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The interpretation of global politics: methods and epistemologies after the...

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The Australian National University

Hedley Bull Building #130

Canberra, ACT 0200


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The ANU School of Politics and International Relations is proud to host the international conference The Interpretation of Global Politics: methods and epistemologies after the event.

The conference will be held at the Australian National University on 2-3 November 2017.

Additional information and a full conference program will be posted in the near future. Should you have any questions in the interim please contact the conference convenors April Biccum and Carlos Morreo or email

In the era of ‘post-truth’ and electoral outcomes that don’t follow the seductions of quantification (Merry 2016), it might be appropriate to return to discussions of the ‘event’ in the Derridean sense —that which always exceeds calculation and prediction (Derrida 2007). In the twentieth century, the social sciences turned, and turned again, and the politics of knowledge have remained unsettled. If the twentieth century saw the challenge to classical knowledge paradigms in the form of critical, social, post-structuralist, post-colonial and ‘post-modern’ interventions, the tables were quickly turned by a series of methodological counter-reformations, begun in the mid-century with the Popperian and ‘rational choice’ programs in Anglo-American political science and the growing prestige of economics. Adherents to these broad churches laid down the methodological gauntlet, facilitating a growth industry of texts, handbooks and training manuals for graduate students and researchers, the development of formal methodological organisations, conferences and journals. This debate clearly designated as ‘interpretivist’ anything not regarded as ‘positivist’ or ‘causal’ social science. Scholars in the ‘interpretivist’ camp, broadly defined, have in turn responded with their own treatises and texts addressing constructivism, hermeneutics, assemblage, and discourse, both within the disciplinary literatures of politics (Yanow and Schwartz-Shea 2006, Klotz and Lynch 2007, Brady and Collier 2010, Jackson 2011) and well beyond (Pryke, Rose et al. 2003, Law 2004, Latour 2005, Steinmetz, Adams et al. 2005).

Today, amid the popular appeal of ‘big data’ and the promise of further quantification, similar challenges to the role of interpretation in research are being rehearsed. In turn, the call for pluralism has been heard by disciplinary gatekeepers with the response of ‘mixed methods’. In the context of unprecedented global events, the self-assurance of science in the social sciences may again be on the back foot. The conference, therefore, calls for investigation into the value of interpretation as method, interrogating what it means to ‘interpret’ the political.

The conference aims to:

provide a space to debate and formulate what is fundamental about interpretivist approaches and what they contribute to the social sciences

provide a showcase of interpretative methods in the social sciences

create a space for cross-disciplinary conversation and collaboration

consolidate a domestic network and create links with Australian and international scholars

create an opportunity for the professionalisation of post-graduates

In this vein, the call for papers is seeking contributions which

demonstrate the purpose of interpretative methods in a variety of disciplinary settings

address the methodological debates from the perspective of non-European, Indigenous, Post- and de-colonial approaches

expound on interpretivism’s relevance for specific research projects

emphasise the diversity of methodologies or approaches within ‘interpretivism’, e.g. post-structuralism, critical realism, etc.

engage in contemporary debates concerning the role of interpretation in philosophy of science or science and technology studies (STS)

place ‘interpretivism’ in dialogue with theoretical frameworks that challenge the assumptions of a single ontology such as ‘multinaturalism’, ‘pluriversality’, etc.

reflect on the relevance of methods of interpretation to contemporary global politics

engage in ‘mixed methods’ research which expand or problematise the dichotomy between ‘positivist’ and ‘interpretivist’

Keynote Speaker

Professor Dvora Yanow

Wageningen University, The Netherlands

About Dvora Yanow

A political/policy/organizational ethnographer and interpretive methodologist, I teach and research topics that take up the generation and communication of knowing and meaning in policy and organizational settings. I am a Guest Professor in Wageningen University’s Department of Social Sciences’ Communication, Philosophy, and Technology Sub-Department (The Netherlands) and am currently exploring state-created categories for race-ethnic identity, immigrant integration policies, and citizen-making practices; research ethics and their regulatory policies; practice studies; and science/technology museums and the idea of science. Interpretive Research Design (2012), with Peregrine Schwartz-Shea, launched our co-edited Routledge Series on Interpretive Methods; our co-edited Interpretation and Method is out in a second edition.

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