Interpretive Scholarship in Contemporary International Relations

Xymena Kurowska


Interpretive International Relations (IR) has become a robust and diverse research programme, consolidating across various subfields of the discipline. However, this is a recent phenomenon. While early classical realists and English School scholars clearly drew on interpretive thought, these contributions did not coalesce into a welldefined and specifically interpretive research agenda. The ‘interpretive turn’ in social sciences and humanities in the 1970s and epistemological pluralisation of political science and IR in the 1990s slowly made space for interpretive theory and research. This paper reconstructs, first, what makes interpretive IR distinct, and, second, what it means to engage in interpretive inquiry in this field, conceptually and substantively. It discusses in particular the implications of the monist ontological position that interpretivists tend to occupy and the conditions of knowledge production within the hermeneutical circle. These reject the possibility of transcending the context and bring to bear the researcher’s involvement in knowledge production as inevitable but generative. The paper also explicates the still poorly understood concept of ‘intersubjectivity’ as being defining for the interpretivist sensibility and one which directly contests positivist ideals. Interpretive IR scholarship serves as a veritable showcase for interpretive research practice, and points to the growing significance and volume of such scholarship.

Słowa kluczowe: interpretivism, International Relations, intersubjectivity, contextualism, reflexive methodology

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