ISA 2014: Hands across the (disciplinary) sea

As the last man standing at ISA 2014, it falls to me to make one of our regular appeals for more contributors to join us here at ALPS.

One of the things that has really struck us during the past few days is that IR and Political Science are facing very similar pedagogical challenges, but that we have taken different paths in addressing them. Both need to make often complex materials and concepts accessible to students who are easily distracted and both find themselves trying to marry what is in the classroom with what is happening on the news and on the streets outside.

The difference is perhaps one of attitude. My personal impression of the IR group here has been one of playfulness, a greater willingness to co-opt pop culture to serve pedagogical ends: zombies are the archetype here, but also movies, TV and books feature too. The opportunities that offers for engaging students are clear, even if the level of systematisation of approach has not been as great as in PolSci: the notion of the found object, the chance discovery holds strong.

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Political Scientists use captions, IR scholars don’t

Despite our similarities, we have tended to keep apart. One of my colleagues (who shall remain nameless, but he’s got a beard and glasses) chanced to suggest yesterday that I was an IR scholar, because I study the EU and I know who Kant is. My forceful reply ran along the lines that I also know what a dolphin is, but I’m not a marine biologist and that my congenital ambivalence about the notion of hegemony meant I very much wasn’t a IR’er, but a comparativist (actually, I’m not even that, but we’ll move on here).

So it comes to this: we think some IR input would be good, both for us and for IR. We can see opportunities to move beyond telling people what you’ve done in your classroom, to discussing what one might do in the classroom and the wider lessons and implications thereof.

As we travel back to our respective homes, the ALPS crew are working on several ideas to move our work here into new fields and approaches, so if you’d like to be part of it, then we’d like to here from you, whether that’s just a post, or something more substantial.

2 thoughts on “ISA 2014: Hands across the (disciplinary) sea

  1. Part of the (artificial, in my mind) distinction between political science and international relations comes from the impossibility of doing experimental research with nation-states. The default is trying to model the environment with zombies, elves, and crisis negotiation.

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