The ‘field’ in the age of intervention: Power, legitimacy, and authority versus the ‘local’

Oliver P. Richmond, Stefanie Kappler, Annika Björkdahl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


This article highlights the semantic and socio-political meaning of the ‘field’ as it is used in both academic research and policy practices: as a geographic and material space related to forms of intervention in International Relations (IR), and not as a disciplinary space. We argue that the notion of the ‘field’ carries colonial baggage in terms of denoting ‘backwardness’ and conflictual practices, as well as legitimising the need for intervention by peacebuilding, statebuilding, and development actors located outside the field. We also show how academic practices have tended to create a semiotic frame in which the inhabitants of the research and intervention space are kept at a distance from the researcher, and discursively stripped of their agency. Along similar lines, policy-practice has reinforced the notion of the field as being in need of intervention, making it subject to external control. This article suggests that the agency of the inhabitants of the field has to be re-cognised and de-colonised so that political legitimacy can be recovered from ‘intervention’.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-44
Number of pages22
JournalMillennium: Journal of International Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2015.


  • Agency
  • Intervention
  • Power
  • Research methodology
  • Semantics


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