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Rethinking Teaching and Learning about International Relations


Funded by the British International Studies Association, this project aims to produce a new framework for teaching introductory courses on International Relations.

International Relations syllabi and course design matter. When instructors teach students how to think about IR, we present powerful narratives about what the world looks like and what matters. Yet introductory international relations courses tend to adopt remarkably similar formats; most are structured around “-isms,” concepts, and theoretical debates (Agathangelou and Ling 2004; Hobson 2012; Schmidt 1998; Vitalis 2015). The majority of textbooks mirror this structure. Diverse critical, feminist, post-colonial, constructivist, post-structural, post-positivist, indigenous, decolonial and Afro-centric approaches offer welcome alternatives to the “House of IR” (Agathangelou and Ling 2004). Yet instructors often add these important critiques to existing IR syllabi in ways that expand disciplinary theoretical silos. Thus, instead of providing a radical reframing of the field, our courses often present critical theoretical approaches as a “cacophony of different voices” (Hermann 1998).

How might we teach undergraduate IR courses differently? Is it possible to provide an introductory framing of the field that does not reproduce the “House of IR” or set up critical approaches as intellectual silos? What narratives could we use to bind such an introductory module together? Is it possible to design an innovative and critical introductory overview module that brings together a range of approaches within IR while still maintaining intellectual coherency?

The purpose of this project is to answer these questions and to develop a new framework for teaching International Relations.

ContactProf Ilan Baron