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Abstractions in International Relations: on the mystification of trans, queer, and subaltern life in critical knowledge production

Stoffel, Alexander ORCID: 0000-0001-8165-8258 and Birkvad, Ida Roland (2023) Abstractions in International Relations: on the mystification of trans, queer, and subaltern life in critical knowledge production. European Journal of International Relations, 29 (4). 852 - 876. ISSN 1354-0661

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Identification Number: 10.1177/13540661231176907

Abstract

This paper identifies a common process of mystification within academic knowledge production today: the treatment of subordinated groups as mere metaphors or rhetorical figures for academic theorizing. We witness it when academics ask what trans might teach us about transnationality, when we are invited to reflect on what might be queer about modern warfare, or when nation-states are described as subaltern. Trans, queer, and subaltern populations are routinely fetishized within scholarship on the “traditional” International Relations concerns of statecraft, migration, security, and so on. This tendency serves a mystifying function by disabling scholars from examining the social relations that shape and organize their lives and histories. This paper proceeds in three parts. First, to understand the origins and logics of this self-mystifying process, this paper returns, via Stuart Hall, to Karl Marx’s methodological writings on abstraction. It contributes to the formalization of his methodology for contemporary IR scholarship by drawing a distinction between the fetishization of abstraction and the concretization of abstraction. Second, the paper explores how abstracted subject positions have been fetishized within three fields of international studies: trans studies, queer theory, and subaltern studies. Third, after elaborating a critique of this mystifying move, the paper outlines alternative approaches that instead seek to concretize the abstractions queer, trans, and subaltern by attending to their specific historical and social determinations. These strategies of demystification, we argue, carry forward a founding commitment of critical theory that is all too often abandoned within scholarly knowledge production today.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © The Author(s) 2023.
Divisions: Methodology
International Relations
Subjects: J Political Science
H Social Sciences
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Date Deposited: 14 Jul 2023 16:15
Last Modified: 19 May 2024 04:09
URI: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/119757

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