12th AGS Conference Brings Together Scholars and Practitioners to Explore Non-Western Perspectives in International Relations

Friday, 21 April 2017

conference_2017_thumbnail.jpgThe 12th AGS International Graduate Student Conference that took place on April 21st was a success, with presenters and attendees from such diverse national origins as Thailand, Kenya, Rwanda, Ghana, Nigeria, Egypt, Qatar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovakia, and India. The theme this year was Non-Western Perspectives in International Relations. As Amitav Acharya and Barry Buzan state it, "Western International Relations theory has the advantage of being the first in the field, and has developed many valuable insights, but few would defend the position that it captures everything we need to know about world politics." The AGS conference brought together scholars, students, economists and NGO leaders to explore alternative ways to look at international politics and open the stage for innovative debates.

Professor Douglas Yates introduced the first panel by talking about how in the 1950s and 1960s, Western theories of Marxist and Capitalist development proclaimed a kind of unversality that was challenged in the 1970s by indigenous models of development (Asian, Islamic, African). These were criticized in the 1980s as unworkable romantic visions, that were abandoned at the end of the Cold War in the 1990s as Western liberal democracy and economic neoliberalism became hegemonic. In the 2000s, after the United States attempted to impose its values through the use of military force, there has been a renaissance of interest in non-Western theories, with Asian values presented as a possible alternative to Western hegemony.

The second panel was moderated by Patrick Clairzier, a Ph.D. candidate at AGS whose field of expertise covers political economy of developing countries, and global inequalities. Clairzier introduced the panel by demonstrating the necessity of expanding the global debate, which is the larger goal of this conference: "The historic rise in global inequalities that has occurred over the past forty years has been accompanied by high levels of poverty, environmental degradation and socio-economic instability in both developed and developing countries. This wide-ranging instability has set off an intense debate that questions the legitimacy and future of our global system. This seemingly growing rejection of Western ideals and the rebuke of the political and econ omic elite that controls the world’s wealth has also engendered a wide range of non-traditional and non-western perspectives that are helping to broaden the conversation and put forth new, eclectic and innovative approaches to solving these issues."

Finally, the keynote panel featured three economists: Marc Raffinot, a senior lecturer at University Paris IX-Dauphine in France and a member of the French Association of Economists; Georges Vivien Houngbonon, the president of a think-tank called L'Afrique des Idées; and Stéphane Tchasso Kpowbié Akaya, economic advisor for the Prime Minister of Togo. The panel was moderated by Bertrand de Largentaye, who teaches at AGS after a forty-year career holding various key positions in the French government. Marc Raffinot discussed the economic trends in emerging economies, particularly in Africa. Georges Vivien Houngbonon talked about the demographic growth of Africa and its great economic and innovation potential, while the the role that it can play in international relations remains limited since none of its countries has a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. This keeps them from being part of the decision-making process even when it comes to decisions about UN missions in Africa. Stéphane Tchasso Kpowbié Akaya gave a case study of Togo, where the government is designing a plan for how to create a national identity to take over the one that was imposed on them by European powers. The speakers went on to discuss the concepts of non-Western economic, particularly rejection of the GDP as a valid measurement of development.

The AGS International Graduate Student Conference focuses on a different theme of international Relations every year. It is organized by AGS students under the faculty supervision of Ruchi Anand. This year's student coordinators, Wanrawee Kruawan (a candidate in the combined M.A./ Ph.D. program) and April Ward (Master's candidate), many AGS students participated by presenting their research: Ph.D. Candidates Olivier Sempiga, Chidima Achudume, and Emirjona Cake, and M.A. Candidates Suneetha Musah and Lelan Evans.

Professor Anand says: "This year's conference did perfect justice to the intended theme and ideas. The rich layering of ideas, countries, continents, issues, debates and lenses powerfully reiterated the tearing need to start caring, talking and listening about;, theorizing about and doing something about the distanced, silenced, nuanced, neglected and often paradoxical perspectives of the world. We talked the talk, it's now time to walk the walk!"

See conference program and speaker bios.

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Jennifer Grant USA
M.A., School of International Relations
Class of 2008

quote leftStudying at AGS has not only provided me with an intimate learning experience, but has also given me the opportunity to take advantage of the dozens of international organizations and NGOs in Paris that offer internships.quote right

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