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Power and Resistance in World Politics

Topics covered

The following is an indicative list of topics for this module; precise seminar content may change from year to year

  • Introduction
  • Power, resistance, subjectivity
  • Culture and (in)visibility
  • Discourse, knowledge, practice
  • Stories and Emotions
  • Gender, violence and the body I & II
  • Post-colonialism, race and the body I & II
  • Biopolitics
  • Borders I & II
  • Migration & Identity
  • Case study: Power and Resistance in Europe’s border crisis
  • Hopeful and joyful ontologies
  • Equality and community
  • Creativity
  • Living (in) the 'now'

This module invites us on a unique journey to uncover and discover some of the ways in which contemporary social realities are made and how they can, perhaps, be unmade, rewritten, transformed. Through the lenses of critical IR theory, philosophy and popular culture we will be looking into questions and issues of contemporary Western government, including gender, race, global coloniality, security, migration, identity as well as the political potential of hope, joyfulness, and creativity in imagining and bringing about alternative worlds and modes of being. The module also offers an introduction to a range of critical research methods within IR, such as cultural analysis, discourse analysis, storytelling and autobiography.

Introduction: Why ‘power’ and ‘resistance’?

How do we know ‘power’ when we see it? Where does it live, what does it give rise to? Does it reside in the spheres of statehood and ‘high politics,’ in the solemnity of anthems and memorials, the secret scenes of CIA missions and diplomatic negotiations? What kind of construct is then ‘sovereignty’? Does ‘power’ travel exclusively with the words of Western politicians? Is it only recognizable through spectacles of violence and war shown on TV and circulating on the Internet? Or rather, is ‘power’, as Michel Foucault noted, everywhere, and if so, what does this mean for the study of world politics? How do we experience ‘power’ in what we usually think of as ‘the everyday’: on campus, at the airport, in the polling booth, at a farmers’ market, in the world of Warcraft, in the gaze of CCTV cameras, or just in the moment of browsing through this module website? How are our social realities made through culture, logistics, practices, routines, forms of architecture as well as ways of thinking and being that we may no longer notice and reflect on? How does race, gender, class, and global coloniality shape, form and inform how we engage with the world, what can be said, known or heard, and how we perceive others and ourselves? How can we read contemporary manifestations of ‘security’ practices from within these structures, as embodied, embedded, governed subjects ourselves? What are the stakes of how we inhabit spaces, places, our bodies and our minds? Going even further, what does it mean to try and ‘resist’ those forms and relationships of ‘power’ that harm and suppress, that enable domination, dispossession, or oppression? How is social, local, global change ever possible? What are the ways in which practices of ‘resistance’ can create, cultivate, and nurture new understandings of who we are and what we do socially, politically, or in ‘life’? How can alternative life-worlds, communities, and ‘politics’ emerge that are perhaps freer and more caring? What is the ‘power’ of protests, social movements, local community gardens, artistic practice and perhaps the very space of the classroom in facilitating transformations of such kind? What may be the potential of hope, joy, creativity and random acts of kindness for changing ourselves and with that, the world we study? Where might we begin and what have others done for and before us?

These are some of the questions that we will be discussing in the twenty teaching weeks of this module with the help of IR literature, philosophy and cultural resources, such as film, images, and fiction. The curriculum proposes a variety of theoretical lenses, research methods and techniques of critical analysis, as well as a range of creative exercises to develop new skills and insights in rediscovering and reimagining what is already familiar.

Module Director:

Erzsebet Strausz