WISC Fourth Global International Studies Conference in Frankfurt (6 – 9 August 2014)

Von Ursula Stark Urrestarazu

The Cluster of Excellence “The Formation of Normative Orders” figured among the most prominent sponsors of the fourth WISC Global International Studies Conference which took place at Goethe University Frankfurt from 6 – 9 August 2014.
WISC stands for World International Studies Committee. It represents a network of different national and regional professional associations in the academic field of International Studies. The Committee is made up of representatives from well over 20 national or regional international studies associations, with a good spread throughout the Americas, Europe, and East and Southeast Asia. WISC thus represents the only genuinely global organization of international studies scholarship. Its declared mission is to promote scholarly cooperation and exchange at the international level and reach out in particular to those countries and regions which are still underrepresented in global international studies, especially in the Global South.

 The overarching theme of the conference – Justice, Peace and Stability: Risks and Opportunities for Governance and Development – related to key aspects of global normative orders and was translated into a broad spectrum of topics that were discussed in over 200 panels over four days.  In addition to classical issues in diplomacy, security and development studies, special emphasis was put on the goals and practices of emerging actors in international relations and new forms of South-South cooperation and non-western theories of global politics. All in all, around 750 participants from over 70 countries attended the conference in the year of Goethe Universities’ 100th anniversary. In line with WISC’s mission of expanding global and regional contacts among scholars, especially as far as the Global South is concerned, over 60 individuals from all over the world could be supported with travel grants.

The Conference itself opened with a plenary roundtable on IR Theory Beyond the West? Prospects for a Global IR Discipline with the participation of Navnita Chadha Behera, Barry Buzan, Knud-Erik Jørgensen and Andrei Melville. Other program highlights were three semiplenary sessions on The Past, Present and Future of WISC, Current issues in Nuclear Proliferation and on Frankfurt, Critical Theory and (I)nternational Relations. All these semiplenary sessions counted with the active participation of Principal Investigators of the Cluster of Excellence. Gunther Hellmann, research area coordinator of the Cluster and current WISC Executive Secretary chaired both the opening plenary roundtable as well as the session focused on the prospects of WISC as a global professional organization of International Studies. Harald Müller, Principal Investigator of the Cluster and director of the Peace Pesearch Institute Frankfurt (PRIF) discussed current issues of Nuclear Proliferation on another semiplenary session with Etel Solingen, former ISA president and Chair in Peace Studies at University of California Irvine and with Jacek Bylica, the European External Action Service’s Principal Adviser and Special Envoy for Non-proliferation and Disarmament. The semiplenary on Frankfurt, Critical Theory and (I)nternational Relations invited the participants to discuss one of the most prominent academic legacies of Goethe University - the so-called “Frankfurt School” of political theory. Chaired by Christopher Daase, Principal Investigator of the Cluster, and featuring Beate Jahn, Lothar Brock and one of the speakers of the Cluster, Rainer Forst, the semiplenary focused on the nexus between “Frankfurt School” traditions on the one hand and issues discussed in International Relations (IR) scholarship globally.

The participants and organizers felt that WISC 2014 turned out to be a great success. However, the organizational goal of developing WISC into a truly global professional network of International Studies remains a continuing challenge.



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