Research Projects

My research agenda beyond my first book reflects my interests in South-South relations, security-development nexus, postcolonial theory, and post-Western International Relations. Some of the projects I am excited to be working on include theorizing International Relations concepts from Global South perspectives, and extrapolating from my work on China-Africa to understand post-Western perspectives on hegemony, development, and power relations.

Working Papers

(with Ilaria Carrozza) South-South Knowledge Production and Hegemony: Searching for Africa in Chinese IR Theories

Abstract

There is a growing community of International Relations (IR) scholars who argue for the importance of investigating Global South approaches to IR scholarship, making room for theories and concepts that challenge the discipline’s Eurocentricity, and debating the merits and pitfalls of globalizing IR by including perspectives from various Global South locations. In addition to acknowledging this existing critical scholarship that aims at resisting mainstream epistemologies and methodologies of knowing and doing IR, this article’s central contribution is to probe the epistemic hegemony and knowledge production hierarchies that are emerging from within the Global South. The article does not seek to uncover the truth about the representation of Global South actors by Global South IR communities. Instead, it is interested in demonstrating how epistemic hegemony and knowledge production hierarchies do not exist only in relationships of exclusion and Othering but also in relations of inclusion and Selving. We illustrate our argument with an analysis of the representations of ‘Africa’ in China-based IR intellectual communities. We find that Chinese discourses on solidarity, friendship, community, and shared history lead to a narrative of sameness and Selving whereby Chinese postcolonial experiences are taken to be expandable and applicable to other developing states, making Chinese perspectives seem representative of others, thereby silencing and representing African voices at once.

What’s in a Gift? Theorizing Generosity-as-Diplomacy in the Global South

Abstract

Giving aid and humanitarian assistance have long been observed to be a tool of power projection by big and small states alike. In fact, (foreign) aid is typically viewed as a material set of gifts donated by strong(er) actors and received by weaker ones. However, this paper starts from the premise that this hierarchy in aid is mostly correct when understanding aid diplomacy from a narrower material/tangible givings. The paper challenges this by shifting the focus to examining gifts cultivated and presented in shapes other than material, by analyzing gifts as networks, favors, and by placing them in a different temporal dimension than the typical short time horizon along which aid diplomacy and gift reciprocation are examined. Building on work in critical theories in International Relations, affect studies, and non-Western thought, this paper argues for broadening our conceptualization of aid (or gift exchanges) in these three interrelated ways: 1) including non-material gifts when considering diplomatic gift exchanges, 2) broadening the temporal horizon to take into account that the circulation of gifts (assistance/aid) does not have to occur on a timeline of immediate reciprocity, and 3) recognizing that it can be formal (states/institutions/organizations) as well as informal exchange settings (grassroots, spontaneous acts of solidarity and so on).

Pixelated Politics: China’s Visual Propaganda from the Cultural Revolution to the CPC’s 100th Anniversary 

Abstract

The 100th anniversary of the CPC was celebrated on July 1st of 2021 with hundreds of state official events, parade festivities, a new museum inauguration, speeches by Xi Jinping, as well as a torrent of Chinese state-issued propaganda materials. Such anniversaries are typically important moments for domestic and foreign narratives of Chinese nationalism and pride. The use of propaganda materials (posters, cartoons, catch-phrases) is not a new vehicle of narrating and shaping identity for Beijing. In fact, Big Character posters (also known as Dazibao) have been a part of China’s self-narrative as well as a political and disciplining tool since the Cultural Revolution during Mao’s rule. In this paper I examine, using visual IR frameworks, over thirty propaganda posters related to Chinese foreign relations in the 1960s. Through the analysis, I seek to understand who and what was the audience of these international solidarity propaganda posters as the CCP was at the time both incurring internal leadership struggles and promoting messaging about anti-imperial solidarity with the developing world. The second part of the paper reflects on the contemporary tools of propaganda used in the Xi Jinping era in comparison with the so-called Mao-cult created through the use of dazibao.

African Studies in the U.S.: De-Pathologizing the Field  (with Oumar Ba), Revise and Resubmit

Abstract

Institutions, disciplinary practices, scholarly networks, and funding incentives constrain African Studies both in the classroom and on the field. We argue that the booms and busts of the vitality of Africa to the U.S. military agenda and national security has an important influence on the state of the field. Areas of study and research portfolios are prioritized as a function of the needs and interests of funding incentives. This, in turn, has an impact on the relationships between: Africanist researchers and policy makers; researchers and communities in the field; and researchers and their students. The increasing militarization of African Studies in U.S academe reinforces the pathologization of the continent by not only changing the order of importance of topics researched or taught in African Studies, but also incentivizing scholars to engage in research from an interventionist problem-solving, policy-driven approach. This article examines the link between the U.S. imperial posture and the relevance of social scientists as contracted experts on African cultures and politics.

Ongoing Research

Political Nostalgia and the Empire to be (ongoing project)

(with Dan Large) China’s Security Strategy in Mali (ongoing project)

 

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