Workshop: Performing Utopia: Discourses of Love, Compassion and More in International Relations

‘Doing IPS’ is organising a one-day workshop on Friday, 25 May 2018 – taking place at Queen Mary University of London, Arts Two bldg, room 217.
This workshop is sponsored by the BISA Working Group ‘IR as a Social Science’.


Since the 1990s, International Relations (IR) scholars have growingly been interested in the role of discourses for the structuration of the social and political order. The interest for discourses spans across the theoretical spectrum of the discipline from critical realism to constructivism to critical theories. This better understanding of discourses has offered new insights on commonly studied objects such as norms, identities and the legitimation of international policy. Finally, the familiarisation to Discourse Analysis and the emphasis on the role of narratives broaden the methodological scope of IR scholars and students. A key concept used in the literature is the concept of performativity. Performativity is the capacity for discourses to manifest into being the reality they describe. From John Austin to Pierre Bourdieu, the study of performativity extends from identifying speech acts for example, a couple being married as a result of a priest saying “you are married”, to investigating the social conditions in which any discourse can become performative. Based on the idea of performativity, scholars have put forward how social agents unconsciously perform the power relationships and discrimination they have been socialised through the implicit layers of their discourses.  The concept of performativity, however, raises a challenge for the scholars who aim at challenging the social and political order. This particularly applies to criticism formulated in negative terms. Indeed, if discourses participate in structuring the world they refer to, how can IR discourses focusing only on domination and constraints contribute to social change and the improvement of the social conditions they study?

The aim of this workshop is to bring together scholars whose work addresses this contradiction. The concept of “utopia” has been chosen as an umbrella to encompass all the objects, theories and methodologies capable of performing a world different than the one historically studied in the discipline. The workshop will enable scholars to begin collaboration and build a research community reflexively sensitive to the production of its academic discourses and taking into account their potential performativity.

Dr Audrey Alejandro is a Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Queen Mary University of London

Contact details: +44 (0)20 7955 7642;


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