WEBINAR | IR Theory for a World of Anxiety by Prof Bahar Rumelili

Minghua Tay's picture
January 7, 2021
Subject Fields: 
Diplomacy and International Relations, Political Science, Political History / Studies

DATE & TIME OF EVENT : 7 January 2021, 16:00 - 17:00 (Singapore Time)
VENUE : Online via Zoom
WEBSITE : https://ari.nus.edu.sg/events/20210107-bahar-rumelili/


Dr Sabina Insebayeva, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore


Political theorists and philosophers have long paid attention to anxiety as an emotion distinct from fear, and in this talk, I argue that IR theory needs to do the same. For some time, the uncertainties surrounding the future of the world economy, the unforeseeable terrorist attacks, the unexplainable lure of radical fundamentalist ideologies, and unexpected shocks to global governance, have been evoking a pervasive anxiety about what we do not know and what we cannot control, rather than the fear of a specific and known enemy. Today, the COVID-19 crisis, as an unanticipated development par excellence, has not only put our lives at risk but also unsettled our sense of ontological security, which, as Giddens (1991) defines, is a basic trust in the continuity of our Being and surroundings in the context of existential unknowns. I argue that anxiety that is generated through such encounters with the unknowability and uncontrollability of the future motivates a form of politics that is different from the politics of fear, which has been the predominant focus of IR theory thus far.

In this talk, I first turn to existentialist philosophy where anxiety has found its most focused and elaborate treatment to highlight anxiety’s distinction from and relation to fear, multiple forms, and links with freedom and agency. I, then, develop two pathways of integrating anxiety into IR theory. Building on the relationship between anxiety and fear, the first identifies anxiety as a constitutive condition, which serves as the main driver of egoism and power competition in the Hobbesian state of nature. The second identifies anxiety as a recurrent public mood, with the distinct effects of anxiety on international relations are intermittently manifest and enhanced, in periods and contexts where we are collectively attuned to the world in anxiety.


Bahar Rumelili is Professor and Jean Monnet Chair at the Department of International Relations, Koc University, Istanbul. Her research has focused on identity and ontological security theory, processes of European identity construction, conflict resolution, and the interaction between the EU and Turkish politics and civil society. She is the author of Constructing Regional Community and Order in Europe and Southeast Asia (Palgrave, 2007) and the editor of Conflict Resolution and Ontological Security: Peace Anxieties (Routledge 2015). Her articles have appeared in journals such as European Journal of International Relations, Review of International Studies, Journal of Common Market Studies, Security Dialogue, and Journal of International Relations and Development among others. She is the 2009 recipient of Turkish Academy of Sciences’ Distinguished Young Scientist Award and the 2014 recipient of Turkish Scientific and Technological Research Council’s Incentive Award.


Admission is free. We would greatly appreciate if you complete the registration form at https://ari.nus.edu.sg/events/20210107-bahar-rumelili/, and we will email you prior to the event for the webinar link.