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Play in(g) international theory

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 June 2019

Aggie Hirst*
Affiliation:
Department of War Studies, King's College London
*
*Corresponding author. Email: aggie.hirst@kcl.ac.uk

Abstract

While the study of games and gaming has increased in International Relations in recent years, a corresponding exploration of play has yet to be developed in the field. While play features in several key areas – including game theory, videogames and popular culture, and pedagogical role-plays and simulations – little work has been done to analyse its presence in, and potentials for, the discipline. The aim of this article is to introduce the study of play to IR. It does this by demonstrating that play is political, and that it is at work across the global arena. Drawing on the deconstructive tradition associated with Jacques Derrida, its core contribution is a theorisation of play. The central argument developed is that play is (auto)deconstructive. By this I mean (1) that play precipitates an unravelling of any attempt at its conceptualisation, and (2) that this illustrates the value of a deconstructive approach to international theory. This claim is substantiated through an analysis of four key binary oppositions derived from Johan Huizinga's Homo Ludens. Having shown how play powerfully deconstructs its own conceptual foundations, I argue that a playful approach offers a robust challenge to entrenched assumptions in international theory.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © British International Studies Association 2019 

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References

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122 Ibid., pp. 5–7.

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124 Ibid., pp. 33, 56.

125 Ibid., p. 34.

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128 Cited in Nagel, Masking the Abject, p. 1.

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161 In ibid., pp. 17, 45.

162 In ibid., p. 45.

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165 Massumi, What Animals Teach Us about Politics, p. 161.

166 In Ryall, Russell, and Maclean (eds), The Philosophy of Play, p. 122.

167 Webster, in ibid., pp. 186–7, emphasis in original.

168 In ibid., p. 100.

169 In ibid., p. 124.

170 In Ehrmann, Game, Play, Literature, p. 21.

171 In Ryall, Russell, and Maclean (eds), The Philosophy of Play, p. 100.

172 Massumi, What Animals Teach Us about Politics, p. 42.

173 Ibid., p. 12.

174 Cited by Fink, in Ehrmann, Game, Play, Literature, p. 25.

175 Huizinga, Homo Ludens, pp. 3–4.

176 In Bogue and Spariosu (eds), The Play of the Self, p. 96.

177 Fink, in Ehrmann, Game, Play, Literature, p. 19.

178 Nagel, Masking the Abject, p. 4.

179 Huizinga, Homo Ludens, p. 10.

180 Cited in Ehrmann, Game, Play, Literature, p. 54.

181 Ibid., p. 55.

182 In Ryall, Russell, and Maclean (eds), The Philosophy of Play, p. 155.

183 Hans, The Play of the World, pp. 3–4.

184 Nagel, Masking the Abject, p. 1.

185 Ibid.

186 Ibid., p. 3.

187 Spariosu, Dionysus Reborn, p. 162.

188 Ibid.

189 Ibid., pp. 154–5.

190 Hans, The Play of the World, p. 15.

191 In Ryall, Russell, and Maclean (eds), The Philosophy of Play, p. 121.