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Round Table Discussion on "States of Emergence, States of Knowledge: A Comparative Sociology of International Relations in China and India"

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  • March 08, 2019
    Round Table
    Only by Invitation
    1130 hrs

    Topic: States of Emergence, States of Knowledge: A Comparative Sociology of International Relations in China and India

    Speaker: Dr. Peter Marcus Kristensen, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen

    Compiled by Rajrajeshwari Singh

    8 March 2019

    Dr Peter Marcus Kristensen, Associate Professor at the University of Copenhagen initiated a discussion on the topic “States of Emergence, States of Knowledge: A Comparative Sociology of International Relations in China and India”.

    Kristensen’s paper is an outcome of interviews conducted with members of the academic community in China and India. Its aim is to examine the relationship between the geopolitical rise of these countries in international relations and their knowledge production in the field of international relations. The paper attempts to explore the theoretical and empirical relationship between the socio-political condition of emerging/rising powers and their attempts to theorise International Relations, which it categorises as state of emergence and state of knowledge. Kristensen highlighted the need to reject a bifurcation between Western IR and the ‘ir’ of rising powers, which is common in the sociological and historiographical literature. The scholar community in rising powers has a view that is embedded in the state of emergence in different ways. Kristensen uses four registers – constitutive, civic, infrastructural and psychological – and examines how the scholar community in India and China interacted with these registers.

    The constitutive register which emerges from the state of emergence is concerned with the larger epistemological order, for instance, the association between the growing global interests and stakes of the rising powers and the epistemic objectives of their IR scholarship. This register was more optimistically accepted in China. In India, a minority of scholars contended that new ‘Indian’ theories of IR should be located within the framework of global IR theory. Moreover, a significant number of Indian scholars were sceptical of India’s emerging power status.

    The civic register is problem oriented and serves as a conjunction of science and politics to address and solve real world problems. It has two modes, one to serve as policy advisor to the state, and the second to perform the function of a public intellectual and thereby enrich the public discourse and understanding. The principal difference between China and India in this regard is that Chinese scholars are more attuned to the role of policy advisors whereas their Indian counterparts operate more in the public mode.

    Infrastructural register features the condition of economic growth and expansion of resources made available for research. China has experienced immense growth in IR infrastructure, which has enabled a Chinese theoretical discourse to emerge. India’s more gradual emergence has meant that its IR infrastructure has not expanded to the extent that it has happened in China. Moreover, Indian IR remains a-theoretical and conflated with area studies.

    Psychological register is the sensibility or awareness of being located in a country that is perceived as an emerging power. In China, this sentiment is widespread, which has not only boosted the confidence of Chinese scholars but also their sense of wanting the world to hear their Chinese voice. There is a similar sense of confidence in India and receptivity to the views of Indian IR scholars abroad. However, Indian scholars also feel that only their contributions on India are valued, with Western IR still setting the agenda and confining Indian IR to an inferior position.

    Kristensen concluded by pointing out that China and India differ in the co-productive knowledge with respect to their histories. Different scholars had a different take on the state of emergence. The differences between China and India are partly explained by the more advanced rise of China. There is a stronger sense of ‘Chineseness’ within China’s scholarly discourse, something that is absent in India.

    The following points were raised in the ensuing discussion:

    S. Kalyanaraman pointed out that Indian IR neglected theory partly because of its strong critique of Western IR theory with its emphasis upon power politics and its efforts to reform the international economic and security order through nonalignment and the pursuit of peace. This situation has begun to change since the end of the Cold War with India’s turn towards greater realism and its integration into the West-led international economic and security order.

    Rajeesh Kumar highlighted the multiple paths that the development of Indian IR is likely to take, influenced as it is by its own traditions as well as by Western IR theory and the inspiration provided by the development of IR theory in China.

    Deepshika Shahi of the University of Delhi highlighted recent trends in IR theoretical development including her own work on Advaita as a global IR theory. She also pointed out that India’s diversity means the prevalence of multiple schools of IR theories.

    Nazir Mir highlighted the contribution of the Indian subaltern school to the IR discourse. In addition, he pointed out the influence of external factors on the development of theory in the United States in addition to the role of America’s self-perception of its role, status and interests in international affairs.

    Kristensen noted the importance of avoiding regional labels to IR theories such as London School, Copenhagen School, Chinese IR, Indian IR, etc.

    Kalyanaraman concluded the round table by referring to the continuing validity of Martin Wight’s three-way typology of realist, rationalist, and revolutionary approaches to IR as a useful framework within which to apprehend the thought processes of thinkers and scholars in non-Western countries.