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The discourse of International Relations has garnered criticism and speculation amongst intellectuals that do not adhere to a positivist interpretation of history. An assertion in response to IR is an increased demand for attention in postcolonial thought and its applicable methods to illuminate social and cultural implications as avenues to understand a more holistic analysis. They regard that the study of IR consciously entertains skewed interpretations of events without taking into consideration historical or identity-driven factors such as race, gender, and violence, and furthermore attribute the discipline to be inherently hegemonic in its essence and moreover imperialist. This amnesiac tendency can best be understood through the notion of abstraction, a term in IR that is “premised on the desire to escape history, efface the violence, genocide, and the theft that marked the encounter between ‘the rest’ and the west in the post-Columbian era”. This can be seen for example in the Western narrative to decolonize Africa. Where in the twentieth century, there is an effort to reshape the image of Europeans as a force of modernity and democracy, while at the same time a covert attempt to dismiss and “re-imagine an Africa stripped of its imperial past”. IR promotes an emphasis on a state of nature that highlights certain facts while at the same time un-disclosing others. While this is not academically wrong, there is potential for fabrication. Subsequently, this leads to a positivist narrative that attempts to warp perceptions of events that do not include important factors such as race, gender, ethnicity, class and so on. These unaccounted variables allow for the absence of any counter-argument of those who have been the victims of IR. Without the space for introspective conversation, IR often lacks multidimensional analysis that could be aided if it incorporated other social science disciplines, especially postcolonial thought.
Furthermore, IR tends to dismiss further academic exploration, taking a stance that the ‘over attention to such elements is more suited for intellectual arenas and has no place in IR.’ According to Gruffydd Jones views in ‘decolonizing international relations’: IR doesn’t acknowledge “three processes that have historically underlain the unequal global order that we find ourselves in today: theft of land, violence, and slavery”. Despite the promotion of IR as a study that focuses on the analysis of peacekeeping, sovereignty, and laws, there is little attention to identity.
More specifically, there seems to be what Gruffydd Jones calls a ‘political unconscious’ when in regards to race and how it is rarely emphasized as a contextual component in the explanation of many world affairs. The lack of recognition IR gives to race is evidence that IR is not only a ‘white’ discipline that derived from a post world war two effort to rebrand many former colonizers, but a construction that focuses on maintaining an amnesia of race relations so to further promote notions of “them and us”. Through an analysis of the way in which power-wielding authorities influence IR and an analysis of Said’s Orientalist claim that IR is another form of imperialist history, this essay will examine to what extent amnesia has had within IR in conjunction with the race.
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