Tuesday 9 October 2012

Materialism and World Politics Conference: ANT and IR, Offshore

I finished my paper for the upcoming Materialism and World Politics conference hosted by the Millennium journal at the LSE over the weekend. Apparently papers are going to be posted on the conference website but I've posted mine below anyway (also available here). My paper is for the Theory Talks panel on 'Accounting for Symmetries in the International.'

The paper explores the benefits of Actor-Network Theory for International Relations by taking up the case of 'offshore' in general and offshore financial markets in particular.  I take ANT to be a social ontology (that makes things themselves social) and a spatial topology (that defines space by connection between elements, not in terms of an abstract container).  I find that what I call 'absolute' conceptions of space are intimately bound up with social/material dualism and that offshore can only be consistently, symmetrically and materially understood through ANT's 'network' space.  I conclude that ANT has great potential for IR but we need to avoid, as John Law argues, naturalising any one spatial topology.  My case study indicates a strong future for ANT in IR but, moreover, I suggest that IR could benefit ANT insofar as, in many ways, it does not fit its ontological and methodological presuppositions (and therefore it challenges them).