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White Man’s IR: An Intellectual Confession

  • David A. Lake

Drawing largely on my own career in academia, I elaborate on the need for greater gender, racial and other forms of diversity in International Relations. Although theories are thought to be “objective,” what goes into those theories and, in turn, their explanatory power is ultimately shaped by subjective, lived experiences. Different individuals with different life stories will develop different intuitions about how the world “works,” and thus will write different theories to capture those intuitions and, in turn, larger patterns of politics. I explain here how my life experience as a privileged white male has shaped the intellectual contours of my work on international hierarchy. Building from this foundation, I then explore how professional practices elevate as gatekeepers individuals with generally similar life experiences and, thus, intuitions about what constitutes “good” work in the field, which in turn reinforces those professional practices and priorities. The final section focuses on problems of eroding the disciplinary hierarchy and broadening the pipeline into the profession.

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Perspectives on Politics
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