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Report: Global IR and Regional Worlds - A New Agenda for International Studies

International Studies Association Annual Convention 2015, in New Orleans

Apr 20, 2015

Reception in the Versailles Ballroom

ISA exhibitor hall in Grand Ballroom
Image Credit: New Orleans Convention Photography; Linda Reineke Homepage

Tanja A. Börzel & Thomas Risse

Tanja A. Börzel & Thomas Risse
Image Credit: New Orleans Convention Photography; Linda Reineke Homepage

Catherine Craven & Tanja A Börzel

Catherine Craven & Tanja A. Börzel
Image Credit: New Orleans Convention Photography; Linda Reineke Homepage

The 56th ISA Annual Convention, which was held in New Orleans from 18-21 February, 2015, certainly left an impression with many of its over 5000 attendees, not only for its spectacular timing. Despite below-average temperatures, Mardi Gras was still in full swing when scholars and practitioners from various fields of international studies began flocking to the crescent city from all across the world. Consequently, the sight of be-beaded and (at best) semi-sober carnival tourists, mingling with women and men in more conventional conference garb in the lobby of the Hilton New Orleans Riverside, was certainly one to be seen.

Without doubt, and aside from its extraordinary setting, the conference proved a remarkable scholarly event. This year’s theme “Global IR and Regional Worlds - A New Agenda for International Studies”, selected by Amitav Acharya (American University - his 2014 presidential address can be read here), brought together political scientists, IR Scholars, sociologists, ethnographers, historians and policy-makers to discuss, among other themes, the future of non-Western International Relations scholarship. Of course, the widening of the central KFG research questions in our newest funding period is also a reflection of this ongoing global discussion. By increasingly focusing on the diffusion of ideas, policies and institutions beyond Europe and the effect of external influences on the EU, KFG fellows and alumni were more than ever equipped to present their work in numerous panels and workshops across the convention.

In this vein, the first convention day began with contributions by KFG-alumni on topics of European Diplomatic Practices and the EU’s impact on Migration, and continued on Thursday with a panel consisting of KFG-alumni Daniel P. Berliner (University of Minnesota) and director Tanja A. Börzel, titled “International Diffusion Meets Domestic Politics: From Global to Local in Norm Adoption and Implementation”. Later that day, KFG-fellows Wiebke Wemheuer-Vogelaar and Ingo Peters discussed “How the Search for ‘Non-Western IR’ led to a Reflection of the ‘Self’: (Un)Learning IR in and Beyond the Classroom” at a roundtable event. Thursday afternoon was then filled with a high-caliber panel on Comparative Regionalism, led by KFGs own Thomas Risse, Tanja A. Börzel as well as associated fellows Jeffrey Checkel (Simon Fraser University) and Sören Stapel (Freie Universität Berlin). Finally, Saturday saw a presidential theme roundtable on “Emerging Powers and the Diffusion of Ideas and Norms in International Security” led by Etel Solingen (UC Irvine) and May-Britt Stumbaum (Freie Universität Berlin), who both closely cooperate with our Research College. Thus, over four days, the KFG was represented in well over 25 panels, roundtables and workshops by roughly 20 current fellows and alumni, a turnout which not only speaks to the relevance of our cutting-edge research projects, but also for our efforts to provide our fellows with a dynamic and well-connected working environment.

For those who did not manage to see KFG fellows live and in action during their various academic talks, the ISA exhibitor hall, in the Hilton’s uniquely decorated Grand Ballroom, provided ISA participants with an opportunity to learn about the KFG, its fellowship and funding programs, and to pick up copies of recent Working Papers and Book publications. With over 96 booths set up in the exhibitor hall, we were happy to connect with many of our long-term publishing partners, such as Palgrave and Cornell University Press, and KFG-staff were particularly grateful for the steady supply of cake and caffeine through various sponsored coffee breaks inside the hall.

Finally, a definite ISA highlight for the KFG this year was the reception and poster presentation, organized in cooperation with the Collaborative Research Center “Governance in Areas of Limited Statehood”. On Thursday night, the aptly (or perhaps clumsily?) named “Versailles Ballroom” played host to over 350 guests, including many old and new friends and fellows of the KFG. Excitement was in the air, as the doors opened to reveal a delicious display of local culinary delights, and for many it proved an opportunity to reconnect with transnational colleagues, mull over intractable research problems, or celebrate the long anticipated publication of an edited volume. The evening progressed with a short presentation by the KFG-directors and ended in a plethora of newly diffused research ideas and collaboration plans. We could not have hoped for more.

Earlier that night, and as a prelude to the ISA Annual Convention 2016 in Atlanta, the presidential address titled “An Agenda for Peace, Not Conflict, Research” was given by Paul Diehl (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), who will be holding the office from 2015-16.

In sum, there is little doubt that on top of the countless fruitful scholarly exchanges, a lingering celebratory atmosphere of Mardi Gras, and the famous southern hospitality of the people of New Orleans, added to the success of the 2015 ISA Annual Convention and provoked acting ISA President Amitav Acharya to tweet that it was, in fact, “the best for a very long time”. We wholeheartedly agree and look forward to seeing you in Atlanta next year!

By Catherine Craven