Doing International Politics: Methods
Nineteenth-century Marxists and positivists attacked idealism, laying the foundations for modern social science’s distrust of actors’ own explanations for their behaviour. More recent authorities such as Pierre Bourdieu remained suspicious of ‘biographical illusions’. This module will introduce these debates by asking what we can and cannot learn from people giving an account of themselves. It will begin with the study of how various actors give accounts of themselves (activists, diplomats, lawyers, migrants, technicians) and culminates in students conducting and analysing their own account of international political actors and themselves as actors. This addresses a central question for political studies – the (in)significance of actors’ own explanations for their actions – with a focus on how this issue affects methods of doing international politics research. By conducting your own studies, finally, you will learn to engage those actors doing international politics through interviews, focus groups, surveys — data analysis methods that evaluate actors’ accounts of themselves.
taught in English