The independence of the professions

The student representatives call me “willful,” “arrogant” and “irresponsible.” They don’t want me to run my courses in my own fashion. They insist that I should be supervised by a university committee. “We need quality control. This is our right as students.” Some other students disagree. “We’ve taken courses with Erik,” they say. “He’s great. We have complete faith in his judgment.”

I’m grateful for the vote of confidence, but both views miss the point. What is at stake here is the independence of the professions. If you belong to a profession there is no one else in society which has more knowledge than you and your peers. This is why we let professions rule themselves. No one except other members of the same profession can tell brain surgeons how to do brain surgery, lawyers how to lawyer, engineers how to engineer. The same thing applies to university teachers.

I have been supervised, guided, criticized, ridiculed and encouraged since I started my academic career some thirty years ago.  And it still happens on a daily basis. I studied with some of the best people in the business, and I still hear the voices of my teachers in my head — telling me how to present my ideas, how to argue. I’ve written five academic books and well over fifty academic articles. They were all whetted by my peers, at seminars and conferences, then by anonymous reviewers and eventually by plenty of readers. When I come to class to teach my students I bring all that with me. I want to put my students in contact with the books I’ve read and the thoughts I’ve had. I want them too to hear the voices of my teachers.

This is how we carry our humanity along from one generation to the next. There is no enterprise more noble, nothing more important.

I’m not willful, I’m not arrogant. I’m constantly supervised, monitored and admonished by all my peers. This is how the university of the spirit works. I realize of course that my students know nothing about this. How could they? They are not part of the profession.

My teaching

The point of the courses I teach is to provide students with the analytical tools they need in order to understand, explain and critically evaluate the world in which they live. The point is to teach them how to think, how to analyze, rather than simply to teach them facts and provide information. The best way to achieve these aims is to confront the students with important texts that challenge their convictions and open their minds to new ways of thinking. Students too should be part of the intellectual conversation of our societies. Intellectually equipped in this fashion, they are able to go into any field of activity — government service, NGOs, private business, academia.

These aims are particularly important today when young people increasingly are living in the echo-chambers created by the Internet. Universities are not echo-chambers but instead one of the last bastions of the old-style public sphere — where different people, with different views, come together to discuss common concerns. At the university, students are forced to engage with people with whom they disagree; they are forced to give rational reasons for their positions, and there can be no “alternative facts.” I want my courses to make such conversations possible.

Courses I’ve taught

I have taught a broad range of courses over the years. At the LSE in London my focus was on comparative politics. Here I gave courses on “Nations and Nationalism,” “National and Ethnic Conflict Regulation” and on “Democracy and Democratization.” I also developed a side-line in political economy, teaching a course, “The State and Prosperity,” on the interaction of markets and politics, and a summer-school course on the “History and Politics of Financial Institutions.”

My first job in China — at NCTU in Taiwan — was at a Department of General Education which provided a broad range of liberal arts courses. I sociology, a course on entrepreneurship, and courses on international political economy. In addition, I was affiliated with the Institute of Cultural Studies and here I taught courses on “Orientalism,” an international relations course on “China in World Affairs,” and one on “Theories of International Relations.”

At SJTU i Shanghai where I was professor in international relations, I gave courses on “Introduction to International Politics,” “Theories of International Politics,” “China’s Role in World Politics,” and a course on international political economy.

At Lund University, where I currently work, I’ve focused on courses in international politics and the history of political ideas. I give one course, “Comparative International Systems” which provides a historical introduction to international politics understood from a non-European point of view. This course follows closely a textbook on non-European IR that I am working on. The online reading list is here; the textbook itself is here.

Another course at Lund, “Rationality, Emotions and War,” relates to my current research project on embodiment and rationality and investigates war understood in terms of the experiences that soldiers go through. Themes include how wars are prepared for, lived through, remembered and memorialized by its participants. The reading list is here.  At Lund I am also giving lectures on “Introduction to Political Science,” and a course on the history of political ideas, “Modern Society and Its Critics.”

Course formats

I have taught classes in all sorts of formats over the years — from small seminar groups of about 10 students to large lecture courses with 200 plus students. I am equally comfortable in all settings. I am, moreover, very used to teaching a diverse student body which includes people from a variety of ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds. At the LSE in particular it was common to have representatives of 10 different countries in a class of 30 students. I am also very used to teaching students whose first language is not English. I know how to explain myself simply and effectively.

For the past 15 years I have made extensive use of the Internet in my courses, often relying on the Moodle course platform. Depending on the material to be covered, I like to combine traditional readings with podcasts and video clips.  Learning can happen in many different ways after all. I have also experimented extensively with alternative forms of examinations, such as oral exams held on-line.

I tend to use Powerpoint sparingly in my lectures, preferring instead to lecture in the classical mode (“chalk and talk”). Students, rather endearingly, interpret my lecture style as a “innovative.”

Academic writing

In supervising student essays, I emphasize the importance of good research questions. Unless there is something you actually want to know, it is very difficult to do good research. Other issues concerning academic writing, such as the use of theory and methodological problems, are of secondary importance and follow from the choice of research question. I have a short essay, “How to Write an Academic Paper,” which explains my views on these topics.

Use of my work on reading lists

Academic articles and books I’ve written have been extensively used on reading lists around the world. Well known international relations scholars such as Joseph Nye, Robert Jervis and Emanuel Adler have put my texts on their reading lists and they have been used at all Ivy League Schools in the United States and widely across Europe. For a while two separate courses at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard used texts I have written. My work has also been used at History, Sociology and Economic History departments. A partial list of universities that use my work is here.

Student evaluations

Students have always evaluated my courses in very positive terms. In fact, my courses have regularly been among the most popular in the departments where I have worked. This was the case at the LSE in London, but also in China and now in Sweden. I often hear that one or another of my courses was “the best course I took at the university.” Students appreciate my informal style, my enthusiasm for the material, and my emphasis on ideas and analysis.

My research

My research agenda is quite eclectic and combines international politics, history and social theory. My approach, broadly put, is to use historical examples in order to philosophize regarding international events. Although they deal with quite different empirical material, my research projects have all in one way or another been examples of this method. In terms of theory, I have a particular interest in international politics understood as performance, focusing on issues of identity, self-presentation and recognition. My empirical focus has often been on wars — the Thirty Years War, colonial wars, the First World War, the Iraq War.

I have written four academic books and some 50 academic articles, published with the most prestigious publishers and journals in the field, including Cambridge University Press, Routledge, International Organization, European Journal of International Relations and International Theory. My work has been translated into German, Chinese and Korean.

I currently have 1,650 citations on Google Scholar. The number of citations has increased steadily over the years, and 2017 was the best year ever with 200 plus citations. I expect this trend to continue. I have published a lot in the past year, and several articles are scheduled for the coming year. At the moment I am finishing work on three books under contract with publishers.

I am a strong advocate of open source publishing.

Previous research

My PhD dealt with the connection between warfare and state-building in early modern Europe. A crucial mechanisms here, I argued, is recognition. States, and other international actors, act not only in order to achieve certain goals but also because they want to be actors of a certain kind. Actions are undertaken in order to achieve interests but also in order to secure identities. States who fail to be recognized may resort to war. Discussions of recognition were rare in international politics when I first wrote about it, but I’m excited to see that the topic now is mainstream. My PhD was published as a book, Identity, Interests and Action, CUP, 1996, which until now has been cited over 500 times by others. This research project is still active and I return to it from time to time.

The next research project after my PhD concerned international political economy and the famous “Needham question” of how to explain the differences in economic development between Europe and East Asia. My answer focused on the role of institutions. Or to be more precise, what made the difference was the institutionalization of processes of reflection, entrepreneurship and pluralism. While countries in East Asia may have been more reflective, entrepreneurial and pluralistic, I argued, they lacked the requisite institutions. This study was published by Routledge as The Mechanics of Modernity, and in paperback as Why Europe Was First. It has been cited mainly by economic historians, including repeatedly by Deirdre McCloskey.

Following on from this study was a book, Surviving Capitalism, which picked up themes first introduced by Karl Polanyi. The topic was once again political economy. Capitalism is necessary, I argue, in order to produce economic prosperity, but it is also destructive of social relationship. This is why all societies need a way of surviving capitalism. The book surveys some of these ways and compares Europe with East Asia. Surviving Capitalism has been used as a textbook in economic sociology on reading lists around the world and has been translated into Korean.

The next project dealt with colonial warfare in the 19th century, and more specifically with the Second Opium War in China. The event which I sought to explain was the European destruction of Yuanmingyuan, the palace compound of the Chinese emperor. This act of barbarism, I argue, was undertaken in order to “civilize” the Chinese. Similar acts of barbarism undertaken for civilizational aims have been conducted by Western powers ever since — including recent invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. My book, Liberal Barbarism, was published with Palgrave and an article spun off from the project was published in International Organization.

Current research

I am currently working on three separate projects, all under contract with book publishers. The projects have so far resulted in a number of published articles.

The first project is a textbook on the history of international politics which develops ideas first introduced in my IO article. The idea is to describe international relations as they were organized in different parts of the world before the Europeans arrived, that is, before European colonialism. By comparing these international systems we can obtain a non-European perspective on international relations which allows us to think more creatively about alternatives to the Westphalian system. The book will be published by Open Book Publishers in Cambridge, as an open source textbook. A first draft is available here.

The second project takes off from my interest in Chinese history, or, to be more precise, from my interest in the life of the nomads living on China’s borders. In today’s world we are all becoming increasingly nomadic, is the argument, and under the impact of processes of globalization borders come to mean less and less. At the same time, nationalism is a growing force and many want to reassert the power of borders. The aim of this project is to investigate what, if anything, the life of traditional nomadic peoples can tell us about how to organize life in an increasingly nomadic world. What we seem to need are political systems which are as mobile as we are ourselves. This project has so far resulted in a number of separate articles, but I have put the book project aside for a while in order to focus on my third project.

The third project, under contract with Cambridge University Press, returns to my long-standing interest in international politics understood as performance. My aim here is to investigate the notion of a “world stage,” a metaphor first introduced in early modern Europe. Apart from the historical investigation, the project has philosophical aims. I want to investigate the role of embodied knowledge — precognitive, non-rational, knowledge — in our understanding of international politics. This project is roughly half-finished and it too has so far resulted in a number of research articles.

Talks and lectures

I continuously give talks and lectures on all of the themes of my research. During the past five years I have been invited to give lectures at Yale University, New York University, University of Michigan, SOAS, LSE, University of Warwick, the Goethe University in Frankfurt, and many others.

The most salient cleavage


The Swedish government’s requirement that all courses at the university should have a “gender perspective” is yet another example of the parochialism of Swedish universities. It’s yet another expression of a very Swedish, and very limited, view of the world.

By imposing this rule, the government assumes that the distinction between men and women is the most salient cleavage in society. It is only a “gender perspective,” after all, that is given privileged access to all reading lists. The most important division in Swedish society, is the implication, is that between women and men. Other divisions matter less.

To understand how limited this view is, consider a similar diktat being imposed on universities in the United States. “What about race?” would be the obvious reply. “Why shouldn’t all courses have a discussion of slavery?” Or genocide against Native Americans, or colonialism, or social class? The US has a number of salient cleavages, and there is no reason why gender should be privileged.  The same thing is true of most societies — consider religion in Northern Ireland, caste in India, social class in Brazil, political power in China, sexuality in Jamaica or Russia.

In fact, the feminist activists are wrong about Sweden too. Gender is not the only salient cleavage in Swedish society. Today there are growing differences between social classes, a large and growing Muslim population, and new cultural strife.  Besides, those eternally marginalized groups have not gone away — the Roma, the Sami, old people, the handicapped. They can all make equally legitimate claims to be included on all reading lists.

The reason gender is in a position to dominate all other topics is that women have a powerful position in Swedish society, not a weak one. It is because they have come into positions of power that feminist activists can impose these kinds of rules. Moreover, it is a very white, very middle-class, very Eurocentric perspective. Yes, it’s a Swedish view of the world.

In the US they deal with this problem by giving freedom to the universities and to the teachers. This is why American universities both are highly diverse and the best universities in the world.

Universities that use my work

These are some of the university courses that use books and articles I have written on their reading lists. The collection is not complete but includes only reading lists discoverable by Google.

Identity, Interest and Action 

  1. 4SSW1007: History of the International System,” King’s College London. Fall 2017.
  2. Oliver Turner and Nicola Perugini, “International Relations Theory,” School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh, fall 2016.
  3. Peter Haldén, “The Use of Force,” Försvarshögskolan, Stockholm, Sweden. Fall 2015 – Fall 2018.
  4. Felix Berenskoetter, “Identity in International Politics,” Fall 2013, SOAS, Dept of Politics and International Studies, University of London.
  5. Jack S. Levy, “Political Science 522: Theories of War and Peace,” Dept of Political Science, Rutgers University, USA.
  6. Paul Kowert, “INR 5315: International Relations, Foreign Policy Analysis.” Florida International University, USA.
  7. Jeffrey Alexander, “Introduction to Cultural Sociology,” Dept of Sociology, Yale University, New Haven, USA.
  8. Jeffrey Alexander, “Introduction to Cultural Sociology,” Dept of Sociology, UCLA, Los Angeles, USA.
  9. Aliaksei Kazharski, “IESIR: Russian Politics,” Institute of European Studies and International Relations, Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia.
  10. Vincent Pouliot, “POLI 575: Honours Seminar in International Relations, Culture and Identity in World Politics, Dept of Political Science, McGill University, Canada.
  11. Hsiao, “Narrative and the Analysis of Identity.” Taiwan National University, Taipei, Taiwan.
  12. Justin Massie, “API 5505: Concepts et enjeux en affaires internationales,” Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa, Canada.
  13. Alison Rowlands, “HR259: The Thirty Years War: A Military, Social and Cultural History,” Dept of History, University of Essex, United Kingdom.
  14. Amalendu Misra, “The Nature of Ethnicity and Ethnic Conflict,” School of Politics and International Studies, Queen’s University, Belfast, United Kingdom.
  15. Marie Demker, Dept of Political Science, University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
  16. Alexander Astrov, “IRES 5186: Evolution of European Political Order,” Dept of International Relations and European Studies, Central European University, Hungary.
  17. Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, “SIS680.AO1:’Qualitative Research Methodologies,” School of International Studies, American University, USA.
  18. Berthold Rittberger, “Internationalen Beziehungen,” Geschwister-Scholl-Institut, Ludwig-Maximilians Universität, Germany.
  19. FHSS1103: Magisterkurs i statsvetenskap med inriktning krishantering och internationell samverkan,” Dept of Political Science, Swedish Defense University, Sweden.
  20. Aliaksei Kazharski, “Russian Politics,” Pristina International Summer University 2013.
  21. Robert Blackey, “Absolutism and Enlightenment,” California State University, San Bernardino, USA.
  22. Xavier Guillaume, “PGSP11156: International Relations Theory,” School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh, UK.

Why Europe Was First

  1. Deirdre McCloskey, “Ideologies, Ideas, and Values during the Industrial Revolution,” Summer School, Dept of Economic History, University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
  2. Deirdre McCloskey, “History 480: How the West and the Rest Grew Rich,” Dept of History, University of Illinois, USA.
  3. Erik Vanhaute, “Economic History: The Great Divergence,” Dept of History, Ghent University, Belgium.

Surviving Capitalism

  1. Fred Block, “Sociology 138,” Dept of Sociology, University of California, Davis, USA.
  2. Kalypso Nicolaidis, “International Political Economy,” Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford, United Kingdom.
  3. David Hall-Matthews, “PIED2220: NorthSouth Linkages,” 2010/11. Dept of Politics and International Studies, University of Leeds, United Kingdom.
  4. Seok-Choon Lew, “Cultural Sociology of Economic Development.” Dept of Sociology, Yonsei University, South Korea.
  5. Alan Hutton, “ECOE431: Political Economy of Economic Performance,” Glasgow Caledonian University, United Kingdom.
  6. “Economic Sociology,” Dept of Hakka Studies, National Chiaotung University, Taiwan.
  7. Brian Trinque, ECO327: Comparative Economics Systems,” Dept of Economics, University of Texas, Austin, USA.
  8. David Blaney, “320: Global Political Economy: Capitalism and Global Inequalities,” Dept of Political Science, Macalester University, USA.

A Blogger’s Manifesto

  1. Timothy Patrick McCarthy, “MLD-717B – ARTS OF COMMUNICATION,” in Harvard Kennedy School of Government (Harvard University, Cambridge, USA, 2010)
  2. Nolan A. Bowie, “PPP180: Vision and Information Policy: Considering the Public Interests,” John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, USA.
  3. Virtual Sociability: Purdue Online Interaction Theory Seminar,” Perdue University, USA. 
  4. English 1A: Composition, Critical Reading, and Thinking, Foothill De-Anza Community College, United States.
  5. David J. Vergobbi, COMM5320: Freedom of Expression, Dept of Communication, University of Utah, USA.
  6. 4JN503: Reporting Reality,” Dept of Journalism, University of Derby, United Kingdom.
  7. Valentina Cardo, FTVMS Special topic: Online Media and Democracy, 2013. Faculty of Arts, Department of Film, Television and Media Studies, University of Auckland, New Zealand.

“The ‘spirit of 1914’: A redefinition and a defence”

  1. Stephan Petzold, “GERM1060, Introduction to Modern Germany,” Leeds University, autumn 2017.
  2. Stephan Petzold, “From Unification to Reunification: Introduction to German History 1870-1990,” Leeds University, autumn 2017.
  3. Colin Storer, “HI290:History of Germany, from 1890 to today ,” Dept of History, University of Warwick, Autumn 2017.

“How the World Stage Makes Its Subjects”

  1. Elisabetta Brighi, 1ISP7C3 Theories of International Security, Autumn, 2015, University of Westminster, London.

“The Search for Dialogue as a Hindrance to Understanding”

  1. Hans-Martin Jaeger, “PSCI 5207 F International Political Sociology,” Carleton University, Canada.
  2. Vincent Pouliot, “POLI671: International Relations Theory,” McGill, Canada. Fall 2015.
  3. Ayse Zarakol and Philippe Bourbeau, “MPhil Option in IR Theory,” Cambridge U, United Kingdom, Fall 2015.
  4. Emanuel Adler, “POL486/2205HI: Advanced Theory Workshop on Change in International Relations,” Dept of Political Science, University of Toronto, Canada.

“Alexander Wendt: A Social Scientist Struggling with History”

  1. Andrew Neal and Vassilios Paipais, “IPGSP11156: International Relations Theory,” Dept of Politics, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom.
  2. Mark Aspinwall, International Cooperation in Europe and Beyond,” University of Edinburgh.
  3. Victoria Loughland and Wilifiried Swenden, “Approached to Politics and International RElations,” School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom.
  4. Trine Flockhart, “3007IBA International Relations Theory,” Dept of Politics, Griffith University, Australia.
  5. Marshall Beier, “4M106: Issues in International Politics,” Dept of Politics, McMaster’s University, Canada.                 “The International Politics of Recognition”
  6. Jack S. Levy, “Political Science 522: Theories of War and Peace,” Dept of Political Science, Rutgers University, USA.
  7. Felix Berenskoetter, “Identity in International Politics,” Fall 2013, SOAS, Dept of Politics and International Studies, University of London.
  8. Erika Simpson, “International Relations 9511A-001,” Dept of Political Science, University of Western Ontario, Canada.

“Free Trade by Force”

  1. Jozef Bátora, “EU Foreign Policy,” Institute for European Studies and Internaional Relations, FSES, Comenius University, Bratislava, Slovakia.
  2. Jozef Batora, “Diplomatic history,” Webster University, Vienna.

“Liberal Barbarism and the Oriental Sublime,”

  1. Catherine Goetze, “AS4001: Current Debates in World Politics,” Dept of Politics, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom.

“On the Ontological Status of the State”

  1. Felix Berenskoetter, “Identity in International Politics,” Fall 2013, SOAS, Dept of Politics and International Studies, University of London.
  2. Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, Theories of International Politics , SIS, American University, Washington DC, United States.
  3. Desmarais, POL 6100A: Analysis of International Politics, Dept of Political Science, University of Ottawa, Canada.
  4. Jonathan Hopkin, “Introduction to Political Science,” Dept of Government, London School of Economics and Political Science, United Kingdom.
  5. 7SSWM158: Concepts and methods in international relations, Dept of Political Science, King’s College, London, United Kingdom.
  6. Mathew Watson, POLS 312D, Contemporary International Political Economy, Dept of Political Science, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom.
  7. Nicholas Lees, PP2065, International Relations, Brunel University, 2016.
  8. Kevin McMillan, “POL6100A: Analysis of International Politics,” Dept of Political Science, University of Ottawa, Canada.

“Performing International Systems”

  1. Youngmi Kim, “Korea in International Relations” (American University of Central Asia, Bishkek, 2016).
  2. Jacinta O’Hagan, “The Evolution of the International System,” Australian National University, Fall 2015.
  3. Kevin McMillan, “POL 6100A: Analysis of International Politics,” Fall 2013, University of Ottawa, Canada.
  4. Devon Curtis, “PPS TRIPOS: Pol 7 Conflict and Peacebuilding,” University of Cambridge, UK.
  5. POLI0052: East Asia IR,” Dept of Political Science, Hong Kong University, Hong Kong.
  6. Ronald Krebs, “Advanced IR Theory,” Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.
  7. Sangbae Kim, “Postmodern International Studies,” Dept of International Relations, Seoul National University, Korea.
  8. Chen Xin, “International Relations Theory,” Political Economy Research Institute, National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan.
  9. Emanuel Adler & Seva Gunitsky, “Pol 2200YIY, International Politics,” University of Toronto, 2013-2014.
  10. Youngmi Kim, “East Asia in International Relations,” Dept of International Relations and European Studies, Central European University, fall 2012.
  11. Gregory P. Williams, “International Law and Organizations,” University of Northern Colorado, fall 2013.
  12. Robert Jervis, “Theories of International Relations,” Columbia University, fall 2012.
  13. Mate Nikola Tokic, “Foundations of the Contemporary International System, 1815-1920,” Dept of International Relations, Central European University, Hungary.
  14. PO384: East Asian Transformations: A Political Economy Perspective,” Dept of Political Science, University of Warwick, UK.

“The Recognition Game”

  1. Chris Alden, “IR202, Foreign Policy Analysis,” Dept of International Relations, LSE, Fall 2015/16.
  2. Felix Berenskoetter, “Identity in International Politics,” Fall 2013, SOAS, Dept of Politics and International Studies, University of London.
  3. Fabio Petito & Stefanie Ortmann, “G915M1: Geopolitics and Grand Strategy,” School of Global Studies,” Dept of International Relations, University of Sussex, United Kingdom.
  4. Josef Batora, “Theories of International Relations,” Comenius University, Bratislava.
  5. Vincent Pouliot, “POLI 575: Honours Seminar in International Relations, Culture and Identity in World Politics, Dept of Political Science, McGill University, Canada.
  6. Sergey Verigin, “Crucial Issues of Russian Political History,” Petrozavodsk State University, Russia.
  7. Dept of East-European Studies, University of Uppsala, Sweden.
  8. Matthew Krain, “PSCI 400: Tutorial on Diplomacy and Conflict Management,” Dept of Political Science, College of Wooster, USA.
  9. Ole Jacob Sending, “Global Environmental Governance.” Thor Heyerdahl Summer School, Norwegian University of Life Science, Norway.
  10. Defne Günay, INRL454 IDENTITY AND POLITICS, Yaşar Üniversitesi,Yaşar University, Izmir, Turkey.
  11. Marina Duque, “PS3910: Identity Politics,” Dept of Political Science, Ohio State University, USA.
  12. Marina Polugodina, “Economic History of Central-Eastern Europe,” Dept of Economics, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany.

“The Relevance of International Law”

  1. M. Rafiqul Islam, “International Law,” MacQuarie Law School, MacQuarie University, Australia.
  2. Felix Berenskoetter, “Identity in International Politics,” Fall 2013, SOAS, Dept of Politics and International Studies, University of London.

“Empowerment Among Nations”

  1. Joseph Nye, “Power in the 21st Century,” John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, USA.
  2. Mai’a K. Davis Cross, “HPUBD522: Hard Power, Soft Power and Smart Power,” Dept of Political Science, University of Southern California, USA.

“Audience for a Giraffe”

  1. Xin Chen, “East Asia in World History, 1500-present,” Dept of History and Classics, U of Alberta, Canada. Fall 2015.
  2. Veronika Miťková, “International Economics,” Comenius University, Bratislava, Slovakia.
  3. Erika Edwards, “LBST 2101-005: Global and Intercultural Connections, Africana Studies, University of North Carolina, USA.
  4. Elizabeth Brake, Fahad Bishara, Risha Druckman, Robert Penner, “Globalization: A Hitchhikers Guide to World Capitalism,” Dept of History, Duke University, USA.
  5. Whitney Walton, “HIST40602: Rebels and Romantics: Europe 1815-1870,“ Dept of History, Purdue University, USA.
  6. Richard Abels, United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland. HH215P, Western Civilization in a Global Context, to 1750: Ethics, Society & Culture, Spring 2007.
  7. Richard Abels, United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland. HH215 The West in the Premodern World, Spring AY2017.
  8. Michael Seth, “453: World History,” Dept of History, James Madison University, USA.
  9. Dr. Foray, “History 413: Europe in the Age of Empires,” Dept of History, Perdue University, USA.
  10. HIST 125, Dept of History, Arkansas Pine Bluff University, USA.
  11. SAST063, SAST006, SAST008: History of SouthEast Asia, University of Pennsylvania, USA.
  12. Monique O’Connell, “HST 106, Medieval World Civilizations,” Wake Forest University.
  13. Elizabeth Onasch, “SOC324: Global Capitalism,” Dept of Sociology, Northwestern University, USA.

“Nationalism: The Idiocy of Intimacy”

  1. Eric Gordy, “SSEESGS60: Empires, Nationalism and Communism: States and Societies of Southeast Europe,” School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London, United Kingdom.
  2. PS390, “Multiethnic States,” Sarajevo School of Science and Technology, Bosnia, 2008-2014.
  3. Eric Wood, “Introduction to Nationalism, Ethnicity and Religious Conflict” Birkbeck, U of London, 2012-13.

“Inter-textual Relations”

  1. Federico Merke, “Sistemática de las Relaciones Internacionales,” Dept of International Relations, Universidad del Salvador, Argentina.
  2. University of Louisville, USA, Fall 2015.
  3. Markus Fraundorfer, “Narratives in International Relations,” Institute of International Relations, University of Sao Paolo, Brazil.

“The Institutionalization of Modernity”

  1. German and Swedish 20th Century History in a Comparative Perspective,” Department of History, Uppsala University, Sweden.

“Terrorism, Francis Lieber and the American Way of War”

  1. Rosemary Anway, Terrorism, Hodges University, United States.

“Territory and Identity Crises”

  1. Ben-Gurion University, “Ethno-nationalism in Post-Soviet Societies,” Jerusalem, Israel.

“The International Politics of Recognition”

  1. PS3249: Singapore’s Foreign Policy,” National University of Singapore, Singapore.
  2. Claudius Wagemann, “Ringvorlesung Theorieparadigmen der Politikwissenschaft,” Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt, Germany.

“Modernity, Boredom and War”

  1. Oded Lowenheim, “Science Fiction and International Politics,” Dept of Political Science, Hebrew University, Israel.
  2. Oded Lowenheim, “Honors Seminar: New Topics in IR Research,” Dept of Political Science, Hebrew University, Israel.

“Reimagining Sweden: The Rhetorical Battle over EU Membership”

  1. SAS H64: Swedish History from a Nordic Perspective,” Dept of History, Lund University.
  2. Ragnar Björk & Heiko Droste, “Historia C,” Historiska institutionen, Södertörns Högskola.
  3. University of Wisconsin.
  4. Telhami, “POS 202: Foreign Policy Analysis,” Dept of Political Science, American University in Bulgaria, Sofia, Bulgaria.

Curriculum Vitæ

  • Born: December 10, 1960, Luleå, Sweden.
  • Citizenship: Swedish.
  • Address: Margaretavägen 3E, 222 40 Lund, Sweden.
  • Married, four children.
  • E-mail:
  • Twitter: @lingreigu
  • Languages: Swedish, English, French, Chinese, Japanese.
  • Wikipedia page, “Erik Ringmar” (English, Swedish, Bahasa Indonesia)


  • Filosofie doktor, Dept of Government, Uppsala University, Sweden. January 1997.
  • Doctor of Philosophy, Dept of Political Science, Yale University, New Haven, USA. Spring, 1993. (Committee: Alexander Wendt, James C. Scott, Walter Carlsnaes).
  • European University Institute, Florence, Italy, 1991-93. Dissertation work (supervisor: Alessandro Pizzorno).
  • Master of Philosophy, Dept of Political Science, Yale University, New Haven, USA, autumn, 1989.
  • Master of Arts, Dept of International Relations, Yale University, New Haven, USA, autumn, 1988.
  • Bachelor of Arts, University of Uppsala/ University of Stockholm, spring, 1985. With a concentration in political science and Japanese language.

Academic jobs:

  • Lund University, Lund, Sweden. Dept of Political Science, Associate Professor, Spring 2014 – present. “Introduction to Political Science,” “Comparative International Systems,” “Rationality, Emotions and War,” “Modern Society and Its Critics.”
  • University of Malmö, Malmö, Sweden; Mid-Sweden University, Sundsvall, Sweden. Adjunct Professor, Fall 2013. “Introduction to Political Theory”; “Introduction to International Politics,” “Democracy and Democratization.”
  • Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China. Zhi Yuan Chair professor of International Relations, School of International Public Administration. Spring 2011 – June 2014. Head of Department of International Relations. Courses on “Theories of International Relations,” “Introduction to International Politics,” “China’s Place in the World.”
  • New York University, Shanghai. Adjunct Professor, Fall 2012 – Spring 2013. Course on “Orientalism.”
  • Xinzhu Jiao Tong University, Taiwan, China. Professor, Institute of General Education and Institute of Social and Cultural Studies. Spring 2007 – Fall 2010. Convenor of courses on “International Relations and Organizations,” “Advanced Topics in International Politics,” “Global Political Economy,” “Orientalism,” “The State and Prosperity” and “Culture & Identities,” “Free Speech on the Internet,” and “Politics of Resistance.”
  • London School of Economics & Political Science, Dept of Government, London, United Kingdom. Michaelmas term, 1995 – 2007. Senior lecturer with tenure. Convenor of MSc and BSc courses on political economy, the history of political institutions, democracy, power, nationalism and ethnic conflict resolution.
  • London School of Economics & Political Science, Dept of Government, London, United Kingdom. Michaelmas term, 1998 – 2005. Convenor Master’s program in Comparative Politics with responsibility for student admissions.
  • London School of Economics & Political Science, LSE Summer School, London, UK, 1998 to 2006. Course proprietor ”Financial Institutions: History, Politics & Crises,” and ”Cultures of Capitalism: East and West Compared.”
  • University of Notre Dame, Adjunct professor, London campus, Spring 2003. “Introduction to Political Economy.”
  • University of Dalarna, Sweden, Visiting professor, September 2002. “Global Political Economy.”
  • Chulalongkorn University, Visiting professor at the Dept of International Relations, Bangkok, Thailand, 2001/02.
  • Swedish Institute of International Affairs, Stockholm, Sweden. January 1994 – September, 1995. Research fellow.
  • Yale University, New Haven, USA. Editorial Assistant, Journal of Conflict Resolution. January 1987 – December 1990.
  • Yale University, Dept of Political Science, New Haven, USA. Teaching Assistant, September 1989 – December 1990. Courses in international relations and political theory.

Selected awards and research projects:

  • Kaiyuan Excellent Teacher Award, Shanghai Jiaotong University, fall 2012.
  • National Science Council, Taiwan, China, research grant, 2007-2010.
  • Ministry of Education, Taiwan, China, Human Rights Education Award, November 2009.
  • National Jiao Tong University, Xinzhu, Taiwan, China. Distinguished Scholar Award, October 2007 – 2010.
  • MacArthur Foundation, Yale Dissertation Scholarship, 1988-89.
  • SAAB/ Sweden-America Foundation Scholarship, 1986-87.
  • Fulbright Foundation, Fulbright Scholarship, 1985-86.


  1. International Movements: The body politic on the world stage, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2018. 
  2. History of International Relations, Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, forthcoming 2018. 
  3. Liberal Barbarism: The European Destruction of the Palace of the Emperor of China, New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. Paperback 2015. 
  4. The Mechanics of Modernity in Europe & East Asia: The Institutional Origins of Social Change and Stagnation London: Routledge, 2005; paperback 2009. ISBN: 978-0415547703. Also published in paperback as Why Europe Was First: Social Change and Economic Success in Europe and East Asia, 1500-2050, London: Anthem Books, 2007. ISBN: 978-0415547703. 
  5. Surviving Capitalism: How We Learned to Live with the Market and Remained Almost Human London: Anthem Books, 2005. ISBN: 978-1843311751. In Korean translation, Seoul: Book & People Publishing Company, 2011. 
  6. Identity, Interest & Action: A Cultural Explanation of Sweden’s Intervention in the Thirty Years War Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. Paperback edition, 2006. ISBN: 978-0521026031.

Edited volume:

  1. Erik Ringmar & Thomas Lindemann, eds., The International Politics of Recognition. Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2012. Paperback, 2014.

Articles in peer-reviewed journals:

  1. The Problem with Performativity: Comments on the Contributions,” Journal of International Relations and Development, 21:1, 2018.
  2. What Are Public Moods?,” European Journal of Social Theory, Online First, October 20, 2017.
  3. ‘The Spirit of 1914’: A Redefinition and a Defense,” War in History, Online First, June 1, 2017.
  4. Comments on McCloskey and Weingast.” Scandinavian Economic History Review, 65:2, 2017. pp. 124-126.
  5. Outline of a Non-Deliberative, Mood-Based, Theory of Action,” Philosophia, Online First, February 2017.
  6. The Problem of the Modern Self: Imitation, Will Power and the Politics of Character,” International Political Anthropology, 9:1, May 2016.
  7. How the World Stage Makes Its Subjects: An Embodied Critique of Constructivist IR Theory,” Journal of International Relations and Development, Online First, September 28, 2015.
  8. The Search for Dialogue as a Hindrance to Understanding: Practices as Inter-paradigmatic Research Program,” International Theory, 6:1, 2014. pp. 1-27.
  9. On the Reality of Mental Constructs,” Global Discourse, 4:4, 2014.
  10. Recognition and the Origins of International Society,” Global Discourse, 4:4, 2014.
  11. How to Fight Savage Tribes’: The Global War on Terror in Historical Perspective,” Journal of Terrorism and Political Violence, 25:2, 2013. pp. 264-283.
  12. Imperial Vertigo and the Themed Experience: Yuanmingyuan and Disneyland Compared,” Human Geographies, 7:1, May 2013.
  13. Performing International Systems: Two East-Asian Alternatives to the Westphalian Order,” International Organization, 66:2, Winter, 2012.
  14. “Thinking Men and Ideals Betrayed: Bentham, Coleridge and British Imperialism in China in the Nineteenth Century,” Nineteenth Century Studies, vol 26, no. 1, 2012. pp. 101-114.
  15. with Jorg Kustermans, “Modernity, Boredom and War: A Suggestive Essay,” Review of International Studies, 37:4, October 2011.
  16. Malice in Wonderland: Dreams of the Orient and the Destruction of the Palace of the Emperor of China,” Journal of World History, 22:2, 2011. pp. 273-297.
  17. Francis Lieber, Terrorism, and the American Way of War,” Perspectives on Terrorism, vol. 3, no. 4, 2009.
  18. Inter-Textual Relations: The Quarrel over the War in Iraq as a Conflict between Narratives Types,” Cooperation and Conflict, 41:4, 2006. pp. 403-21.
  19. Liberal Barbarism and the Oriental Sublime: The European Destruction of the Emperor”s Summer Palace,” Millennium, 34:3, 2006. pp. 917-33. Published in Chinese translation as 壯美常理火燒圓明園, (Liberal Barbarism and the Oriental Sublime), Cultural Studies Quarterly (Taiwan), March 2006.
  20. Audience for a Giraffe: European Exceptionalism and the Quest for the Exotic,” Journal of World History, 17:4, December, 2006. pp. 353-97.
  21. The Recognition Game: Soviet Russia Against the West,” Cooperation and Conflict, no 2, 2002. pp. 115-36.
  22. Nationalism: The Idiocy of Intimacy,” British Journal of Sociology, 49:4, 1998.
  23. Reimagining Sweden: The Rhetorical Battle over EU Membership,” Scandinavian Journal of History, 23: 1/2, 1998.
  24. On the Ontological Status of the State,” European Journal of International Relations, 2:4, 1996. pp. 439-466.
  25. Relevance of International Law: A Hegelian Interpretation of a Peculiar 17th Century Preoccupation,” Review of International Studies, vol. 21, no. 1, 1995.
  26. Historical Writing and Rewriting: Gustav II Adolf, the French Revolution, and the Historians,” , 18:4, 1993.

Articles in edited volumes:

  1. Samuel Huntington and the American Way of War,” in The Clash of Civilizations: 25 Years On, edited by Davide Orsi, E-International Relations, 2018.
  2. The Great Wall of China Does Not Exist,” in Walling, Boundaries and Liminality: A Political Anthropology of Transformations, edited by Agnese Horvath, Marius Benta and Joan Davidson (London: Routledge, 2018)
  3. The Anti-Nomadic Bias of Political Theory,” in Nomad-State Relationships in International Relations: Before and After Borders, edited by Jamie Levin (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2018)
  4. Order in a Borderless World: Nomads Confront Globalization,” in Theorizing Global Order, edited by Gunther Hellman (Frankfurt: Campus, 2018)
  5. Heidegger on Willpower and the Mood of Modernity,” In Heidegger and the Global Age, edited by Antonio Cerella and Louiza Odysseos (Lanham, Rowman and Littlefield, 2018)
  6. Eugene Gendlin and the Feel of International Politics,” in Researching Emotions in International Relations: Methodological Perspectives on the Emotional Turn, edited by Maéva Clément and Eric Sangar (Springer, 2017)
  7. Attention and the Cause of Modern Boredom,” in Boredom Studies: Postdisciplinary Inquiries, edited by Michael E. Gardiner and Julian Jason Haladyn. London: Routledge, 2016.
  8. The Making of the Modern World,” International Relations: Beginner’s Guide, edited by Stephen McGlinchey. E-International Relations, 2016.
  9. Chinas Place in Four Recognition Regimes,” Recognition in International Relations: Rethinking an Ambivalent Concept in a Global Context, edited by Christopher Daase, Caroline Fehl, Anna Geis & Georgios Kolliarakis (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015)
  10. The RitualPerformance Problem in Foreign Policy Analysis: European Diplomats at the Chinese Court,” in Fredrik Bynander & Stefano Guzzini, eds. The Agency-Structure Problem and the Study of Foreign Policy: Essays in Honor of Walter Carlsnaes, (London: Routledge, 2012) pp. 68-80.
  11. Free Trade by Force: Civilization against Culture in the Great China Debate of 1857,” in Jozef Batora & Monika Mokre, eds. Culture and External Relations: Europe and Beyond (Ashgate: 2011)
  12. The International Politics of Recognition,” in Erik Ringmar & Thomas Lindemann, eds., The International Politics of Recognition. Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2010 .ISBN: 978-1594518096.
  13. “Metaphors of Social Order,” in Politics, Language and Metaphor, edited by Terrell Carver & Jernej Pikalo (New York: Routledge, 2008)
  14. Empowerment among Nations: A Sociological Perspective,” in Power in World Politics, edited by Felix Berenskoetter & M. J. Williams (London/New York: Routledge, 2007)
  15. The Power of Metaphor: Consent, Dissent & Revolution,” in Discourse, Identity and Politics in Europe, edited by Richard C. M. Mole (London: Palgrave, 2007) pp. 111-36.
  16. The Institutionalization of Modernity: Shocks and Crises in Germany and Sweden,” in Culture and Crisis: The Case of Germany and Sweden, edited by Lars Trägårdh and Nina Witozek (New York: Berghanh, 2002) pp. 24-42.
  17. ”Alexander Wendt: A Social Scientist Struggling with History,” in The Future of International Relations: Masters in the Making, edited by Iver B. Neumann & Ole Wæver (London: Routledge, 1997) ― in Chinese translation, 2011.
  18. ”Two Case Studies: the United States Leaves the ILO and Unesco,” (with Jens Bartelson), in The United Nations at Forty: International Cooperation in Crisis, edited by Bo Huldt and Maria Falk (Stockholm: Swedish Institute of International Affairs, 1985)

Review articles and book reviews:

Other academic articles:

  • Pontus Fahlbeck, tidsandan och folkrörelserna,” (“Pontus Fahlbeck, Popular Movements, and the Mood of the Times,”) Statsvetenskaplig tidskrift, 116:3, 2014:323-346. In Swedish.
  • “Performing International Relations,” Center for Policy Research and International Studies, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, working paper, 125/10, April, 2010.
  • “‘Wie man wilde Stämme bekämpft’: Der globale Krieg gegen den Terror in historischer Perspektive,” Osnabrücker Jahrbuch Frieden und Wissenschaft (Osnabrueck, V&R Press, 2009)
  • “Liberal Barbarism and Imperial Transgression,” Naked Punch, October, 2006.
  • “Critical Thinking as Institutionalised Practice: East and West Compared,” in Manusya, (Thailand) no. 1-2, 2001.
  • The International Politics of Recognition: Soviet Russia Against the West, 1917-1939, Stockholm: Swedish Institute of International Affairs, research report, no. 24, 1996.

Referencing (as of December 2017): 

Universities that use my work

Selected journalism:

Selected conferences and lectures (past five years):

  • “Boredom as a Public Mood.” Keynote address, Third International Boredom Conference, University of Warsaw, Poland. June 16-17, 2017.
  • “Gandhi, Home-rule and the Critique of Modernity,” South Asian Studies Student Association, Lund University, October 20, 2016; State-Making in the Nineteenth-Century. Dept of Political Science, Lund University, Sweden, May 19-20, 2016.
  • “Recognizing Recognition: A Research Program, and a Few Additional Thoughts,” Comenius University, Dept of Political Science, Bratislava, Slovakia, October 7, 2016.
  • “’The Huns are Coming’: Anti-Nomadic Prejudice in an Era of Globalization,” Central European University, Budapest, Hungary, October 5, 2016.
  • “History of International Relations: “China and East Asia,” and “The Muslim Caliphates,” Dept of International Relations, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary, October 4 and 6, 2016.
  • “Liberal Barbarism: Why Did the Europeans Destroy the Palace of the Emperor of China?” talk at the Center for East Asia Studies, Lund University, Jan 19, 2016; Swedish Institute of International Affairs, Sept 29, 2015; Dept of Political Science, U of Gothenburg, October 20, 2014; London School of Economics, May 21, 2014; School of Oriental and African Studies, May 22, 2014; University of Warwick, May 23, 2014; University of Michigan, October 2, 2012; New York University, October 4, 2012; Center for Cultural Sociology, Yale University, October 5, 2012.
  • “Heeding the Call of Being: Heidegger on Attention and Authenticity,” Heidegger in the Global Age, University of Sussex, Brighton, Oct 29-30, 2015.
  • “The theater, hypnosis and suggestibility,” Malmö Theater Academy, Malmö Sweden, Oct 8, 2015.
  • Discussant, “200 Years of Conference Diplomacy. From the Congress of Vienna to the G7 Meeting”, German Institute for International and Security Affairs, Berlin. June 8-9, 2015.
  • “Political Theory for Nomads,” Goethe Universität, Frankfurt, Germany, June 24, 2015; Comenius University, Bratislava, Slovakia, October 30, 2014.
  • “Performance, Not Performativity: An Embodied Critique of Post-Structural IR Theory,” Comenius University, Bratislava, Slovakia, October 30, 2014; Workshop on Agency and Performativity in International Relations, Goethe Universität, Frankfurt, Germany. February 21-22, 2014.
  • “What Are Public Moods?,” Dept of Political Science, Mid-Sweden University, Sundsvall, Sweden. Dec 20, 2013.
  • “The Dream of the China Market: In the 19th Century and Today,” Dept of Society and Globalization, Roskilde University, Denmark, Sept 4, 2013.
  • “Performing International Relations: Ontology, Recognition, Performativity,” Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, December 4, 2012; IDAS Conference, Chengchi University, Taipei, June 1, 2010; Dept of Public Administration, University of Macau, June 4, 2010; International Sociological Association, World Congress, Gothenburg, Sweden, July. 12, 2010; Shanghai Jiaotong University, China, Oct 21, 2010.
  • “Ourselves in the Other: China’s Place in Four Recognition Regimes,” Goethe Universität, Frankfurt, Germany, June 22-23, 2012.
  • “Practices, Performances, and How to Make War with a Hammer,” International Studies Association, San Diego, April 1-4, 2012.
  • The Remembering European Imperialism: The Memory of Humiliation in Contemporary China,” Johns Hopkins China Forum, Shanghai, Feb 28, 2012; Institute for Advanced Study in Social Sciences, Fudan University, Shanghai, November 21, 2011; ThinkIn China, Beijing, October 27, 2011.

Examiner, PhD examinations:

  1. Dept of Political Science, Goethe Universität, Frankfurt, Germany, October 12, 2017.
  2. Dept of Philosophy, University of Karachi, Pakistan, January 22, 2015.
  3. Dept of Political Science, University of Queensland, Australia, August 7, 2014.
  4. Dept of Political Science, University of Tampere, Finland, August, 2009.
  5. Dept of Government, LSE, United Kingdom, February 3, 2006.
  6. Dept of Political Science, University of Lund, Sweden, June 8, 1998.

External PhD supervision

  • Dept of Political Science, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark, March 2017-present.
  • Dept of Political Science, Goethe Universität, Frankfurt, Germany, January 2015-July 2017.

Other professional activities:

  • Member of the Editor Program, Nov 2015-present.
  • Reviewer of research projects for The European Science Foundation, October 2010; The Dutch Council for the Humanities, January 2011; The Research Foundation – Flanders, June 2017.
  • Reviewer of book manuscripts for Anthem Press, Cambridge University Press, Open Book Publishers, Polity Press, Sage, University College Dublin Press.
  • Reviewer of articles submitted to American Historical Review, American Journal of Cultural Sociology, Asian Perspective, British Journal of Politics and International Relations, British Journal of Sociology, Contemporary Sociology, Cooperation & Conflict, Eighteenth-Century Life, Ethnic and Racial Studies, European Journal of International Relations, Geoforum, Geopolitics, Human Geographies, International History Review, International Organization, International Political Sociology, International Relations, International Security, International Studies Review, International Studies Quarterly, International Theory, Japanese Journal of Political Science, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Journal of Culture and Technology, Journal of Development and International Relations, Journal of Politics, Millennium, Nations & Nationalism, Pakistan Journal of International Relations, Political Studies, Review of International Studies, Security Dialogue, Security Studies, Sociological Theory, Terrorism and Political Violence, and Third World Quarterly.
  • Faculty Fellow, Yale Center for Cultural Sociology, 2005 – present.
  • International Advisory Board, The Sage Handbook of the History, Philosophy and Sociology of International Relations.
  • Fellow at the Global Advisory Program, “Brain Korea 21 Plus,” Dept of Sociology, Yonsei University, Seoul, Korea.
  • Member of the International Advisory Board, Centre for Social Development Studies, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand. 2003 – present.
  • Member of the Editorial Board of Human Geographies, spring 2014 – present; Journal of International Relations and Development (JIRD), fall 2012 – present; Perspectives: The Review of International Affairs, 2009 – present; Pakistan Journal of International Relations, 2008-present.
  • Member of the Editorial Board of the book series on Media and Communication Studies at Anthem Press, London, UK. 2011 – present.
  • Conducted tenure review, Dept of Law, Singapore Management University, January 2013.
  • On the list of international referees, 1) BASR, University of Karachi, Pakistan. Jan 2015 – present; 2) Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan, March 2016 – present.
  • Examiner, MA theses, Zhejian University, Hangzhou, China, June 2012.
  • Member of the International Studies Association and the Heterodox Academy.

The parochialism of Swedish universities

One of the things made painfully obvious by the Judith Butler Affair is the parochialism of Swedish universities. Parochialism –“characterized by an unsophisticated focus on local concerns to the exclusion of wider contexts; elementary in scope or outlook” — is a condition that happens to anyone who is convinced that he or she has nothing to learn from others.

Judith Butler’s statement in defense of the right of university teachers to teach their own courses in their own fashion was eloquent and forceful, but it was not as such surprising. This is how all academics think, except Swedish ones. It is funny, but also sad, that my colleagues at Lund University were surprised by her words. It is sad, but also worrying, that no one seems to have protested against the quota system for reading lists until I came along. To me Butler’s points were obvious, but then again I have my education from the US and I spent a majority of my life working abroad. I always resisted being socialized into the Swedish system.

Consider what this means for international student recruitment. Today universities are constantly ranked. These rankings are crucial since they determine where students will spend their money. But it seems to me the existence or otherwise of academic freedom should feature as one of the variables that make up the metrics. Universities where academic freedom is assured give far better courses than universities where reading list are determined by committees. Taking this variable into account would produce more accurate rankings. Differently put, Lund University is today ranked far too high on these lists.

And when Swedish universities try to recruit foreign students, shouldn’t they tell them that what they are getting is not an education as such, but rather a Swedish education, a Swedish version of the world? Shouldn’t they be told, for example, that all courses in the social sciences will include a “gender perspective”? Combining ignorance with smug self-assurance, the Swedes don’t realize how limited their outlook is.

So what did the students think of my course?

By now we know what they make of my course in Germany, in France, in Norway even, but what did the students who actually took the course think of it? Courses at Lund University are evaluated by students and so was this one. Obviously, given the attention which “Modern Society and Its Critics” has attracted, there are problems interpreting the results. In addition only about half of the students responded (which, however, is normal at Lund U). Still, a certain pattern does emerge:

  • 66.7% of the students gave the course a “Very Good” grade (highest on a five point scale)
  • 86% of the students called the lectures and the seminars “Very Good” or “Excellent” (two highest on a five point scale)
  • All in all the course got a 4.2 point score on a 5 point scale, making it one of the best courses taught in the Political Science Department this semester.

Rather strangely, this assessment is very similar to what students told me last semester, before the course became a cause célèbre.  Here are a few individual comments:

  • “Without doubt the best course I’ve ever taken, bar none. Thank you for all the work you put into the course.”
  • “Few courses I’ve taken have been as thought provoking and interesting. A good combination of ideas and points of views. It is a shame it will not be given again.”
  • “It is the best course I’ve ever taken so I am very content.”

What were the best things about the course?

  • “The teachers. Their way of leading the discussions was very engaging.  Everyone had an opportunity to participate to the extent that they wanted.”
  • “The opportunity to discuss the material and have an open dialogue between teachers and students.”
  • “The enthusiasm of the teachers and their ability to include everyone in the discussions.”
  • “The material and the critical perspectives. The unusual material, the wide-ranging discussions.”

One student writes:

“I have now studied for two degrees at the university, one in law, the other in economics. Your class on “Modern Society and Its Critics” is the best course I’ve taken. The structure built around seminars for which you prepare by means of readings, podcasts and YouTube clips is brilliant. It is a perfect preparation for intellectual conversations where you can challenge and be challenged. This setup is lot more rewarding than standard lectures which provie summaries of textbooks.”

There was only one student who strongly disagreed. The course, this lone voice claimed, was “Very bad.” Oh well.

The complete results are here (in Swedish).

The Judith Butler on the “Judith Butler Affair”: “The method is wrong”

The latest issue of the Swedish magazine Kvartal has an interview with none other than Judith Butler herself. The Judith Butler. Pdf here.  In the interview she comments on the recent “Judith Butler Affair” at Lund University, on the use of gender quotas on reading lists, and discusses the role of academic freedom at a university. I am delighted to find that she agrees with my position on all of these issues. And not just half-heartedly either, but with gusto, with zest and with emphasis. Judith, you are the best!

I have promised the author of the article not to publish the whole English version of the interview here. Not surprisingly, he wants to find a more, well, prominent, place for it. But here, at least, are a couple of quotes:

How do you regard having your work imposed on a university lecturer in the name of gender equality?

JB: I am not in favor of my work being imposed by quotas. … Suggestions can be made about how to expand perspectives on gender, or which texts might be useful, but the final judgment has to be made by the faculty member. I am opposed to imposing specific texts and authors on faculty. I would myself reject any such attempt on the part of the administration, no matter the social goals that they seek to achieve through that method.  The method is wrong, and the goals cannot be achieved through coercion.

You have written several texts on academic freedom. Why is academic freedom important? 

JB:  Academic freedom is the protection that faculty have against administrative or state intervention in our research activities, the curricula for our courses, and our academic point of view. … Of course, we can, and ought to be, challenged when our work demonstrates prejudice, bias, or consequential blind-spots.  But that has to happen through conversation and public dialogue.  If it is imposed by a university authority, then that authority is augmented, and we expand the power of the administration to control what we teach.  What happens if the administration becomes a fascist one? Or what if it decides to ban feminist perspectives from the classroom?  If we give that power away, we suffer its consequences.

If not gender quotas, how should we work to achieve greater gender equality in our universities?

JB:  Quotas are a short-cut, and they cannot achieve the social justice goal.  Social justice is achieved through freedom, and any concept of social justice that denies freedom denies justice itself.  We know this from the struggle against censorship.  Equality and Freedom are equally important: freedom without equality is unjust; but so too is equality without freedom.  Let us hold in mind that complexity as we proceed.

Judith Butler provides strong support for my position on three issues. She too believes 1) that university teachers should not be required to teach specific texts; 2) reading lists should not be ruled by gender quotas; and 3) how courses are taught at a university should be decided by the teacher responsible, in accordance with professional standards, and not be dictated by outsiders. None of these three requirements are currently met at the Department of Political Science at Lund University.

Judith and I are in complete agreement. If you think I’m mistaken you will from now on have to tussle with the two of us.

Judith Butler om Statsvetenskapliga institutionen vid Lunds universitet

Det senaste numret av tidskriften Kvartal har en intervju med ingen mindre än Judith Butler själv. Hon talar om könskvotering av litteraturlistor, om vad hon tycker om det sätt på vilket hennes texter används av den statsvetenskapliga institutionen vid Lunds universitet, och om akademisk frihet i allmänhet. Läs artikeln här.  Eller klicka här för en pdf.

Några citat:

Jag anser inte att någon kurs ska påtvingas någon särskild författare, och jag tar avstånd från att mitt namn används på det sättet. Den akademiska friheten tillerkänner universitetslärare rätten att gestalta sina kurser i enlighet med det egna professionella omdömet.

Jag är motståndare till att man ålägger lärare att undervisa om specifika texter eller författare. Jag skulle själv avvisa alla sådana försök från institutionens sida, oavsett vilka samhälleliga mål man försöker uppnå med denna metod. Metoden är förkastlig, och målen kan inte uppnås genom tvång.

Akademisk frihet är universitetslärarnas skydd mot ingrepp från universitetsförvaltningens eller statens sida – ingrepp i vår forskning, våra kursplaner och vår vetenskapliga ståndpunkt. I många delar av världen är den också ett skydd mot religiösa institutioners ingrepp. Universitetslärare gör i det akademiska livet bedömningar på grundval av sin professionalitet och bildning, och ingen stat eller administrativ auktoritet kan ersätta detta omdöme.

Butler stöder mig på samtliga tre punkter. Precis som jag anser hon 1) att en lärare inte ska tvingas undervisa på viss litteratur; 2) kurslitteratur inte ska könskvoteras; 3) universitetslärare ska undervisa sina egna kurser på sitt eget sätt och i enlighet med professionella standards, inte utomståendes krav. Ingen av dessa tre punkter gäller för närvarande vid den statsvetenskapliga institutionen på Lunds universitet.

Jag och Judith är helt ense. De som tycker att jag har fel får från och med nu argumentera mot oss båda.