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Charlotte Epstein – Discourse, the subject and identity in International Relations

Event date: 6 October 2010
1.30-2.30 FW101

Humanities and Arts Research Centre (HARC)
and the New Political Communications Unit at Royal Holloway

Speaker: Dr. Charlotte Epstein, University of Sydney

Title: Discourse, the subject and identity in International Relations

Abstract:
Can we study state identities in IR without presuming the state has a self? The two pieces explored in today’s reading group propose that the discourse approach offers a more theoretically parsimonious and empirically grounded way of studying identity in IR than approaches developed in the wake of both constructivism and the broader ‘psychological turn’. In the second piece for instance, Dr. Epstein starts with a critique of the discipline’s understanding of the ‘self’ uncritically borrowed from psychology. Jacques Lacan’s ‘speaking subject’ offers instead a non-essentialist basis for theorizing about identity that has been largely overlooked. This insight allows us to steer clear of the field’s fallacy of composition, which has been perpetuated by the assumption that what applies to individuals applies to states as well. This is illustrated empirically with regards to the international politics of whaling.

Participants must have read the following two pieces and be ready to discuss them:

  1. The introduction to Charlotte’s book, The Power of Words in International Relations : Epstein Ch1 sample chapter
  2. Charlotte’s latest piece in European Journal of International Relations, entitled ‘Who speaks? Discourse, the subject and identity in international relations’ : Who Speaks?

Dr. Charlotte Epstein is a senior lecturer in International Relations in the Department of Government and International Relations, University of Sydney.
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Organised by the Humanities and Arts Research Centre (HARC) and the New Political Communications Unit at Royal Holloway

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