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The Afrasian International Symposium titled "Beyond 'West' and 'Rest'? ― A Critical Inquiry into the Dichotomized Ontology of International Relations" was held.

activity
2016/04/20

Date: 2016/2/27

Place: Wagen-kan, Fukakusa Campus Ryukoku University, Kyoto

Co-hosted by: 

The Afrasian Research Centre, Ryukoku University

Socio-Cultural Research Institute, Ryukoku University

Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research, the Basic Research (A) [Grant Number 15H01855] 

 

The First Afrasian International Symposium Beyond 'West' and 'Rest'?

― A Critical Inquiry into the Dichotomized Ontology of International Relations ―

 

 

The Afrasian International Symposium titled “Beyond ‘West’ and ‘Rest’?—— A Critical Inquiry into the Dichotomized Ontology of International Relations—“was held in Fukakusa Campus, Ryukoku University on 27 February Sat. 2016. Until now, the Afrasian Research Centre have been addressing the problem of how we can rebuild perspectives about the “governance” which can be adapted to the dynamism of global society which operates with interactions of multiple actors, and we are continuing our research activities from various views such as International Relations theories (IR theories), historical science, sociology, area studies and philosophy. The purpose of this symposium is to radically rethink the state-centred view of history and the Eurocentric understanding of social relations which are presupposed in the existing IR theories. And for that, this Centre invited various researchers from domestic and foreign countries who critically reexamine these problems in IR and were supported by the JSPS and Socio-Cultural Institute in Ryukoku University.

 

 

First, in the part of the morning, we had the two keynote speeches of L.H.M. Ling from the New School (New York) and Pinar Bilgin from the Bilkent University (Ankara, Turkey) and questions and answers about problems of the epistemological presuppositions in the existing IR theories and the perspectives for overcoming it. And then, in the part of the afternoon, we had the presentations of 6 panelists and discussions for each.

 

As can be seen, a number of IR researchers gathered in Ryukoku University, brought each multiple questions and points of view, and shared the direction to overcome the fundamental problems of the existing IR theories such as the Westpharian view of history and Eurocentrism.

 

There were mainly 3 points in this symposium. That is, ① Perspectives to the relations between the rulers and the ruled and interaction which have been formed in the contexts of postcolonial era, ② Reevaluation of religious and philosophical perspectives about the ways of our social relations which have been accumulated in so-called the “Orient”, ③ Reexamination of ranges that the tradition in the “Western” political thought has for the contemporary global society. These three main points are connected with each other in a sense that we are asked to reexamine the existing frameworks of knowledge through questioning how the relations among actors in international society have transformed and would transform not only in short term but also in long term. These multiple perspectives encouraged active dialogues and critiques with each other in this symposium.

 

The brief contents of each speaker in this symposium, mainly the contents of the keynote speeches, are below.

 

〈L.H.M.Ling: Kōanizing IR: Flipping the Logic of Epistemic Violence

 

Ling took up the issue of physical epistemic violence in existing IR theories.According to her, the perspective to international system based on the Westphalian view of history strengthens the state-centrism by oppositely placing the self and the other underthe background of alarms and rejections of the others.

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Although the IR theory should be “epistemic disobedience” against the situation of theoretical colonization of the Eurocentrism for her, the existing IR theories tend to seek “epistemic awakening”. Ling sternly criticized that such the epistemic premise in IR theory is based on the “Hypermasculine Eurocentric Whiteness”, and emphasized that we need to form new places for our problematique. In this regard, the core problem is how we can rethink the relations between the self and the other as interactive relationships or relationships of mutual touching inside plurality and differences. This issue was shared throughout this symposium. And she said that we can discover the one of the grounds to find the perspectives for the relations in the “Kōan” in the Zen Buddhism as the non-western historical source. Because the Kōan”, Zen Buddhist practice, can open the philosophical reference point to radically reexamine the epistemic premises in IR theory to us. The core thinking of the Kōan” is that this world fundamentally includes a confrontational element, and at the same time, a connection in that confrontational element, and thus there are juxtaposing fundamental ambivalence of principles. Ling captures this ambivalence under the conceptual dichotomy of “Yin/Yang”. The Kōan” can give us some practical viewpoints to open ourselves to the situation in which the self is embedded within such the ambivalent world.

 

 

Ling also emphasized that our obsessions to the existing way of thinking can be liberated in the processes of practices to “open heart-mind-soul”. And what is important here is that opening to the world does not merely making our consciousness clearer, but relativizing our self-centred points of views and forming “selfless compassion” inside the relationships with the others. In such the ways, she boldly suggested that this reexamination of the theoretical assumptions in terms of Kōan” enable IR theory to awake “intellectually, emotionally, spiritually”. And we can say that the content of Ling’s keynote speech shows the significance of trying to boldly connect the non-western traditional practices with the contemporary problematique to overcome the existing Westphalian view of history and deepen reflexive point of view for historical backgrounds which prescribe the dichotomized cognition.

 

〈Pinar Bilgin: Thinking Critically about Security: Beyond ‘West’ and ‘Rest’

In her keynote speech, Pinar Bilgin suggested that it is important for IR to incorporate the concept, “contrapuntal (or contrapuntality)” that were suggested to overcome the cultural differences by Edward Said. This concept is also the concept in the Literary Criticism. Originally, the “contrapuntal” points the technique for composing music that combines each of highly independent sounds with each other and enable the melody to harmonize.

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In any theories of social science including IR theory, “who” theorizes a theory is the one of important problems. In the continuation of this core problem, Bilgin argued that the concept of the “contrapuntal” is meaningful for the question how we can find out multi-layers in international society om behalf of the monological view against the society.

 

What we asked for understanding the multiple actors in the society and their relationships is not only to compare their differences, but also to balance the mutual independence with their harmonized relationship. The “contrapuntal” here gives us a foothold for a heuristic perspective to show that despite of the multiple independent actors, they never lose mutual connections. And the conceptual perspective means incorporating the “exile” into our own points of views with the orientation of connection with different others, just as Said was.

 

Such the perspective become more and more important in contemporary global society in which religious and cultural confrontations are being intensified. The perspective of the “contrapuntal” enable us to be strongly conscious that the consciousness of independence from the others cannot be so without our mutual connections. And it suggests an important ground to think the relations among multiple actors in the IR in the future.

 

In addition to the above, other 6 panelists from domestic and foreign countries made presentations in this international symposium. The brief contents of their presentations are below.

          

Yong-Soo Eun (the title of the presentation:What is Lost in the Ongoing Debate over “non-Western”IR Theory Building?) emphasized that we need to rethink the substantial meaning of reformulating IR from perspectives of the non-Western.

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Ching-Chang Chen (E.H. Carr and the Quest for Post-Westphalian International Relations) showed that we could reinterpret the theory of E・H・Carr, one of the very important founders of Realist perspective that places the state as the main actor in the international society , in an extension of the argument of International Society Group (English School). Because Carr is a theorist who radically thought what ordering is in the unstable international situations, and this shows his potentiality to provide us with sensitive perspectives to find out de-nationalized basis of ordering in the global society.

 

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Young Chul Cho (Beyond Dichotomized Ontology of/in IR: Patchwork Civilization as a Relational Learning Process) challenged the situation in which perspectives to consider processes of ordering in the existing IRtheories are dominated by the idea of Clash/Convergence of Civilization. Against this, Cho introduced the concept “Patchwork” suggested by Tai-Youn Hwang into the IR and took notice of the idea that the process of civilization is literally “patchy” relationships produced through interactions between the self and the others.

 

 

 

Takashi Inoguchi (Toward Modelling a Global Social Contract: Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Locke)

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told about the “social contract” theories of Jean-Jacque Rousseau and John Locke as the philosophical referential point for envisaging global governances and suggested that it enable us to measure the affinities of each theories for practices of global ordering. While Rousseau theorized the social contract based on the “direct democracy”, Locke did it based on the “representative democracy”. And the common ground for them is that they formed their new thoughts in geographically and imaginatively peripheral parts of Europe. Thus, we can say that the theories for political forms coined in the peripheral areas have decisively influenced the modern political order in the early modern western world. And at least, it would be historically significant moment to consider social forms in the new era for social harmony and multiplicity (and legal frameworks for them) by taking notice of philosophical movements from the peripheries.

 

 

 

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Kelvin Cheung (Conception of Threat in Chinese Strategic Culture: The Medical Analogy) made a presentation about how the resent China’s rise in international politics influence to the IR theories. He took a perspective that medical metaphors are meaningful to understand the basis of the governance. And he pointed out that the medical metaphors from traditions of the oriental civilization would counter ideas of orders and governances that were understood in the western medical metaphors, and we would be able to argue how this counter-metaphors influenced multiplicity of IR theories.

 

 

Emilian Kavalski (From International Relations to International Relationality…or What Is Guanxi Good

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For?) dealt with the way of understanding the “relation” in the IR theories. According to him, the existing IR theory presupposed the idea of the “relation” in the particular age, that is, modernity, and cannot appropriately recognize historical relativity of the international order. Alternatively, we need some perspectives to understand the “relation” in a longer historical view point. He pointed out that the Chinese concept “Guanxi”, which means connectedness and bonds, deserved notice. What is important is that this concept does not show the static connectedness among things, but aspects that practical and multiple relations generate orders in the long term.

 

 

Above all, there were points that we could share, such as the need for building and deepening critical perspectives against the existing IR theories which could incorporate the “West” and “Non-West” thinking for the question of how we can foster new recognitions of orders.

 

Lastly, we believe that this international symposium could take an important step for new IR theories in the future through the researchers from multiple areas in the world and various audiences who shares problems. Furthermore, through this symposium, the IR needs some platforms for diverse academic practices to tackle with the task that we have to consider how global civil society would appear. The Afrasian Centre plans to actively contact with various researchers regardless of the area to contribute to form such places for academic activities. This symposium ensured our steps for realization of the possibility.