Translation in/of World Politics: Language, Practices, Power

By Kasia Kaczmarska
How to translate a map if parties negotiating a border have different conceptions of space and sovereignty? How do legal norms travel and how their meaning changes across cultures and nations? How to translate the contested narratives about, say, Jerusalem and what are the ethics and politics of translation at play during war and in peace negotiations? These are but a few of the challenging questions we explored during a two-day event: Translation in/of World Politics: Language, Practices, Power, which took place at SOAS, University of London, on 17 and 18 January 2020,  organised and funded by the Interpretivism in International Relations (IIR) BISA Working Group.
This truly transdisciplinary gathering of scholars from across the globe allowed space for common discussion among researchers working in: international politics, political theory, conceptual history, translation studies and political theology. The emphasis on translation allowed us to problematise the “inter” in international relations and delve deep into the practice of translation, its agents as well as agendas and politics behind it. It soon turned out that our research covers areas that, while significantly distinct, are connected by a reflection on the process and challenges of translation and knowledge-making. Topics we tackled spanned: the ethics of translation and interpretation at war times; the ‘development speak’ and Anglophone hegemony that pervades international development projects; the role, ethics and (in)visibility of the translator as well as the complexities behind translating specific concepts, such as: the mercenary, realism, religious freedom, or cultural heritage.
Translation as the central theme of the conference was not accidental. We aimed to fill what we consider an important gap in existing scholarship. The discipline of International Relations, despite being predestined to consider practices of translation, has not done so in a sustained manner and in conversation with other disciplines. Translation, we agreed, is a process that involves moments of incommensurability of languages and requires the perpetual building of social relations, erecting bridges and connections between two or many linguistic and cultural contexts. But translation cannot be seen as just a benevolent act with necessarily positive aims and outcomes. It may involve malevolent goals, like appropriation and manipulation and is suffused with the power to silence and competition to set agendas.
If this was not enough in terms of intellectual stimulation, in his thought-provoking keynote on The Politics of Plurals, Helge Jordheim, considered how pluralism in IR is presented as a desirable position and discussed the conceptual and political challenges of thinking in terms of plurals.
This was a truly excellent way for the IIR Working Group convenors to sign off and pass on the steering wheel to a new team. Stay tuned as more exciting events are coming up. To learn more, follow us on Twitter @Interpretivism and visit and subscribe to our webpage: or email us with ideas at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

“The West and the Rest? Challenging the Emotions Research Agenda” – Workshop review

By Clara Eroukhmanoff, Co-Convenor of the Emtions in Politics and IR Working Group, and Chrissie Elliot-Duxson, BISA Communications Manager
On Monday 9 December our Emotions in Politics and IR working group held a workshop at London Southbank University: 'The West and the Rest: Challenging the Emotions Research Agenda'.
There were three panels over the course of the day:
  • Emotions and Protest in non-Western contexts
  • Emotions in post-colonial relations
  • Decolonising emotions and emotional experience
All the papers were of a very high standard and the presenters each had the opportunity for feedback from the working group convenors. The first session was entitled ‘emotions and protests in non-Western contexts’. This drew examples from the recent Hong Kong protests and the idea of localism, as well as examining the emotional antecedents of trust in the ASEAN community and the emotional repertoires of the Arab Spring. The second session explored the role of emotions in post-colonial relations. It sought to decolonise emotional knowledge and experience in traditionally white spaces such as the Imperial War Museums and IR theory, and by working with the idea of being emotionally ‘out of sync’ during fieldwork. 
There was also time set aside for questions on each panel, and a good discussion was had about interviewing research participants where the subject is highly emotive. The advice given for successful interviewing centred around being able to feel empathy with the participant. The interviewer’s use of language is also key.
To finish the day a long table etiquette session (developed by Lois Weaver) was held. The format is designed to be non-hierarchical and seeks to foster an active and participatory dialogue about a particular issue rather than a more passive reception of presentations about individual research. Delegates had considered three questions in preparation for this session:
  1. To what extent have emotions studies included a variety of perspectives and empirical cases beyond the West?
  2. How do emotions intersect with race, sexuality and gender?
  3. How can decolonialism/postcolonialism inform the study and research of emotions in IR?
One of the first observations was that we cannot take the ‘non-West’ as ontologically real or existing, and that as a result we should continually challenge the binary between ‘West’ and ‘non-West’. Second, whilst we recognised that there was a positive increase of research exploring the role of emotions in contexts other than the Global North in International Relations, we also acknowledged that to a great extent, this research still uses either positivist methodologies or white Euro-centric forms of knowledge and concepts. As a result, this has not resulted in really questioning the emotions research agenda. We thus concluded that if emotions scholars seek to integrate postcolonial/decolonial perspectives, more work needs to be done in resisting ‘scientific’ and ‘rational’ modes of knowing and being, de-centering Western emotions research and knowledge, challenging our own positionality and, importantly, including philosophies and concepts indigenous to the contexts under the microscope.
To find out more about the discussions and participants from the workshop you can view the full programme and search the hashtag #emotionsworkshop2019 on Twitter.

Postgraduate Workshop on International Migration Politics, including the BISA/IPMRD Best Book and Best Article Awards

By Dr Maria Koinova - Chair of the BISA/IPMRD Working Group
On 21 October 2019 Dr Paul Goode (University of Bath) and Dr Maria Koinova (University of Warwick) organised a one-day postgraduate workshop within the BISA working group on the International Politics of Migration, Refugees and Diaspora (IPMRD) in London. The workshop gathered an impressive group of nine post-graduate students from a variety of international academic institutions in the UK, France, Switzerland, Ireland, Italy, and Turkey, and members of the governance of the working group.
In the beginning of the day, the first IPMRD working group awards were presented for best book and best articles published in 2018. Dr Sara de Jong (University of York, chair of the committee) announced that the best book award went to: Anna Boucher and Justin Gest (2018). Crossing Borders: Comparative Immigration Regimes in a World of Demographic Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Sara de Jong, Chair of the IPMRD Best Book Award jury said:
“This is both an original and ambitious piece of work. We were impressed by the book’s scope, specifically its insistence on developing a taxonomy of immigration regimes that also includes the global South as an important corrective to the ethnocentric accounts that have so far been dominant.”
Honorable mention was given to the book by Maurice Stierl (2018). Migrant Resistance in Contemporary Europe. London: Routledge. Sara said:
“This is a timely activist-academic account of migrant resistance at and beyond the borders of contemporary Europe, based on a methodologically robust multi-sited ethnographic study.”
Dr Foteini Kalantzi (University of Oxford, member of the committee) presented the best article award that went to: Katharina Lenner and Lewis Turner (2018). “Making Refugees Work? The Politics of Integrating Syrian Refugees into the Labour Market in Jordan.” Middle East Critique 21(1): 65-95.
Amanda Beattie, Chair of the best article judging committee, said:
“In making our selection the committee was impressed by the multidisciplinary appeal of the article.  It was made exceptionally clear how the work applied to scholars beyond IR and spoke to debates in sociology, anthropology, and even economics.  What is more, the article clearly contributed to ongoing debates in Migration Studies in an innovative fashion leaving scope for more research on the topic.  With this in mind, the committee also noticed, and was very impressed by, the high level of empirical work that supported the argument(s) being made. The authors, in producing this article, demonstrated a high level of attention to detail, showcasing the emergence problems their case study analysis revealed.” 
The rest of the day was dedicated to presentations and discussions alongside three major themes: The Politics of Migration and Refugees; Diasporas in Governance and Integration; and Economic Approaches to Migration Governance. Papers speaking to the first two themes were based exclusively on qualitative methods, those to the third theme – on quantitative analysis of surveys. Scholars associated with the governance of the IPMRD working group – Dr Maria Koinova (Chair), Dr Foteini Kalantzi (Secretary, University of Oxford), Dr Sara de Jong (University of York), and Dr Paul Goode provided tailor-made comments to each paper.
Within the first theme Maissam Nimer discussed how the relationship between civil society and the state was transformed when governing the language education of Syrian refugees in Turkey. Clothilde Facon argued that donor politics towards the recent refugee flows from Syria in Lebanon has been strongly shaped by foreign policy considerations, less so by humanitarian concerns. Hirotaka Fujibayashi presented a comparative analysis of Gulf state politics in the Middle East and the evolution of their migration diplomacy.
Within the second theme Catherine Craven presented her theory of diaspora as a “category of practice” in multi-scalar security governance, drawing evidence from the Tamil diaspora. Lola Guyot, also using insights from the Tamil diaspora, showed how diaspora mobilisations could be conducive to host-land integration. Palmo Brunner demonstrated her work in mapping the transnational mobilizations of the Tibet diaspora in online spaces.
Within the third theme, Theodora Tsankova presented a co-authored paper with Mirjam Baechli, an econometric analysis testing how introducing measures of labour protection in Switzerland brings more pro-immigrant attitudes, apart from municipalities with more low-skilled population. Michele Cantarella presented another econometric analysis based on data from the International Organization of Migration, and showed that rescue-deterrent policies, recently introduced in Italy, have had only minimal effect on the migration flows through the Mediterranean. Seun Adebayo concluded the session by speaking about how EU education policies towards migrants are implemented in Ireland.
For further information download the full workshop programme

“Globalising Emotion Studies: Embracing Multiple Voices” – Postgraduate workshop

BISA Working Group on Emotions in Politics and IR and the University of St Andrews, School of International Relations
By Chaeyoung Yong, PhD candidate, University of St Andrews
On 3 September 2019, the University of St Andrews held a postgraduate workshop on “Globalising Emotion Studies: Embracing Multiple Voices”, funded by BISA’s Emotions in Politics and IR Working Group and the University of St Andrews. This workshop intended to question the Euro/Western-centric roots of emotions research and embed this burgeoning research agenda into debates on Global IR. The workshop was keen to provide a space for dialogue and mutual learning between emotion researchers and researchers who are interested in Global IR and decolonial approaches. 
Professor Karin M. Fierke (St Andrews) opened the workshop by asking why we need to globalise emotion studies. She pointed to the necessity of multiple angles and methods, arguing that recognising a multiplicity of emotions leads to a diversity of life. The first panel focused on the reflection of knowledge-production on emotions, whether emotions research is diverse or/and inclusive in dealing with marginalised dimensions such as gender, race, ethnicity, class, and culture. Chaeyoung Yong (St Andrews) suggested several agendas of globalising emotion studies by problematising the Western-centrism of emotion studies and stressing the importance of engaging with plural narratives and listening to marginalised voices from the ‘non-West’. Katharina Hunfeld (St Andrews) followed up on the discussion by emphasising ‘epistemic injustice’ which is embedded in the Western-centric knowledge production in IR and reproduced as gatekeeping mechanisms such as the lack of respect for non-Western epistemic capacity. Her crucial point was that the call for globalising emotion studies is not just to merely ‘include’ non-Western narratives but to ‘overcome’ long-standing epistemic injustice that silences epistemic diversity. The panel ended with Charles Gray (Leeds) who discussed Western-centric narratives of Russia’s foreign policy as ‘revanchist’ and potential ways to excavate different layers of Russian foreign policy. In this way, he offered empirical evidence of the Western-centrism inherent in emotion studies. 
The second panel explored the multifaceted emotional dynamics beyond the Western experience and interrogated how emotion studies can bridge ‘the West/non-West divide’ in terms of theorising and empirical research. Ahmed Abozaid (St Andrews) pointed to the need to explore new epistemological and methodological tools beyond the Eurocentric epistemological perspectives which have built upon Western experiences. To understand states’ behaviour and counterterrorism discourses in non-Western societies such as the MENA region, he investigated the genealogy of states’ use of violence from the premodern period. Scott Edwards (Bristol) examined how the concept of ‘trust’ can be developed from non-Western perspectives and contexts by analysing trusting practices and ideas shared among actors within the ASEAN. 
The third panel examined global emotional actors in non-Western contexts. Shamima Ahmed (Portsmouth), for example, attended to the contemporary challenges of refugees and the various emotional backgrounds of actors in dealing with numerous refugee crises. Her research on border security in Myanmar highlighted contrasting political and emotional contexts between the Global North and the Global South. Moutaz Alkheder (St Andrews) investigated the role of humour, often neglected in emotion studies, in counterterrorism strategy of Anti-Extremist rhetoric. He provided a detailed theoretical discussion of humour, joy, and satire as well as empirical illustrations of Arabic comedy shown in popular videos and cartoons. This panel considered the innovative research agendas on practices of emotions in contemporary policies through keen attention to non-Western contexts and voices. 
Related to Moutaz’s presentation, the workshop concluded with a documentary screening, watching the first episode, War: The Survivors, of Dangerous World of Comedy (2019) by Larry Charles. I chose this documentary as food for thought to rethink the underexplored role of joy in global politics where fear, hatred, and misery seemed dominant. This Netflix series looks at the role of humour in ‘unlikely’ and ‘dangerous’ places, highlighting the power of comedy as a tool of healing and rebuilding people’s lives in the face of violence and death. Larry Charles, the director, interviewed various comedians in conflict zones such as Iraq and Liberia. The content provoked questions about what is acceptable as comedy, to whom and why. I was aware that this documentary can be emotionally distressful due to the content and somewhat Western, male-centered perspectives. As this documentary drew on American popular culture as a reference to make a joke, one of the audiences found it difficult to laugh about it. Yet, all kindly shared their honest feelings and opinions of the film.
We found that there is a blurred line between political satire and humour, and the way comedy becomes a power largely depends on each context. Answering whether comedy can be a survival mechanism, a pedagogic tool or a relaxing step was not easy. As the comedians in the film were ‘in’ conflict settings and their comedy linked to war, we discussed whether comedy could, in the end, be a coping mechanism that was delaying actual healing rather than genuine therapy. Regarding the question of whether joy and comedy fit together, we concluded that comedy can not only generate exhilaration but also constitute a tool of forgetting and ignorance. Also, we discussed when humour derives from ‘othering’ since laugh may involve a sense of superiority over the target of humour by humiliating them. The final discussion was about the lack of feminist perspectives and experiences in the documentary which largely interviewed male comedians and seemed to merely ‘add’ few female comedians in Liberia. 
Hence, the workshop interrogated critical enquires on the politics of emotions and was a successful stepping stone to globalise emotion studies. Yet, while we attempted to navigate non-Western experiences and contexts, incorporating non-Western thought and ideas into our discussion was limited. The next workshop, hosted by the Working Group, on “The West and the Rest? Challenging the Emotions Research Agenda” in December at London South Bank University will also seek to broaden the complex questions raised in this workshop by exploring the everyday politics of emotions from non-Western and postcolonial perspectives on emotions. 

Strategies and Practices of Teaching International Studies by a PhD Student

Cornelia-Adriana Baciu - Recently awarded the BISA Prize for Excellence in Teaching International Studies by a Postgraduate 
“Science is responsible for the progress of the society” claimed the German journalist Carl von Ossietzky, laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1935; and teaching can be responsible for the production of knowledge and science, I would add. In a rapidly changing international environment in the 21st century, teaching and academic research can have a stabilising impact on societies by enabling the creation of a body of knowledge and scientific outputs which can help us to understand, explain or predict crises or instability. But how can teaching at postgraduate level be positively intertwined with completing the PhD dissertation and writing journal articles and/or books?
During my PhD at Dublin City University I gained extensive teaching and evaluative experience in course design and syllabi formulation in International Security, Theories of International Relations, Research Methods and Comparative European Politics. In 2019, I lectured several sessions on Theories of International Relations (part of the module Military History and Strategic Studies) to the 32. Junior Command and Staff of the Irish Defence Forces at Maynooth University, Ireland. In addition, I was grading assistant for the BA lectures International Relations and Security and Comparative European Politics. The most comprehensive teaching experience I gained while being a semester-long lecturer and module coordinator for the course Introduction to Research Methods and Skills for the BA programme in’ Economics, Politics and Law’ at Dublin City University, which encompassed 146 Irish and international students and four tutorial groups, which were also under my coordination and supervision.
In this blog I present the evaluation and teaching strategies which I used, the approaches I applied to stimulate critical thinking, how I addressed the needs of a diverse population and the sharing of teaching practices with colleagues and the international community. 
Use of Innovative Evaluation and Teaching Strategies
Continuous Assessment as Evaluation Method.
For the courses which I taught I designed evaluation strategies which would develop students’ key competences in international dissemination of their future research and the generation of innovative outputs which inform the policy community and benefit the society. The course evaluation was distributed along several smaller and diverse assignments (continuous evaluation), instead of putting the weight on a major assignments (e.g. final exam). For example, for the course in research methods, the evaluation consisted of six different tasks, inter alia tutorial assignments and exercises, a group presentation and an essay. The group work stimulated students to develop techniques to negotiate in team situations, effectively communicate their analysis to peers and take collective responsibility. Through the essay assignments, students learned how to plan, draft and reference appropriately and develop annotated bibliography. Some of the students were encouraged to turn their essays in a blog submission. Overall, the continuous assessments constituted an innovative evaluation method, which was substantively beneficial for the development of students’ core competences and abilities in producing impactful research outputs.     
Online Teaching Materials
To enable students’ access to the reading materials for this course, all compulsory reading texts were scanned and made available on DCU’s internal system ‘Loop’ before the commencing of the semester. This was particularly helpful, as the number of the enrolled students for the lectures I thought ranged between 25 and 146, with high competition on materials available in the Library’s paperback resources. In addition, teaching materials such as the class presentations and hand-outs were uploaded on ‘Loop’ after each session, to enable access to part-time students or students who, e.g. due to attenuating circumstances, were not present during a particular sessions.  
Use of Multimedia Materials to Enhance Innovation and Policy-Relevance.
To encourage students to contribute to the development of innovative and policy-relevant scholarship and to develop a more coherent approach and greater understanding of the impact of the particular issue thought, multimedia resources were employed during the lectures, when relevant. The use of multimedia and educational technology in classrooms can complement traditional teaching methods and has scientifically proven advantages for improving students’ critical thinking and core skills. Visual multimedia can be helpful for students to make conceptual distinctions, to make links between different disciplines in their curricula and to apply knowledge to answer real-world questions.  
Stimulating Independent Learning and Critical Thinking
Class Discussions, Simulations and Counterfactual Reasoning.
To increase class participation and interactivity and enhance independent learning and critical thinking, class discussions were held at the beginning of each session. Students were instructed to get informed about key developments in international relations via different media and be prepared to discuss them in class. Circa 5 minutes discussions took place at the beginning of each session, which constituted a good warm-up and enabled students to debate important topics of international relevance. The students were asked to counterfactually think about future scenarios in the aftermath of specific developments, propose solutions to a current crisis or problem in international politics and link the developments with the concepts learned in class. 
Reading Forms Highlighting Key Elements of a Research Design.
To enhance the students’ ability to conceptualise clear, coherent and logical arguments, but also to stimulate them to engage with the reading material, they were asked to fill-in reading forms for each lecture session, identifying the research questions, methodology, data sources and findings of one article from the reading list. The forms were discussed briefly in class. 
In-Class Experiments were conducted in circumstances in which difficult concepts had to be explained to the students. For example, to increase students’ understanding of the Prisoners’ Dilemma and the evolution of cooperation (Axelrod 1984) between states, the following experiment was conducted: students were presented with an incentive of €20; if they agreed to cooperate it would have been distributed equally among the group; if one of them defected, he/she would keep all money; then they were asked to take out a piece of paper and write 'C' to cooperate and 'D' to defect. Usually, circa 25% of the participants defected, but cooperation was achieved when the experiment was repeated. 
Meeting the Needs of the Diverse Student Population
‘Brainstorm’ Initiatives.
Students enrolled in the lectures which I though usually had different social, demographic and cultural backgrounds. To meet the needs of the diverse student population, I conducted regular ‘Brainstorm’ activities asking open-end questions. Students were encouraged to write down questions and ideas related to the asked questions. The Brainstorm initiative provided a platform for students to participate and also fostered in-class networking and connection by increasing participation and social cohesion among the student community. Students’ spontaneous answers gave me an idea about the way they are thinking. By considering and incorporating these specific insights into the course curricula (e.g. in the examples which I used), the course content became more representative of the diverse student population and more engaging and appealing to them.   
After-Class Consultations.
To encourage students to let me know about their peculiarities and genuine challenges, at the end of each lecture, I invited them to talk to me about course-related issues or any difficulties they might encounter, directly after class or by making an appointment. Knowing more about students’ experiences allowed me to consider the specific matters when scheduling presentations or offer them bespoken deadline extensions.       
Sharing of Good Teaching Practice With Colleagues and International Community
Archiving Power-Point Presentations and Handouts.
To share good teaching practice with colleagues, both at Dublin City University and Maynooth University, the files of the power-point or Prezi presentations as well as the handouts and other additional materials for each session were archived in the online Loop/Moodle system and shared with colleagues who thought the courses in the upcoming semesters. 
Inviting Colleagues to Sit In and Peer Review. To enable exchange of teaching practices and methods, I pro-actively approached the topic of teaching during informal discussions with colleagues and invited them (usually a PhD student in final year) to sit in during one session of the lecture delivery. After the lecture, I asked them to provide feedback, which was very beneficial for improving my teaching. 
Use Online Platforms such as Prezi.
The benefit of online platforms such as Prezi in preparing the class presentations is that the material can be accessed from any computer (connected to internet) and it offers unique presentation designs. Via Prezi, I made the class presentations and materials publicly available and thus ready to be accessed by my colleagues and the international academic community. 
Cornelia-Adriana Baciu is a final year PhD Candidate in Politics and International Relations and Government of Ireland Fellow at Dublin City University. She was awarded the BISA Prize for Excellence in Teaching International Studies by a Postgraduate. Cornelia’s research focuses on international peace, European security, civil-military relations, strategy, institutional change in fragile states and research methods. She is the founding director of the transnational research network “European Security and Strategy”. In 2019, her co-edited book “Peace, Security and Defence Cooperation in Post-Brexit Europe. Risks and Opportunities” was published. 
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