Broadening Engagements with International Affairs

Broadening Engagements with International Affairs is a new interview series hosted by the ISA Professional Resource Center and written by ISA James N. Rosenau Post-Doctoral Fellow Jamie J. Hagen. The series highlights interviews with content developers of websites, podcasts, and newsletters finding new ways of engaging with scholars researching pressing issues in international affairs today. To recommend someone for an interview for the series please contact Hagen at jhagen@isanet.org.

Interview List

  1. Interview 1 - Elmira Bayrasli: Foreign Policy Interrupted
  2. Interview 2 - Kim Yi Dionne: The Monkey Cage
  3. Interview 3 - Stephen McGlinchey: E-International Relations (E-IR)
  4. Interview 4 - Brent Sasley: ISA-Online Media Caucus (ISA-OMC)
  5. Interview 5 - Emily Crandall: Always Already Podcast (AAP)
  6. Interview 6 - Roxani Krystalli - Stories of Conflict and Love blog

Interview 1: Elmira Bayrasli – Foreign Policy Interrupted

Jamie J. Hagen

Jamie J. Hagen

ISA James N. Rosenau Post-Doctoral Fellow
Elmira Bayrasli

Elmira Bayrasli

Foreign Policy Interrupted

JH: I spoke with Elmira Bayrasli, a co-founder of the project Foreign Policy Interrupted (FPI) along with journalist Lauren Bohn in 2014. Elmira is a journalist who has written for places including the New York Times, Foreign Affairs, Forbes and CNN. She is also a professor at Bard College in the Globalization and International Affairs Program. I learned about FPI through the weekly email from the group focusing on women working in foreign policy. I asked her to tell me more about the project and why her and Lauren thought it was necessary to launch FPI.

JH: How would you describe the project and why you started it?

EB: The project Foreign Policy Interrupted (FPI) is very straightforward: to raise awareness about female expertise and increase the number of different voices that are engaging on foreign policy matters.

One of the reasons that we started it is we would hear the constant refrain that “there are no women” or “the reason there is an all-male panel is because there are no female experts.” That’s simply not true. FPI is an effort to say, “hey, here are the women who are commenting on all these global issues.”

While we do include journalists in our weekly round-up, we’re very much focused on women who are the academics, practitioners and experts who are out there working at the think tanks and the universities who are not being called on, not being recognized. These women should be involved not only in the conversation but in the policy making process.

JH: Who is the audience for FPI and why do you think it would be of interest to ISA members?

EB: Our audience is people involved in foreign policy in general. We really reach out and target women who are working on a variety of issues regarding international relations and national security.

What I often find is you’ll have an academic who is working on some aspect of international relations and she’ll say “well, I’m not in the thick of things. I’m not at the state department. I’m not at the NSE. Why would anyone care what I have to say?” The reality is we do care about what you have to say! Because you’re working on this issue and you have a certain perspective and it’s important to have all of those different perspectives at the table contributing to a discussion.

Right now, what we have a one dimensional point of view, from a bunch of white men who see the world through a certain paradigm. What I want to advocate for isn’t necessarily having women at the table because they’re women. I’m advocating for having a different purview; bringing in different perspectives. We don’t live in a one-dimensional world, we live in a multi-dimensional world and what is it that we’re not seeing?

JH: In what ways does FPI relate to traditional platforms?
EB: We’re open to collaborating with anyone. We don’t put out any original content of our own. I’ll get an email from someone at Brookings or somewhere in Europe and they’ll say “hey, I wrote this paper, can you include it in the newsletter” and I’m happy to do that. It’s about promoting and recognizing women’s work. I welcome university or think tanks or different organizations to reach out to me.
JH: What are some of the things you’ve been most excited about coming out of this project?

EB: When I first went into this I saw the problem, and the challenge, as one where the media is a complicated 24/7 beast constantly struggling to get content out. Where are they going to find the content? In this cycle they are relying on what you know. If what you know is only white men, then that’s what they would rely on. That was one part of it. The other part of it was in 2014 I very much bought into this whole “well, women need to raise their hands more and they need to be more confident. Women don’t raise their hands until they feel like they’re perfect and they know all the answers.”

I have to say, I have completely rejected that line of thinking. In the process of doing this, what I’ve actually found is there is not a thing wrong with our confidence! The reality is we’re actually not shining a light on what happens to women when they actually raise their hand. The reason women want to be perfect before they raise their hands is because when they raise their hand and they take a chance they either get ignored, laughed at or what usually happens is they get dismissed, threatened and they get marginalized.

JH: The newsletter is a constant weekly reminder there are tons of women doing important work in foreign policy. Even just that as a outcome is really powerful.

EB: What I have found is working on this and working with the fellows, really coming at this from a different perspective saying “this is not my fault, there is nothing wrong with me”, I’ve actually seen is a change in women and how they’re responding. I don’t think I’m single handedly responsible for this, I think I’m riding the wave.

There is something happening with the women’s movement and I think a lot of it has resulted from not only having Hillary Clinton run for president but then also the #metoo movement where I think a lot of women are starting to come out, start owning their power and not apologizing for it. I think these people see these other women who are doing this work and I think they’re thinking “wow, the work that I’m doing is important.” And they are raising their hands a lot more because I think that we’ve created a sisterhood where showing that you’re not alone in this field. It may seem like you are alone because it is very male dominated, but there is an entire cadre of women who are interested in these issues and who are making an impact and making a difference.

Interview 2: Kim Yi Dionne – The Monkey Cage

Jamie J. Hagen

Jamie J. Hagen

ISA James N. Rosenau Post-Doctoral Fellow
Kim Yi Dionne

Kim Yi Dionne

The Monkey Cage

JH: I spoke with Kim Yi Dionne, one of the Senior Editors at the Monkey Cage [TMC]. Kim is an assistant professor in political science at UC Riverside. She studies identity, public opinion, political behavior, and policy aimed at improving the human condition, with a focus on African countries. I learned about TMC after seeing several colleagues publish with the platform. I asked her to tell me more about TMC who the pieces are written for and how scholars can become contributors. This interview was edited for length and clarity.

JH: What is The Monkey Cage, how did you get involved and how long has the blog been around?

KD: The Monkey Cage is a collaborative effort by Political Scientists to make political science accessible to ordinary citizens. We work to shed light on current news events coming from some of the major takeaways we’ve learned from political science research. The blog started in 2007 and it migrated to the Washington Post in 2013. I was invited to be a contributing editor by the Monkey Cage readership shortly after they switched from being an independent blog to a blog on the Washington Post.

JH: Who is the intended audience pieces published by TMC?

KD: Our audience is really the general public, the educated politically interested public. Not all of our readers are in the United States, though most of our readers are. Some of our best pieces are pitched at an undergrad level. Imagine you’re a smart undergrad who is a Bio Chem major but is really curious about what’s happening right now between the US and North Korea. They might take an IR class for no reason except that they want to understand US foreign policy to east Asia. We’re trying to write for that Bio Chem undergrad who has no background in the area but is really interested and wants to know more.

JH: How would you say TMC relates to more traditional ways of getting research ideas out in academia?
KD: We all know writing for a general audience is a very different skill than writing for an academic audience. As academics, we weren’t really trained how to write for a general reader. We [TMC] think Political Science scholarship is really important and we’re really excited when scholarship is published in peer reviewed outlets, whether that be major journals or university press books. Quite a bit of that work could be of service to the general public but because academics aren’t trained in how to write for the general public there are some opportunity costs. Right? You have to take the time to translate your work from the typically jargon laden, very specific audience.
JH: Tell me more about the 2018 pre-American Political Science Association (APSA) conference workshop offered by the Monkey Cage.

KD: The workshop we did before APSA was a way for us to try a new model of sharing what we do at TMC and bring more people on board. Our workshop was to try to give a group of people the time and space to learn those skills of translation to then specifically apply those skills to one of their scholarly works. We also have a six-month follow-on mentoring of everyone who participated in that workshop where we’re trying to help them get things over the finish line. We have interest in doing more workshops and we definitely have funding for at least one more. The workshop was oriented to scholars who are working in global health, hunger and poverty because those are the interests of our funder. We’re certainly looking for other areas that we could use more content in and for which we could have more contributors writing, but we think so far that this model is working. We’ve already seen people post on TMC after the workshop.

JH: What has been some of the most popular content published on TMC?

KD: I think our all-time highest page views is the piece by Kyle Drop and colleagues (“The less Americans know about Ukraine’s location, the more they want U.S. to intervene”) about whether Americans know where the Ukraine is related to whether or not they thought military intervention was a good idea after Russia annexed the Crimea. The take-away from that post was that people who don’t know where the Ukraine was were more likely to say that military intervention was necessary. That piece was really popular and in fact was featured on the Colbert Report. Another popular piece is a piece I wrote with Laura Seay (“The long and ugly tradition of treating Africa as a dirty, diseased place”) in 2014 during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa about how there is this long and ugly tradition of othering Africans, of thinking of Africa as a dirty, diseased place. We were in the conversation with Newsweek magazine which printed this really racist cover and that went viral when it came out. It regularly gets re-upped every time there is some sort of racist representation of Africans in the media or a disease outbreak and people are engaging in similar tactics. I imagine the same is true for the piece by Kyle Drop and colleagues - any time someone is talking military intervention and whether or not public opinion plays a role, I’m sure colleagues both in IR and cognate fields are talking about that piece.

JH: What is coming up on the column?

KD: I’m really excited for pieces that we have in the works from the workshop. We have a couple that have already done really well. Sally A. Nuamah at Duke University has already written two pieces for us since the workshop. One of them (“On the International Day of the Girl, it’s a good time to ask: Are girls safe in schools?”) is about her book project on educating girls in Africa as well as the US. That came out on International Day of the Girl Child. That piece did really well. It’s directly out of her major research agenda. We also have a piece (“Ebola is back – and a threat to Congo Are African public health systems ready?”) written about responding to the Ebola outbreak in Congo that was co-authored by Emmanuel Balogun of Western University and Amy S. Paterson of Sewanee the University of the South. What’s interesting is the two of them didn’t know each other before the workshop! But they were seated next to each other and their research has a lot of overlap, so it was natural the two of them would written a piece together where the compliments in their research unite. I really like that collaboration because Emmanuel Balogun is second or third year on the tenure track and Amy Paterson is a named chair. To have these people trained in very different times to be able to come together, we couldn’t ask for a better outcome out of the workshop.

JH: How can folks pitch/contribute?

KD: The best way to pitch us is to just send an email with their pitch to MonkeyCageBlog@gmail.com. It’s a central email address that’s frequently checked and our managing editor then sends it out to those of us on the editorial board who have specific research areas. On our website you can see tentative guidelines for guest contributions with specific instructions in how to pitch us. We discourage people from writing pieces first. Just pitch us when you have the idea before you sink a lot of time into it. Tell us how the piece fits in the current news cycle, what the research is about and what’s the main thing you want people to take away from your piece in an email that is one paragraph max. Sometimes we solicit pieces from people. If we’re soliciting a piece from you, we already think you’re expert enough to write on that piece. We want to really encourage the women and scholars of color who push back and say, “well, I’m not really an expert” to trust us that we’re really a good judge of who is an expert! We really encourage women and scholars of color to reach out. If anyone is uncertain and they want to talk through an idea before they pitch the main email, I’m happy to have those people email me directly.

Interview 3 - Stephen McGlinchey: E-International Relations (E-IR)

Jamie J. Hagen

Jamie J. Hagen

ISA James N. Rosenau Post-Doctoral Fellow
Stephen McGlinchey

Stephen McGlinchey

E-International Relations (E-IR)

JH: For my third interview in the series I spoke with Stephen McGlinchey, the Editor-In-Chief and Director of E-International Relations (E-IR), the world’s leading open-access international relations website. In our interview McGlinchey spoke with me about the goal of the website, how people can be a part of the project and how the website is bringing IR scholarship to a wider audience, especially in the global south. In addition to his work with E-IR McGlinchey is a Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader of Politics and International Relations at the University of the West of England, Bristol.

JH: Can you briefly describe E-IR and why you think there is a need for open access when it comes to international relations scholarship?

SM: E-IR is a major open access resource for students and scholars that spans the gamut of both new and traditional publishing operations. When you visit the website, you are presented with a range of content that includes scholarly articles; book reviews; interviews with academics and practitioners; blogs from like-minded communities; and our range of open access books. In my view, there is no other place on the Internet where you can find such a vibrant collection of well edited, expert-written, free to view content.

This open access spirit goes back to the founding of E-IR in 2007, when we felt that academia had largely misfired in the digital age. We wanted to create a middle ground between the deluge of unedited personal blogs and websites that soon appeared and the academic journals that had migrated online but were locked behind pay walls. So, E-IR created a new space that we now occupy proudly. Essentially you could call our approach ‘scholarship with a sense of brevity’, presented in a modern way without unnecessary barriers. Everything is fully accessible without the need to enter any details or jump through any hoops. International relations affect everyone. So, everyone should be able to understand and access the debates that surround it. That simple message, and our ability to deliver it, makes E-IR (we hope) the best forum of its kind.

JH: Who is the audience for E-IR and why do you think it will be of particular interest to International Studies Association members?

SM: Our audience are a mixture of students, scholars and general interest readers who visit us for a more scholarly take on world events. We would hope that the audience we already have (approximately 3 million readers per year) would be an indication to members of the ISA that if they are not already reading E-IR, then they probably should add it to their bookmarks. The website has a wide range of expert-written content that will assist anyone working on a research project, or anyone who is looking for accessible teaching materials and reading lists. Everything published on E-IR is unique to our platform and reputable to scholarly standards; it has either been commissioned by our editorial team or is submitted to us and has gone through a thorough review process. We do not publish any content that is already online elsewhere. The word search functionality that is built in to E-IR makes finding what you are looking for simple and effective – we would hope exactly what one would expect of a modern publishing platform.

JH: How does E-IR relate to more traditional platforms (journals, books, syllabus) for engaging readers with scholarly ideas?

SM: In our opinion, we complement all those traditional platforms – adding something while taking nothing away. So, we do not see ourselves as revolutionary. We think there should be a quality open access venue for authors, and therefore we offer one. Further, we think that open access should be fully open and done at no cost to anyone – including authors. If you want to read something, it should be point and click. Anything else is a barrier. If you want to submit your work for publication, we believe that you should be able to do so with no surprises or publication charges.

Typically, authors come to us as part of a wider publication strategy. Most of our authors regularly submit their work to journals and see publishing with E-IR as a way to present their scholarship in a different format. The audience you can reach via our platform is many orders of magnitude higher than any other in the field, and this is most attractive. When it comes to books, many of those who have authored, or contributed to, a book published by E-IR have had an experience where a prior book they published was not read as widely as they had hoped. This might have been due to the high price publishers often place on monographs/edited collections or that publishers rarely promote scholarly works much. So, those authors typically choose us a place where they can take some of their projects, some of the time, when they feel they have something that might sit well to a wider audience. And, this brings me back to my original point that we seek to complement traditional publishing and give authors (and readers) another option.

JH: What has been some of the most popular content at E-IR?

SM: Without doubt our most popular content has been our two textbooks, which were both released in 2017. The books were developed as part of our drive to create a ‘student portal’ which would be a one stop shop to get students apprised of the foundational elements of International Relations. The books form the basis of that project, and they sit alongside multimedia and other text-based resources that supplement them in a special section of the website. Together, the two books have been downloaded almost 200,000 times – which is a breath-taking statistic and a testament to the quality of the books and the efforts of all those involved. It is also rewarding to see that so many of those downloads were from developing countries, where often the price of a single textbook is too high. So, we’re delighted that our open access mission seems to be working in that sense. Saying that, textbooks are a new endeavour for us, and the other areas of the website (such as our daily mix of articles, reviews and blogs) continue to be very popular.

Worthy of mention here also is our interview series. Here, we have not just been interviewing major figures in the field, but we have also sought out emerging scholars from a wide variety of backgrounds and areas – some whom are still doing their PhDs. A big part of why we do this is that we want to be a platform for each new wave of scholars. So, many younger academics get their first major exposure via E-IR and in return we are able to get to know them a little bit and to see where the leading edges and emerging trends are forming in the discipline.

JH: How can folks contribute/participate if they're interested in being a part of E-IR?

SM: I think what really makes us different is that we’re an active community. The editorial team – which is truly global – volunteer hundreds of hours of their time each month, and the hundreds of academics and students around the world who support us kindly contribute their latest and best work for publication. There are, at any one time, around 100 volunteer editors who invest their time in one or more of our projects, and they come from all over the world. Most of our editors are working towards a master’s or PhD degree and spend a bit of their time doing various editorial tasks with us, primarily to broaden their skill sets and meet new people. We have an open recruitment process for anyone who would like to volunteer.

Volunteering with E-IR, however, is not your typical ‘work experience’. First, we have no office – everything is decentralised and we use a range of virtual tools to organize and coordinate our activities (including Slack and Google Docs). Second, beyond the basic tasks necessary to keep the website running, editors are empowered to set their own agendas and develop their own projects. This ranges from pursuing personal interests – and building on personal expertise – when commissioning content for the website, to having an idea for a new section and then working with the team to plan, test and build it. The result, I think, is that the more E-IR volunteers give of themselves, the more they take away from the experience. It’s a place where people with a bit of initiative and drive really thrive.

JH: Is there anything else you’d like to add about why you’re excited about E-IR?

SM: Over the 11+ years we have been online we have always worked hard to remain true to our core mission – to be the best online resource for students and scholars of international politics. This is a hard balancing act for an all-volunteer mission like ours. We don’t have any institutional or corporate sponsorship – so everything we do has to be thought through carefully so we are able to deliver it within our modest means. This means there are some things we have been unable to do, such as produce audio and video content, which are too expensive for us (in terms of time and resources) to do to a high standard. But, by remaining focused on the bread and butter of scholarship – text-based material ¬– we are always excited about what we can do in that realm. In 2019 we will have hundreds of new articles to share with the world, many of those will be from emerging scholars, and we will have another bunch of edited collections and monographs coming out. Providing an open access platform for that material, and those authors, continues to excite us and engage our readers.

Interview 4: Brent Sasley - ISA-Online Media Caucus (ISA-OMC)

Jamie J. Hagen

Jamie J. Hagen

ISA James N. Rosenau Post-Doctoral Fellow
Brent Sasley

Brent Sasley

ISA-Online Media Caucus (ISA-OMC)

JH: For this interview I spoke with Brent Sasley about the upcoming Duckies, awards to recognize online achievement in international studies. (Deadline for nominations for 2019 awards is Feb 1st, details here). Sasley is the current chair of the Online Media Caucus and is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Texas at Arlington, where he teaches Israeli and Middle East politics. Follow him on Twitter at @besasley. The Online Achievement in International Studies Reception and Awarding of the Duckies will take place on Wednesday, March 27 at 7:30pm, hosted by the ISA’s Online Media Caucus (OMC).

JH: First, tell us about the work of ISA Online Media Caucus and your role in the Caucus.

BS: The caucus was established in 2015, through the initiative of Steve Saideman. Its purpose is to serve as an institutional home within the ISA for international studies scholars who use online media--as a forum for discussion and exchange of ideas, a vehicle for promoting use of online media and digital technologies, and as a way to normalize the use of online media in scholarly activities. We're all aware of the hiring, tenure, and other pressures that push academics to publish in traditional journals and books, but many scholars are active and contribute to their discipline, the profession, and the broader community in non-traditional ways, through online media. Blogging, especially, is very useful for scholars, as a way to test new ideas in pedagogy and research, which leads to feedback and a strengthening of the original idea. The OMC is one way to recognize those activities as part of the scholarly process.

I'm serving as Chair for the 2018-2019 year. We also have a Vice-Chair (W.K. Winecoff) and three officers-at-large (R. William Ayres, Marcelo Valenca, and Diana Wueger). SAGE Publications is a regular and generous sponsor for our annual reception. In addition to the regular duties as head of an organization, the OMC Chair guides the process of nominations for our Duckies awards and serves as program chair.

JH: How do the Online Achievement in Media Studies (OAIS) Awards, aka the Duckies, fit in with the work of the Caucus? Why are they called the Duckies anyway?

BS: The OMC now runs the annual reception and granting of awards in online achievement at ISA. The caucus leadership decides on categories, solicits nominations, selects the winners in each category, and reaches out to speakers for the ceremony.

The OMC took over this task from the Duck of Minerva. The Duck was one of the first group blogs in international studies. Posts focused not just on current events, but on how to use scholarship to think about these events. Ducks were a common theme on the website. The first reception and awards ceremony for online achievement in international studies actually preceded the chartering of the OMC. The reception was convened by the Duck of Minerva, so it made sense to call the awards the Duckies!

JH: I know there is an annual awards ceremony for the Duckies at the ISA Convention. Tell us about that along with the Ignite Speaker Series.

BS: The ceremony awards Duckies (which are, in fact, decorated rubber ducks purchased from the British Museum and attached to a trophy pedestal) in different categories. These categories have changed slightly over time. Last year and this year we have five categories: Best Blog Post in International Studies, Best Blog (Group) in International Studies, Best Blog (Individual) in International Studies, Best Twitter Account, and Special Achievement in International Studies Online Media. The last category is designed to recognize someone who has made important contributions to online activity over the years, such as trailblazers.

The Ignite Speaker Series is a really interesting and exciting part of our reception. Three scholars who work in online media are asked to present five-minute talks each. It's a way for them to present their work, promote their activities, and spread the word about new ways to think about and use online media and digital technologies.

JH: It is my understanding that only media in English is eligible for these awards. Are there plans for an additional category for media in different languages, or other ways the OMC might diversify those who apply for the awards?

BS: Yes, the OMC is currently discussing whether and what to change about our award categories. There won't be any changes for the 2018 ISA convention, but likely will for the following annual meeting. Two issues in particular under discussion are the addition of a non-English language category, to help recognize the diversity of the organization, and the inclusion of a podcast category. We need to figure out whether there would be a single catch-all category for non-English online media work, or divide up the non-English language categories, as well as make sure that qualified speakers of that/those language(s) can be brought in to help assess the nomination.

Podcasting is a little more tricky, because there aren't many academics who regularly host their own podcasts, in the same way that academics have their own blogs. So we need to consider what kind of criteria would be the involved.

JH: How can people who want to be more involved with the Duckies, as well as the OMC, get involved?

BS: We are always looking for people to become more involved, including to serve on the OMC board. They can either contact me directly, at bsasley@uta.edu or email us at onlinemediacaucus@gmail.com. We also maintain a Facebook page (@ISAOMC) and a Twitter account (@OnlineMediaISA).

Interview 5: Emily Crandall - Always Already Podcast (AAP)

Jamie J. Hagen

Jamie J. Hagen

ISA James N. Rosenau Post-Doctoral Fellow
Emily Crandall

Emily Crandall

Always Already Podcast (AAP)

JH: The fifth interview in the Broadening Engagements with International Affairs series is with Emily Crandall of the Always Already Podcast (AAP). Crandall has been a cohost since 2015 and is a PhD candidate in the department of Political Science at the Graduate Center CUNY, with a certificate in Women's Studies. Her dissertation research has been supported by fellowships from the Committee for Interdisciplinary Science Studies, the Committee for the Study of Religion, and the Center for Global Ethics and Politics in the Ralph Bunche Institute.The AAP is just one example of the many podcasts that have been finding ways to talk about political science and international relations politics. Crandall told me more about the podcast including how the podcast engages with questions of teaching different texts.

JH: Can you briefly describe Always Already Podcast (AAP) and how/why you got involved?

EC: Our podcast started essentially as a critical and political theory book club. It was founded by three of my colleagues from graduate school (John McMahon, Rachel Brown, B Aultman) - the idea was to create a space to engage with complicated texts in a fun and social way, and to share those conversations with an audience that is also engaging with the same texts. I was brought on about a year into the podcast. My fellow co-hosts discovered that three was the magic number for a free-ambling book discussion, and they wanted to be able to continue to produce regular content while also making progress through our degrees. It has since evolved quite a bit. We have had a rotating roster of guest hosts that specialize in all kinds of fun stuff related to critical theory. We have brought on two additional co-hosts (James Padilioni, Jr. and Sid Issar), one of whom created a second stream of episodes that we call “epistemic unruliness,” which consists of interviews with radical scholars, artists, and activists. We also have a bunch of different segments that often accompany our text discussions, including an advice segment and a dream analysis segment we’ve taken to calling “one or several wolves.” Joining the team was a no-brainer for me. Sitting around and digging into a text is the absolute best part of graduate school--of academia really--and it can be hard to make time and create space for that.

JH: Who is the audience for the podcast and why do you think it will be of particular interest to those who research and teach international affairs?

EC: Our original audience was primarily other graduate students - we’ve received so many advice questions over the years about navigating the university through graduate school. At present our audience is global, which is in part reflected by the texts that listeners have suggested we read - we’ve discussed many books that have been translated into English from other languages, and that deal with questions about the ongoing influence of colonialism and global capitalism. We get site traffic from all over the world. As the podcast has grown, we have striven to define critical theory as an inherently global discipline, and to serve as a source of radical critique regarding international affairs.

JH: How does AAP as a platform for discussing research relate to and engage with more traditional platforms for scholarly ideas (journals, books, syllabus)? Have people told you stories of using AAP episodes in their classrooms?

EC: In addition to directly engaging and discussing scholarly work, as a collective we are very steeped in and occupied with pedagogy. A frequent topic for debate on our podcast is how we might imagine teaching a particular text or group of texts. We also talk extensively about the western canon and the pedagogical and epistemic consequences of its relationship to colonialism, white supremacy, and patriarchy. Our listeners are always thinking with us in emails and on social media about radical, decolonial approaches to pedagogy. As a large part of our active audience is graduate students, we also often hear anecdotes of folks coming across episodes in preparation for exams or in doing research, and these are often the people who are suggesting texts to us as well.

The podcast has also served as a catalyst for engaging more traditional scholarly platforms, in a somewhat unusual way. The career pressures of academia do not always allow for the kind of collaborative thinking that we try to practice, but we have actually had several research projects emerge from the space we have created for it. Thinking together and writing together has certainly enriched all of our scholarly work and makes us better, more careful theorists.

JH: Tell us about some of your most popular podcasts and some of the upcoming podcasts you’re most excited about this year.

EC: Our most popular episode is an early episode on Afro-Pessimism and Black Optimism. That episode features now co-host, then guest host, James Padilioni Jr., who we first encountered as a fan of the podcast. It’s also the only episode we have ever transcribed in full, and we are very excited to hopefully be doing more transcriptions in the coming year. Thanks to our very widely-read and engaged audience, we also have an exciting list of suggested texts that we hope to get to in the coming months.

JH: What are some of your personal favorite political science or international affairs focused podcasts?

EC: We are big fans of the podcasts out of Critical Mediations. I personally am an avid listener of Season of the Bitch. We also love: The Antifada, Who Makes Cents, State of the Theory, Feminist Killjoys PhD, and Still Processing.

Interview 6: Roxani Krystalli - Stories of Conflict and Love blog

Jamie J. Hagen

Jamie J. Hagen

ISA James N. Rosenau Post-Doctoral Fellow
Roxani Krystalli

Roxani Krystalli

Stories of Conflict and Love blog

JH: The sixth interview in the Broadening Engagements with International Affairs series is with Roxani Krystalli of the Stories of Conflict and Love blog. Roxani is a researcher and humanitarian practitioner who works on issues of gender, violence, and armed conflict. Roxani is currently the Program Manager at the Feinstein International Center at Tufts University, a PhD candidate at The Fletcher School and a Visiting Scholar at the University of St. Andrews. I spoke with Roxani about starting the blog and her recent Duckie award from the International Studies Association.

JH: Can you briefly describe Stories of Conflict and Love and why you started it?

RK: I started Stories of Conflict and Love when I began working at the intersection of peace building and humanitarian action. Through that work, I was exposed to stories of violence and loss right alongside stories of hope, love, joy and other human emotions that either do not get documented often or do not get told alongside stories of pain and injury. I wanted Stories of Conflict and Love to be a space through which I could reflect on the co-existence and intertwinement of those narratives.

JH: Who is the audience for the blog and why do you think it will be of particular interest to International Studies Association members?

RK: Funnily enough, when I started this blog, I did not consider myself an academic -- nor did I know what the International Studies Association was! I have thought of the blog in terms of being in conversation with readers writ large: readers of any age, any gender, any geography. Interacting with them, in the form of messages sent to my blog's Facebook page or through the website itself, has been very meaningful for me over the years. It is therefore important to me that the blog be readable, that it can resonate with people who have no specialized training in peace-building or an academic interest in armed conflict or feminism. This does not mean shying away from discussing complicated concepts, but it does mean challenging myself to write in ways that invite the reader to engage.

Over the years, I have learned that some people started reading the blog when they experienced grief and were looking for essays on loss; others came across it because I wrote about a particular place (such as Greece, where I was born and raised, or Colombia, where I have conducted extensive work and research over the years). Yet others came across a post about feminism, memory, notions of home, or relationships to nature and decided to stay along for the reflections on the politics of victimhood, the beginnings and endings of violence, and writing about moss or poetry. I am interested in all these topics and in the people who care about them, so I have been intentional about not restricting what I write about--and thus not restricting my imagination of who the intended reader is either.

For readers in the International Studies Association in particular, I hope that the blog can illuminate the ways in which people experience 'international relations', politics, and power -- in different bodies and different spaces than we are often taught to look for these life forces.

JH: How does your blog relate to more traditional academic platforms for engaging readers with scholarly ideas about conflict-related violence, memory and loss?

RK : That is an excellent question. As I said earlier, I do not think of the blog (or of myself, for that matter) as strictly academic. I often return to Laura Shepherd's beautiful essay on what it means to identify as an academic and a feminist--and a feminist academic--how those identities co-exist alongside others. I also reflect on the politics of knowledge production in academia and the ways in which our writing sometimes obscures the lives of the people we write about. There is often a silent process of translation in producing academic writing, whereby in order to make people's lives 'theoretically legible', we obscure their humanity, their humor, their emotions, their own language for how they experience the world. Like some of the scholars and writers I admire, from bell hooks to Cynthia Enloe, and from Sara Ahmed to Valeria Luiselli, I am committed to resisting that translation, where possible, both in my academic writing and in other publications.

JH: You write “I have attempted to resist the cynicism that can arise when one exposes herself to atrocities, inequality, or injustice every day.” This really resonates as someone who is often called on to teach about sexual violence and violence targeting LGBTQ individuals. Do you know of ways your blog has been used in a classroom setting, or can you share how you have used blogging as a way to think through teaching?

RK: It's been a real pleasure to hear about how colleagues are using Stories of Conflict and Love essays as assigned reading or as discussion points in their teaching. As a recent example, I know that Professor Dipali Mukhopadhyay at Columbia University plans to teach Endings, my essay on what it means to pronounce an armed conflict 'over' and to declare that an era of violence belongs in the past.

Colleagues who have taught excerpts of the blog have mentioned that their students were wondering if this type of writing counts as 'research', as 'auto-ethnography,' or as 'academic.' These are all good questions and I would turn them right back around: What are the qualities that we associate with research? What does it mean to call certain forms of writing 'academic' and how are those labels infused with ideas about credibility and power?

JH: I understand you were recently awarded a Duckie at ISA 2019! Congratulations. What does it mean to you to have the blog recognized in this way?

RK: I was delighted to receive a Duckie and very grateful to the nominators. I was particularly pleased to be recognized alongside Yolande Bouka, the recipient of the Best Blog Post award for her writing on decolonization, and Erica Chenoweth, the recipient of the special achievement award. I really look forward to checking out the work of Active Learning in Political Science, who won the Best Group Blog award, and the work of Thomas Juneau, recognized for his Twitter feed.

Cynthia Enloe reminds us to retain a capacity for surprise in feminist advocacy. I was pleasantly surprised to win an award for a blog with 'love' in its title, especially after years of (often unsolicited) advice that writing about emotions in public is incompatible with other aspirations within and beyond academia.

JH: What other platforms/projects are you excited about in terms of new ways to communicate feminist ideas in international relations?

RK: Many of the platforms and projects I am excited about are not focused exclusively on international relations, but very much touch on topics we would associate with this area of study, such as refugee issues, reproductive choice and health access, and attacks on human rights activists. I have learned a lot from The Guilty Feminist podcast series, described as a comedy podcast on 21st century feminist principles and "the insecurities, hypocrisies, and fears that undermine them." Staying on the topic of the power of humor in feminist advocacy, I really appreciate Saara Särmä's "Congrats! You Have An All-Male-Panel" Tumblr. Jamie Dobie's organization, Peace is Loud, has done important work on using film to highlight feminist approaches to peace building.

Finally, much of my inspiration comes from decidedly not new platforms: from poetry and novels. At the moment, I am particularly cherishing Ada Limón's poetry collection "The Carrying," ranging from poems about fertility to Wonder Woman to racism. In terms of recent novels, I really loved Sarah Moss' Ghost Wall and its cautionary tale regarding the fetishization of the past. And having recently moved to Scotland, Kathleen Jamie's essay collection Findings has refined what I notice about place and the ways in which I inhabit it.

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