Dialogue and discovery: In search of international relations theories beyond the west

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Scholars of International Relations (IR) increasingly realise that their discipline, including its theories and methods, often neglects voices and experiences outside of the West. But how do we address this problem and move the discipline forward? While some question whether 'Western' and 'non-Western' (or 'post-Western') are useful labels, there are also other perspectives, including those who believe in the adequacy of existing theories and approaches, those who argue for particular national 'schools' of IR, and those who dismiss recent efforts to broaden IR theory as 'mimicry' in terms of their epistemological underpinnings. After reviewing these debates, this article identifies some avenues for further research with a view to bringing out the global heritage of IR. These include, among other things, paying greater attention to the genealogy of international systems, the diversity of regionalisms and regional worlds, the integration of area studies with IR, people-centric approaches to IR, security and development, and the agency role of non-Western ideas and actors in building global order. I also argue for broadening the epistemology of IR theory with the help of non-Western philosophies such as Buddhism. While the study of IR remains dominated by Western perspectives and contributions, it is possible to build different and alternative theories which originate from non-Western contexts and experiences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)619-637
Number of pages19
JournalMillennium: Journal of International Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2011


  • Area studies and international relations
  • Buddhist philosophy and international relations
  • Global south
  • History of international systems
  • Non-western international relations theory
  • Philosophy of science and international relations
  • Regionalism
  • Third world


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