Saturday, August 9, 2014

Worlding beyond the Clash of Civilizations: An Agenda for an International Relations-Islam Discourse

Workshop Proposal: ISA’s Venture Research Grant

Worlding beyond the Clash of Civilizations: 
An Agenda for an International Relations-Islam Discourse


Dr. Deina Abdelkader (Associate Professor, University of Massachusetts at Lowell, USA)
Dr. Raffaele Mauriello (Sapienza, University of Rome, Italy) – is the overall communication coordinator.
Mr. Nassef Manabilang Adiong (PhD Candidate, Alliance of Civilizations Institute in Istanbul and Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey)

The theme, purpose and objectives of the workshop:

International Relations (IR) has been defined as a field in recent history by the dynamics of (neo)colonial powers especially with the triumph of the United States as the sole world power in the post-Cold War era. It has been dominated by theories and perspectives that are almost solely built on Western European and American traditions and perceptions of what IR is and what it should be. Theoretically, IR was and continues to be informed by a widespread belief of the secular nature of IR actors (both nation-states and non-states). This secular discourse disregards the impact of religious elements and lacks recognition of the importance of both rational and revealed knowledge equally. Consequently, religion plays a larger role in all levels of analysis in IR.

Mainstream and reflexive IR theories and approaches, e.g. realism, liberalism, neo-neo synthesis/debate, social constructivism, critical theory, Marxism, post-structuralism, English school, etc., have most, if not all, determined a lack of interest in the possibility of truly encompassing, inclusive, and globally based international values and norms distinguishing peripheral contributions beyond the usual European/American IR ontologies and epistemologies. However, following the end of the Cold War, the nature of world politics has been changing drastically, shifting from great power competition to the management of transnational issues and necessity of cooperation among global different actors. 

As a research cohort our research agenda aims at fostering research that is inclusive of Islamic Studies in International Relations theory and praxis. Rather than an all-inclusive alternative theory of international relations, Islam represents a paradigm and research program that emphasizes law over anarchy, community over human selfishness, commitment over inconstancy, ethics over materialism, etc. As one of the foremost world religions and way of life, Islam offers useful elements of comparison and inspiration that can help improve our understanding and vision of international affairs and world politics.

Our major purpose is to publish the first-ever edited volume entirely dedicated to theories and practices of the Islamic civilization and of Muslim societies with regards to international affairs and to the discipline of IR. Hopefully, it will be the first literature that tries to put forward a comprehensive study of comparative research between International Relations and Islamic Studies.

The need for and intellectual significance of the meeting and how and in what ways the project is new, innovative and/or path-breaking and will expand knowledge and understanding in one or more fields:

The foundation of International Relations and Islamic Studies Research Cohort (Co-IRIS) is created and built to explore Islamic contributions to the field of IR on many levels: the theoretical level, and the praxis of international affairs in Muslim societies. The inclusion of Muslim contributions is not meant to create an isolationist, judicious divide between what is Islamic and what is not. Co-IRIS is created to act on the inclusion of that knowledge as a building bloc in the IR field. That is, finding bridges and commonalities between IR and Islam.

Co-IRIS is premised on the idea that knowledge is fluid: peoples adopt and utilize thoughts and ideas regardless of faith, gender, nation, etc. The mainstream idea that all knowledge presented by the Europeans and Americans is from an “Orientalist” perspective or that there is a “clash of civilizations” are both notions that are antithetical to the research agenda of Co-IRIS. Its primal aim is to develop and sustain a body of knowledge that addresses the theories and practices of the Islamic civilization and of Muslim societies with regards to international affairs and to the discipline of IR. 

The workshop aims: 1) to provide synergy between Islamic notions/practices and Euro-American notions/practices of international relations, and 2) to provide an analytic platform whereby the relations between the Western world and the Muslim world are contextualized. That is to say, going beyond civilization clashes to the stem causes of differences and worldviews to provide a theoretical bridge between the existing viewpoints of international relations at large.

How it relates to previous research and theoretical developments, including a list of any recent meetings or publications on the same topic:

A book entitled “International Relations and Islam: Diverse Perspectives” edited by Nassef Manabilang Adiong was published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing on August 2013. It presents the idea of finding a middle way or common ground of understanding between two bodies of knowledge; namely, International Relations (IR), and Islam or Islamic Studies. The book is divided into two main sections; the first being general perspectives from different backgrounds or cases concerning Islam. The second part specifically examines Turkey, offering various perspectives on the significance of this country and its democratic experience. So far, the Co-IRIS team had met on few occasions and will be meeting in two future events:

---A section of 7 panels entitled “Critical Relations between International Relations and Islam” for the 8th Pan-European Conference on International Relations was held on 18-21 September 2013 in Warsaw, Poland. Informal talks were held to some participants and this was the first time Nassef met Dr. Mauriello and talked about platforms of IR-IS Research Cohort (Co-IRIS now).
---As part of the 2nd Exploratory Symposia organized by European International Studies Association (EISA) in Rapallo, Italy on October 31 and November 1, the soon-to-be-founders (Nassef, Dr. Mauriello, and Dr. Abdelkader) of Co-IRIS met. It was an intensive 2-day symposium of Co-IRIS that leads to the establishment of website, edited book proposal, and participation to international conferences. It was also in this meeting that they coined Co-IRIS.
---There were two Co-IRIS panels presented at the 13th International Relations conference of the Middle East Technical University in Ankara. The conference was held on 25-27 June 2014.
---Co-IRIS will be presenting a panel entitled “Co-IRIS: Islamic Perspectives on Theory and Praxis in International Relations” for the 4th World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies on 18-22 August 2014 at the same university in Ankara, Turkey.
---Co-IRIS will be presenting and directing selected papers and panels for the XII Conference of the Italian Society for Middle Eastern Studies (SeSaMO) on 16-17 January 2015 at the Ca’ Foscari University in Venice, Italy.

The format of the workshop, including a statement of how the meeting will be organized and conducted as well as how other ISA members who are interested in the topic may be included on a space-available basis:

This is a publication-oriented workshop. A strict requirement of the workshop is that draft papers will be due one month prior to the workshop, and circulated among participants. Every participant will have read all papers in advance and must be familiar with the arguments made. Papers will not be presented in a traditional panel-format, and authors will not present their own papers. They will present and discuss a paper authored by one of the other participants. Each paper session will last 40 minutes. It will start with the discussant summarizing his/her understanding of the paper in 5 to 10 minutes, and then a 10-minute constructive critique is provided by formulating questions and identifying larger themes relevant to the workshop. Authors will then have 5 to 10 minutes to respond to the discussant’s remarks, before the chair opens up discussion to the entire group for another 10 minutes. We will identify our observers, who also expressed their interest by submitting qualified papers and will be attending ISA, in the coversheet.

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