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The postcolonial perspective: an introduction

  • Charlotte Epstein (a1)

Abstract

In this article I consider what it means to theorise international politics from a postcolonial perspective, understood not as a unified body of thought or a new ‘-ism’ for IR, but as a ‘situated perspective’, where the particular of subjective, embodied experiences are foregrounded rather than erased in the theorising. What the postcolonial has to offer are ex-centred, post-Eurocentric sites for practices of situated critique. This casts a different light upon the makings of international orders and key epistemological schemes with which these have been studied in international relations (IR), such as ‘norms’. In this perspective colonisation appears as a foundational shaper of these orders, to a degree and with effects still under-appraised in the discipline. The postcolonial perspective is thus deeply historical, or rather genealogical, in its dual concerns with, first, the genesis of norms, or the processes by which particular behaviours come to be taken to be ‘normal’. Second, it is centrally concerned with the power relations implicated in the (re)drawing of boundaries between the normal and the strange or the unacceptable. Together, these concerns effectively shift the analysis of the ideational processes underpinning international orders from ‘norms’ to the dynamic and power-laden mechanisms of ‘normalisation’. In addition, I show how theorising international politics from a postcolonial perspective has implications for IR’s conceptions of time, identity, and its relationship to difference, as well as agency.

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International Theory
  • ISSN: 1752-9719
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