Meera Sabaratman, SOAS, University of London

20 March 2018

In this talk, I explore the question of whiteness within International Relations (IR) Theory, through an analysis of three seminal disciplinary texts. These texts are Kenneth Waltz’s Theory of International Politics, Robert Keohane’s After Hegemony, and Alexander Wendt’s Social Theory of International Politics. We will begin by exploring the scholarship on whiteness, which understands it as a set of naturalised hierarchical epistemic and material entitlements, which produce particular kinds of subject-positions in the world. Specifically, I explore these subject positions as expressing the interlocking of epistemologies of ignorance (Mills), innocence (Wekker) and immanence (Bhambra). The analysis of this paper explores how white subject-positions permeate the core of influential contemporary IR theories and argues that the common sense they produce is foundational for their central analytic claims, such as those regarding sovereignty, security, co-operation and norms.


Meera Sabaratnam is Lecturer in International Relations in the Department of Politics and International Studies at SOAS University of London. Her research interests are in the colonial and post-colonial dimensions of world politics, within IR theory, history and contemporary policy and practice. She is the author of Decolonising Intervention: International Statebuilding in Mozambique, and her articles on decolonising IR have appeared in Security Dialogue and Millennium: Journal of International Studies. She is the co-founder and former co-convenor of the Colonial / Postcolonial / De-colonial Working Groupof the British International Studies Association, and Chair-Elect of the Global Development Section of the International Studies Association. She is an active campaigner on questions of higher education policy. She currently chairs the SOAS Academic Senate and is a member of the Decolonising the University Working Group, and has written on questions of the use of metrics in research assessment exercises and open access policy.

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