and International Relations: Mutual Perceptions"

                                                                                                                                                                        What are you investigating? Why?

If scholars and members of the English School of International Relations were able to associate and converge their thoughts on conceptualizing International Relations with Christianity, this is of course majority of them are Christians and so Western Europe is. Then, it is a precedent and an indication that along the strand of the Abrahamic Faiths Islam is putatively feasible and probable to understand and interpret International Relations  (IR) and vice versa. Though the danger of this study might suggests a myriad adherence to two extreme poles of risky praradigm: (1) those IR scholars who totally ignore Western concepts in Islam because it’s plainly un-Islamic and (2) those Islamic (ulama) scholars who color Western concepts like IR within the Islamic prism by putting Islamic elements. This is a matter of how we are going to find tangency or via media between Islam and IR without committing submission to those extreme poles. 
     The proposed dissertation is on the study of Islam and International Relations which will be entitled as “Islam and International Relations: Mutual Perceptions.” This was initially conceptualized with the aim of looking their conceived perceptions side by side, whether, how Islam is interpreted by IR scholars and vice versa. This has been the proponent’s quest to feasibly and scholarly presents Islam as a non-alien in the Western discourse of the IR field. 
     The aims of the research are to show juxtaposed positions of mutual perceptions between Islam and IR based on conceived notions of sensitive conceptions, to eliminate deplorable and pejorative (mis)conceptions of IR scholars towards Islam and vice versa, and add or put Islam in the epitome of global discourse of international relations as a major causal factor that affects the behaviors of every actors (states, sub-state system, individuals, international and regional organizations, and multinational corporations) in the international community particularly those which have interest and peculiar relations to the Muslim world.
     The proponent will examine two outstanding inquiries that will guide this research in hoping to find, discover or create patterns of tangency. Questions below magnify the totality of where the research will lead at and to what extent it is analyze.
            1. How International Relations scholars perceived the field of Islam?
            2. How Islamic scholars (Muslims or non-Muslims) perceived the field of IR?

What methods are you going to employ?

Primary resources such as interviews to both IR and Islamic scholars will be utilized. If means and/or resources are scarce to travel to different countries just to perform onsite interviews, the online research method of interview is an appropriate substitute. Both synchronous online interviews (for example via skype, dimdim, or any forms of chat technology) and asynchronous online interviews (for example via email) will be used. Online interviews manifest practicality, easiness, fast, and less expensive compared to onsite interviews. Constructing their Operational Codes through the Verbs-In-Context-System (VICS) method of content analysis will also be utilized. Their written documents, monographs, books, articles, public speeches will be analyzed using VICS. The problem here is who among the ‘living’ scholars will be interviewed? A random of 10 scholars from each field will be selected and reached if their willing to partake or participate in the research. This first method is delimited by the challenge of selectivity approach and willingness of the scholars.
     Secondary resources such as books, journals, electronic sources and other common sources that can be found from libraries, archives, related institutes and research centers are included. A tentative list of review of related literature is stated at the latter of this proposal. A preliminary exploratory research will help to create good research design and data collection for purpose of reviews. This is the proponent chronological manner of undertaking this method. It will first set out exploratory research which precedes descriptive research then explanatory research to formulate a conceptual framework. The only thing that the study will focus on is looking for the parallel arrows that may hopefully connect IR and Islam. Below is a matrix:

Islam <----------> Perceptions <----------> International Relations
How it will be carry-out or what themes or objects of research may specifically include?

The process of constructing this involves selecting perspectives and categories to bring to bear on the research topic. It is only on the basis of such theorization of the research topic and the delineation of ‘objects of research’ that one can settle upon appropriate methods of data selection, collection and analysis. So the proponent provides a skeletal draft or outline on how the study will be structured or categorically assigned or divided.

A. International Relations’ perception of Islam
     1. International Relations’ perception of religion
          - It will talk about how IR scholars perceived religion generally.
     2. International Relations’ perception of Islam
          - This portion is exclusively dedicated to IR scholars’ perception towards Islam.
     3. The Secularist Debate
          - The debate that sparked among William E. Connolly, Talal Asad, Saba Mahmood, and other scholars.
B. Islam’s perception of International Relations
     1. Islamic perception of International Relations (capital “IR” means the discipline itself)
          - A discussion of the Islamic reflection on the main assumptions and notions of the discipline such as state, sovereignty, security, power, conflict and cooperation, diplomacy, human rights and etc.
     2. Islamic perception of international relations (small caps “ir” means the practice itself)
          - It will discuss intergovernmental and non-governmental practices, which is subdivided into two parts:
               a. The objective interpretation, e.g., The Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah and the subjective interpretation, e.g., the concept of ijtihad among others.
               b. The conceptions of Dar al-Islam, Dar al-Harb and Dar al-Ahd.
C. The Road Not Taken: Beyond Orientalism*
     1. Islam and International Relations as part of the stories told from a Western viewpoint.
     2. Stories from the Muslim world regarding international politics.

*Letter “C” might be optional because in the paradigm of explaining the research plan the first two parts suffices the study.

Which part of that body of knowledge your study will be added to?

For a very long time, the Muslim world was regarded as an outsider from the cultural and normative pretext and state relations of the West. Even during the reign of the Ottoman Empire, IR scholars excluded her as a subordinated non-ally or stealth ally of major European powers. It is now apparent that there is an imperative motivation why Islamic discourses gradually dominate contemporary international relations or events, e.g. Palestinian question, Iranian nuclear issue, Arab oil and gas and Turkish water resources, rise of extremist movements, terrorism, post-war Afghanistan and Iraq, tensions in the Maghreb countries, Sudanese conflict, Muslim rebels in Southeast Asia, and how all of these events affect the West in a theory-praxis spectrum.
     The researcher humbly hopes that through this study, we may able to add to the realm of literature on how human races and civilizations are linked through intellectual, cultural, economical, and social exchanges particularly of the relations between the East (Islam) and the West (International Relations).

What is your suggested work plan?

1 year      -     will deal on completing the required number of courses or units to prepare for any qualifying examinations (written and/or oral) or administrative obligations that the institute or graduate school requires the PhD student to do so. A part of this temporal duration is establishing good relationship with the supervisor and seeking advice and guidance for the preparation of thesis proposal in the committee which will examine its credibility, invariability, and feasibility.
1 years     -     data collection; surveying relevant key literature; highlighting preselected candidates for online interviews and those who are willing to participate will form the final selection of scholars to be interviewed; doing quality control by analyzing, assessing, and evaluating the collected data; reporting and updating the supervisor and the thesis committee regarding developments of the proponent’s research; and writing down the thesis.
1 year      -     continuation of writing the thesis and updating the thesis committee while at the same time seeking guidance from the supervisor; preparing the final draft and sending hard bound copies to the thesis committee and to the supervisor; and applying for the defense to determine its schedule (this will be done on the 5th or 6th month of that year so the remaining months will be allotted for any unfortunate revisions). 
3 years