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In this talk, I consider the future(s) of international relations practice and International Relations as a discipline. I begin by weighing the international, exploring what is at stake in setting up a focus on international relations, as distinct from other kinds of relations. This involves an elaboration of the history of the so-called “modern state system”, and a brief history of the discipline, as well as an encounter with the parochialism of our disciplinary knowledge categories, because these continue to structure how we think about, and know, and do international relations work.
I then shift focus to relations. A focus on relations, rather than entities or things, encourages us to consider how these relations are developed, nurtured, ruptured and restored, and to examine both the conditions and affordances of these processes.
Finally, I take on the question of future(s). Here, I encounter work on justice, to imagine a non-linear temporality where the futures of I/international R/relations, and its plural pasts, are already here with us. In this imagining, I hope to show that questions of futurity are necessarily questions of justice and questions of ethics, and that we as a scholarly community must ask ourselves what we owe in our work, and to whom, if we are going to honour our obligations to our past and future selves and others.
Laura J. Shepherd is a Professor of International Relations at the University of Sydney, Australia. Her primary research focuses on the United Nations Security Council’s Women, Peace and Security agenda, and attendant dynamics of gender, violence, and security governance. Laura is author/editor of several books, including, most recently Narrating the Women, Peace and Security Agenda: Logics of Global Governance (Oxford University Press, 2021), and New Directions in Women, Peace and Security (edited with Soumita Basu and Paul Kirby; Bristol University Press, 2020). She spends too much time on Twitter, where she tweets from @drljshepherd.