April 14, 2015, Cairo – For the first time in its history, the International Studies Association (ISA) has awarded an Arab scholar, Bahgat Korany, professor of international relations and political economy at The American University in Cairo (AUC) and director of the AUC Forum, the Global South 2015 Award, during the 56th annual convention in New Orleans in March. “Bahgat Korany's welcome recognition by the ISA Global South caucus symbolizes the increasing limitations of US-dominated IR discipline and the imperative of recognizing and welcoming those 'other' perspectives which are in fact the new mainstream. AUC should be proud of such an eminent, respected and appreciated 'senior' professor, a cherished global citizen. We all express our indebtedness to Bahgat and his analyses/networks, as recognized through this timely award,” said Professor Timothy Shaw, director of the Governance-Human Security program at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and former director of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London, who introduced Korany in the award ceremony.The ISA was founded in 1959 to connect scholars and practitioners in fields of international studies and aims to promote research and education in international affairs. ISA has over 6000 members in North America and around the world and cooperates with 57 international studies organizations in over 30 countries. The Global South Caucus is a caucus of the ISA, which is the premier association of scholars and academically-oriented practitioners in international affairs and is dedicated to promoting international studies scholarship and research on the global south, a relatively neglected area within international relations scholarship.
“I am very honored, as this is the first time this award is given to someone from the Arab world,” said Korany. In his acceptance speech of the award Korany highlighted how the field of international relations doesn’t reflect the world we live in, although - by definition- it is supposed to be the most universal and representative field. “In 1977, Harvard Professor Stanely Hoffmann criticized international relations as being "an American social science,” almost as American as an apple pie. About 40 years later, has this situation changed?” Korany asked.
Korany argued in his speech that the situation has not changed, referring to his thorough analysis of 14 textbooks of the most frequently used and his own analysis of two recent handbooks of international relations, published in 2008 and 2013 by major publishers: Sage and Cambridge University Press. “These amount to 77 chapters totaling 1649 pages, written by 91 authors of the most established shapers of the field. As known, handbooks mirror a field and also shape its evolution. The contents of these handbooks, in addition to the 7762 references used show that this field is anachronistic and parochial. Worse, it tends to be incestuous --as the authors tend to cite each other in an essentially Anglo-Saxon field,” he said.
Korany also believes that the international relations as a discipline tends to speak in English, “even American English. Influential world problems such as development issues, impact of religion on international behavior, specific foreign policy decision-making patterns outside the West are marginalized or squarely by-passed. The field got interested in Al-Qaeda only after 9/11, even though this non-state organization was spreading from Yemen to the Sudan to Afghanistan for years.”
Addressing the solution, Korany argues that to make the international relations discipline really reflective of the world we live in and more of an effectively global discipline, influential Western authors - especially those writing textbooks - have to respect the objectives of their discipline and do their homework about their "outside world". “But scholars working on the ‘non-West’- either from within or from outside - have also a responsibility in knowing thoroughly the field as a whole and not only their geographical areas and focus on developing a critical approach to the discipline's main concepts and methodologies rather than mimicking them,” he added.