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School of Government & International Affairs

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‘Informal Empires, Past and Present’:2nd Annual Durham International Affairs Conference

1st April 2009, 09:30 to 2nd April 2009, 17:00, The Al-Qasimi Building, Elvet Hill Road, Rm 102

Confirmed speakers: Dibyesh Anand, Dmitry Sidorov and Dmitry Shlapentokh.

2nd Annual Durham International Affairs Conference
1st & 2nd April, 2009
Durham University, UK

Keynote speaker: Dr Dibyesh Anand 'Paradox of Postcoloniality: Empires in a post-Western World'

(see Biography below)

DIAC is an annual conference organised by postgraduate students with the aim of bringing together academics of international standing with early career researchers and promising postgraduates. Its aim is to promote the study of highly relevant yet under-theorised aspects of international affairs. The Durham International Affairs Conference 2008 (‘The Politics of Virtual States') was hugely successful. In keeping with the larger theme of extra-territoriality, DIAC 2009 will examine the enduring question of Informal Empires, which are broadly defined as historical and contemporary forms of political organization not governed by modern principles such as nationalism or geopolitics but rather social principles derived from ethics, faith, language, and symbolism.


In modernist IR there is an assumption that Informal Empire has been obliterated by the rise of something called ‘international society' in a kind of Darwinian natural selection. Yet the organisational power of international society may already be passed its zenith. Most of the ‘new' powers of the 21st centuries are in fact returning powers whose historical experience with Empire had been tangible. Much of the politics of traditional empires, and certainly their discourse, was concerned with the idea of civilization, and in particular sustaining the boundary between civilization and the barbarians beyond. Rome, China, Arabia, Iran, Ottomans, Russia, and Mughals were all empires of this kind.

Globalisation can itself be seen as a form of ‘informal empire' and it is no coincidence that problems of co-existence have arisen between the established guardians of international society, especially the United States, and the resurgent powers in this era. So the tensions, and potential contradictions, between informal empire and international society are not only a historical question but also a contemporary one. IR is attempting to explain the dual role of these resurgent actors by reference to soft or cultural power, compared with hard or technical power; but does this under-estimate or mis-categorise their significance?

DIAC 2009 will examine these questions through consideration of the nature of Informal Empire and its relationship to a modernist, ‘western' international society. It will also examine the specific experience of some of the resurgent powers as they negotiate between a civilizational past and a globalising future.

In keeping with DIAC's cross-disciplinary theme, we invite submissions which will examine these issues and concepts through the varied lenses of IR, politics, sociology, law, history and anthropology (and, of course, the many relevant sub-fields within each).

Bio: Dr Dibyesh Anand is a Reader in international relations at Centre for the Study of Democracy, Westminster University. His publications are in the areas of Global Politics, Postcolonial world, Tibet, China, Hindu nationalism, and Security. He is the author of Geopolitical Exotica: Tibet in Western Imagination (University of Minnesota Press, 2007), Tibet: A Victim of Geopolitics (Routledge, 2008), and Hindu Nationalism in India and the and Politics of Fear (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). He is currently working on his book China's Tibet (Under Contract), a research project on Sino-Indian border regions, multi-ethnicity in Tanzania and majority-minority relations in India and China. More details can be read at https://exdurf.dur.ac.uk/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://www.wmin.ac.uk/sshl/page-2602

To attend, please fill in the registration form on this site and email to addresses shown before 15 March.

Contact diac.2009@durham.ac.uk for more information about this event.

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