New Materialisms, discourse analysis, and International Relations: a radical intertextual approach
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 08 August 2014
This article investigates the recent ‘New Materialisms’ turn in social and political thought and asks what the potential theoretical and methodological significance might be for the study of International Relations (IR). To do so we return to debates about the theoretical status of discourse in IR as it is in this context that the question of materiality – particularly as it relates to language – has featured prominently in recent years. While the concept of discourse is increasingly narrow in IR, the ‘New Materialisms’ literature emphasises the political force of materiality beyond language and representation. However, a move to reprioritise the politics of materiality over that of language and representation is equally problematic since it perpetuates rather than challenges the notion of a prior distinction between language and materiality. In response, we draw on earlier poststructural thought in order to displace this dichotomy and articulate an extended understanding of what analysing ‘discourse’ might mean in the study of IR.
- Copyright © British International Studies Association 2014
2 For works framed in these terms see, for example, Bennett, Jane, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2010)Google Scholar; Braun, Bruce and Whatmore, Sarah (eds), Political Matter: Technoscience, Democracy, and Public Life (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2010)Google Scholar; Coole and Frost, New Materialisms. For an older set of literature also engaged with the question of materiality, but not necessarily framed in terms of ‘New Materialisms’ see, for example, Appadurai, Arjun (ed.), The Social Life of Things: Commodities in a Cultural Perspective (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988)Google Scholar; Barad, Karen, ‘Posthumanist Performativity: Towards an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter’, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 28:3 (2003), pp. 801–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Fraser, Mariam, Kember, Sarah, and Lury, Celia (eds), Inventive Life: Approaches to the New Vitalism (London: Sage, 2006)Google Scholar; Law, John and Hassard, John (eds), Actor-Network Theory and After (Oxford: Blackwell)Google Scholar; Latour, Bruno, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005)Google Scholar.
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5 Coole and Frost, ‘Introducing the New Materialisms’, p. 1.
6 Ibid., p. 1.
7 Ibid., p. 5.
8 Braun and Whatmore, ‘The Stuff of Politics’, p. xvii.
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12 We have chosen to focus on particular authors because their work on discourse analysis – perhaps more than any others' over the past two decades – has been hugely influential in inspiring a generation of scholars in IR. Moreover, their work is commonly referred to as landmark texts when critics refer to poststructural scholarship. See, for example, Banta's discussion in ‘Analysing Discourse’.
13 We gratefully acknowledge the comments of an anonymous reviewer on this point.
15 We recognise that the label ‘poststructuralism’ is potentially problematic. It refers to a diverse literature consisting of sometimes incompatible perspectives and often thinkers associated with this term openly reject it. However, we use it as a heuristic device to refer to a body of scholarship that seeks to problematise the language/materiality distinction. For a summary of this scholarship see Edkins, Jenny, Poststructuralism and International Relations: Bringing the Political Back In (London: Lynne Rienner, 1999)Google Scholar.
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51 Bennett, Vibrant Matter, p. viii.
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60 Ibid., p. 351.
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69 Ibid., p. 244.
71 Ibid., p. 493.
72 Ibid., p. 494.
73 Ibid., p. 501.
74 Ibid., p. 509.
75 Coole, ‘Agentic Capacities’, p. 455.
76 Coward, ‘Between Us in the City’, p. 476.
77 Aradau, ‘Security That Matters’, p. 494.
78 Coole and Frost, ‘Introducing the New Materialisms’, p. 3.
79 Ibid., p. 6.
80 Coole, ‘Agentic Capacities’, p. 451.
81 Ibid., p. 454.
82 Banta, ‘Analysing Discourse’, p. 2.
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105 Derrida, Jacques, Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International, trans. Kamuf, Peggy (London: Routledge, 1993), pp. 168–9Google Scholar (quoted in Cheah, ‘Non-Dialectical Materialism’, p. 72).
106 Cheah, ‘Non-Dialectical Materialism’, p. 72.
107 Ibid., p. 74.
108 Jacques Derrida, Limited Inc (Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1988), p. 148.
109 Derrida, ‘Some Statements’, p. 79.
110 Derrida, Limited Inc, p. 148.
111 Derrida, ‘Some Statements’, p. 65.
112 Cheah, ‘Non-dialectical Materialism’, p. 81.
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