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HomeGlobal Perspective & Critical ResearchWhy Is Mainstream International Relations Blind to Racism?

Why Is Mainstream International Relations Blind to Racism?

Author: Gurminder K. BhambraYolande BoukaRandolph B. PersaudOlivia U. RutazibwaVineet ThakurDuncan BellKaren SmithToni HaastrupSeifudein Adem

Affiliation:   University of Sussex, Queen’s University in Kingston/Ontario, American University, University of Portsmouth, Leiden University, University of Cambridge, University of Leiden, University of Stirling, and Doshisha University. 

Organization/Publisher: Foreign Policy

Date/Place: July, 2020/USA

Type of Literature: Analysis

Word Count:  4684


Keywords: International Relations, Racism, Colonialism, Western History, Inequalities, Brutality


The author begins by stating that mainstream International Relations has not been honest about its historical or geographical origins, has “erased non-Western history and thought,” and “ has failed to address the central role of colonialism and decolonization” that has shaped the international order that is currently prevailing.  To investigate these issues, the author interviewed some leading thinkers, one of them being Gurminder K. Bhambra (professor of postcolonial and decolonial studies at the University of Sussex). She states that contemporary politics is understood to have its roots in the Westphalian Peace Treaty of 1648, the birthdate of European nation-states, and that the modern state system originated from the American and French Revolutions. Thus, this led to ignoring that the time of these revolutions was the time of colonialism and expansion which triggered racialization and “celebrating” European domination over other populations. Racialized hierarchies defined by the European empires are still prevailing when considering the inequalities of citizenship of decolonized states. Bhambra recommends that scholars should have a closer look at the colonial histories, which were responsible for the formation of modern states.  Randolph B. Persaud (associate professor of international relations at the American University) claims that Liberalism was not the reason modern democracy was created. Rather, it was born out of the ashes of “the activism of the oppressed,” a recent example being the killing of George Floyd, which has led to global mobilization against police brutality and the will to “re-democratize” democracy. Persaud concludes by arguing that “the global subalterns and historically marginalized peoples” are those agents who pushed forward the process of democratization in the international system. Duncan Bell (professor of political thought and international relations at the University of Cambridge) states in the interview that IR was “occupied with questions of colonial administration and the justification of racial supremacy.” Finally, the statements of Karen Smith (lecturer in international relations at Leiden University) and Seifudein Adem (professor of global studies at Doshisha University) highlight that Eurocentrism in IR led to “intellectual racism” as well as to a “racial catastrophe.” Adem therefore assumes that the decline of the West could result in a “racial justice.” The author concludes the interviews by recommending the “cultural ecumenicalism” of Mazrui for shared sensibilities and values to blossom and prosper. 

By: Dilek Yücel-Kamadan, CIGA Research Associate



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