Who is acting in international relations?

Jan Hendrik Passoth, Nicholas J. Rowland

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


This edited volume sensitizes readers to a budding divide in International Relations (IR), a shift away from crafting overly anthropological accounts to describe the practice of international relations (ir) and toward what our editors call post-anthropological scholarship. The chief difference hinges on the position of the human element in IR; front and center, in the former, peripheral and de-centered, in the latter. The upshot for patient readers is insight into what the consequences of this shift will mean for IR and ir. Our chapter constitutes an experiment to test the outer limits of this shift. We ask, How far can we, as scholars, de-center the human element before our models of international relations implode? To this end, we selected “the state” as our test case. By only analyzing models of the state, we were finally able to dis-inhabit the state of the human element entirely, but, in the process, we were challenged to reconceptualize many of our otherwise taken-for-granted, anthropological assumptions about political agency. No doubt, some readers will be dissatisfied or un-persuaded by our experiment in post-anthropology; admittedly, we had no choice but to scour many, occasionally incompatible literatures to trace-out a fully uninhabited state in the course of our analysis. That being said, we generally believe that our analysis identifies and explores some of the outer limits of what it might mean to legitimately de-center the human element in IR. This test in post-anthropology also has an important implication for the relationship that binds IR to ir. One of the enduring quests in IR and beyond is to determine a universal, ontologically sound definition of the state once and for all. However, we now take this as a fruitless, if not reckless, endeavor. One viable alternative direction for future research would be to formulate and, ultimately, implement a model of the state that is more consistent with models of the state that are used in ir (i.e., out there in practice). Put another way, in IR, we need models of the state that capture the complexity of how models of the state are actually used in ir. This shift requires not a theory, but an approach to theories – a model of models – and we develop this line of inquiry forthwith.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHuman Beings in International Relations
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781316337042
ISBN (Print)9781107116252
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)


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