Tuesday, December 7, 2010

IR: the Stuff of "Smoke and Heat of Epistemology" (Wendt)

15 weeks.  105 days.  6,300 minutes.  (Approximately.)  And the semester is over!!  Though we can measure time, it is always amazing by the speed at which it flies.

Its outcomes are pretty unpredictable, too.  Our last world politics class was not what I was expecting (at the beginning of the year, or even a few weeks ago).  Presumptuously, I think I envisioned that our class would know a good deal about World Politics.  Maybe on the last day we would go over the merits of the different themes we discussd, speculate about the future, and eat some Georgetown cupcakes.  Instead, we spent the last day as most IR scholars, politicans, and theorists do:  debating, which is a completely valid ending to the semester because it just shows that IR waits for no agenda and its "problems" never end, especially because the answers are debatable.

The simulation itself was challenging, but a good challenge, nevertheless.  I had never participated in simulations or much debate-style learning before this class, but it was an enjoyable (and at times frustrating) way to put opinions on the "table."  Though I would have favored being a different interest group, it was rather self-reflective to be the United States.  Though some groups groaned that our topic was "easier," there was a lot of research to delve into why the U.S. acts as it does and what actions have (not) upheld such policies.  Because the goals of the development conference were based on the Washington consensus, it became difficult to priortize and validate which were the U.S.'s most sound objectives.  We also had to determine how much to act in our own interests or how much to compromise for the interest of developing countries.  Ironically, for being a country of "free speech," our group did notice its lack of "loudness," per say.  This put us in an interesting position because the U.S. as hegemon typically is regarded for an opinion on important matters, as happened during the simulation.  Yet, our group learned to collaborate, each becoming an expert in his/her own policy.  Without a "spokesman," we were forced to synthesize our information, speak, and become more actively involved in the debate.

Consequently, I do regret that I did not always express my opinions in class... because that is all they are, opinions.  Whether tangents or completely valid, it is always good to add new voices to a discussion because if not, it has a tendency to circumlocute.  However, this class definitely helped me re-think how I structure arguments and their accompanying logic.

Though I am no expert in the field of IR, I guess none of us are.  Some have more political backgrounds or are better tuned into current events, but as a few of us lamented in the beginning of the semester, we were taking the course in order to learn.  And we did.  Through the living-learning community, labs, and class discussions, again, World Politics = Life.

Concluding, World Politics did become a great introduction to SIS and AU in general.  Its overview of many topics (development, poverty, sovereignty, terrorism) made me question current issues as well as which aspects I might want to pursue in the future.  Though I cannot definitely tell you whether I am a realist, liberal, or constructivst (but hey, at least I know what those things are [though, I may side with a more constructivist/realist mix], I can side with the constructivist doctrine of change.  Thanks to World Politics, my social reality is no longer the same.

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