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40th Annual ISA Convention - Washington, D.C: 1999

One Field, Many Perspectives: Building the Foundations for Dialogue

February 16th - 20th, 1999
Washington, D.C., USA
Program Chair: Joe D. Hagan, West Virginia University

Paper Archive

Call for Proposals

In preparing to move into the 21st Century, we have an opportunity to take stock of where the field of international studies is currently and to develop a vision for the future. Interest in international affairs has increased dramatically since ISA was founded in 1959. International studies has become more multidisciplinary, more global in scope, more ontologically and epistemologically diverse, more theoretically well-specified, and more focused on doing research on current world issues. In response to this diversity, the field has proliferated into subfields and specializations built around communities of scholars with similar interests and perspectives. Though valuable, most of us would agree that such specialization can limit the cross-fertilization that often leads to more integrative and synthetic perspectives. Scholars talk with those who share their view of the world rather than with those who might challenge it. Indeed, even as new perspectives gain credence, they become specialties of their own, thus reducing their impact on other areas or the field as a whole.

The growing need for communication across subfields is reinforced by the dramatic changes that are occurring in the world as the international system changes shape and more problems become global in scope. We cannot afford to become complacent about the efficacy of the perspectives we have used in the past; there is always the possibility of new understandings that better explain the new realities we seem to face. Moreover, since current concerns cut across the boundaries between states, institutions, and peoples, our ability to deal with them effectively depends on research and theory that is multidisciplinary and comparative across countries, cultures, and historical periods. It is important for us to share ideas and to translate concepts and theories so that all can understand them. Misunderstanding and lack of communication among these scholarly communities can block the growth of the field by producing distrust and the formation of stereotypes about each other's work. Furthermore, ignorance of the social science knowledge being generated in other parts of the world may ultimately be as damaging to a society's competitiveness as ignorance about new technological breakthroughs or advances in the physical and biological sciences.

Because each of us is embedded in a certain culture, has a specific set of reference groups, received training in particular intellectual traditions, and was born at one point in time, we have different experiences shaping our perspectives. Where these experiences overlap, people often share similar perspectives. Where these experiences are contradictory, people generally develop competitive perspectives. And where these experiences bear little resemblance to one another, people can evolve perspectives that explain a different reality. Without trying to gain some understanding of the diversity of perspectives that exist (and the nuances within each perspective), we risk explaining and dealing with international problems only partially or in an ineffective manner. Increased dialogue can give each of us a better appreciation of how our insights are relevant to an understanding of international affairs.

The theme for the 1999 ISA annual convention --"One Field, Many Perspectives: Building the Foundations for Dialogue"--recognizes the barriers that often prevent us from overcoming our ethnocentrisms as well as the need for ISA to provide a forum in which debate and discussion across the wide variety of viewpoints that make up international studies becomes a norm for behavior. If international studies is to be more than an administrative holding company that allows scholars to carry out lines of research or teaching that are less emphasized in the standard disciplines, it is time for us to wrestle with each others' perspectives and to begin to weave the fabric of a field. As ISA members, we have the opportunity to engage in building the foundations for an intellectually coherent area of inquiry.

With this prelude in mind, we invite you to join us in an adventure as we move to increase dialogue across subfields and areas of specialization, across state, cultural, and disciplinary boundaries, between those in academia and in the policymaking community, between young and old, and between the more normatively and empirically inclined. Along with the more traditional panels and roundtables, we envision three other types of sessions that would (1) bring together participants with several different perspectives, (2) examine a single perspective but focus on clarifying its general logic and detailing its different strands of thought, and (3) bridge to the policymaking community, taking advantage of the Washington, DC setting. We will encourage sections to pursue co-sponsoring panels, roundtables, and coordinated poster sessions that focus on a sharing of perspectives around a common topic. And we will develop theme panels and plenary sessions whose purpose will be to take some concrete steps toward building the foundations for future dialogue and the construction of a vision for international studies for the 21st Century. We encourage you to participate in what promises to be an intellectually challenging and stimulating convention.

Posted in: Conferences

The International Studies Association

Representing over 100 countries, ISA has more than 6,500 members worldwide and is the most respected and widely known scholarly association in this field. Endeavoring to create communities of scholars dedicated to international studies, ISA is divided into 7 geographic subdivisions of ISA (Regions), 29 thematic groups (Sections) and 4 Caucuses which provide opportunities to exchange ideas and research with local colleagues and within specific subject areas.
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