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Outgoing ISA President Shares Thoughts on Annual Convention & Global IR

ISA 2015: The Spirit of New Orleans

Early into my term as the President of ISA, I wrote a blog for the World Policy Journal that its editors
titled as “International Studies: A Dying Discipline?” Of course, I went on to argue why this was not the case. After ISA 2015 in New Orleans, I have much more to say about why IR, far from dying, is actually a thriving discipline, and why the ISA with its annual convention, regional conferences, journals and other activities deserve at least some of the credit for it.

ISA 2015 in New Orleans was the largest ISA gathering ever with 8295 unique individuals submitting
proposals, and the final convention program featuring 1250 panels/roundtables and 5325 individual
participants. While the Mardi Gras and warmer February temperatures surely helped, a special highlight was the popularity of the Convention Theme: “Global IR and Regional Worlds”. The theme calls for a universal, inclusive discipline that takes us beyond its hitherto American and Western dominance. It attracted over 300 panels/roundtables, or nearly a quarter of the convention total - a historical record. It is also interesting that the latest TRIP (Teaching, Research and International Policy) Survey of IR faculty in 25 countries, which came out just before the convention, found that 76.62% of respondents thought IR is Western-dominated discipline, while 60.2% thought it was important to counter such Western dominance. These findings further vindicate the importance and timeliness of the Global IR idea.

The ISA and IR community as a whole could do much more to ensure diversity. The inaugural Sapphire
Series program featuring extremely well qualified panelists was faulted for a lack of diversity. Yet during 2014-15, the ISA co-organized hugely successful regional convention in Buenos Aires and Singapore (first ever ISA event in Southeast Asia). Overall the ISA has been a crucial bridge between the academic community from the North and the South studying international relations.  

Will ISA 2015 leave a legacy? Dan Nexon, chief editor of International Studies Quarterly, twitted that ISA 2015 was “transformative”. Paul Diehl, my successor as ISA President, remarked at the Business Meeting that if in 20 years’ time one might not remember ISA 2015 (or its President for that matter), this would be because the ideas around the Global IR theme would have become the “normal part of discourse and scholarship” in international studies. But ISA can only succeed in globalizing IR if it attracts and engages younger scholars from around the world. Hence, my biggest take from ISA 2015 comes from a 21-year old Brazilian undergraduate whom I had encouraged to join the ISA during a trip to Rio. She wrote to me: “I wanted to thank you for helping me become an ISA member. It was a wonderful experience! Such a great opportunity of meeting other scholars!” Such sentiments create the hope that Global IR and the Spirit of New Orleans will live on.

Amitav Acharya
UNESCO Chair in Transnational Challenges and Governance, American University, Washington, D.C.  
The End of American World Order  (Polity 2014).
Website: www.amitavacharya.com; Twitter: @AmitavAcharya Blog: multiplexworld.com
Past President of International Studies Association (2014-15) 

Posted in: Annual Convention

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