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New Perspectives on Historical IR: Voices within the Discipline

IR Colloquium

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In this talk Manjeet S. Pardesi will draw from his research on Historical International Relations with its emphasis on global history. The talk will focus on two key themes. First, Asian history demonstrates that international orders/systems do not just oscillate between power balances and hegemonies as is sometimes assumed. More specifically, Asian history points towards novel international orders in the form of decentered worlds that lack singular and fixed power political or ideational centers. For example, ancient India (~600 BCE—300 CE) and classical Southeast Asia (~1st—15th centuries CE) are examples of such decentered worlds. Second, Asian history also points towards open orders: the simultaneous presence of multiple and (partially) overlapping orders in the same geopolitical space. For example, the 15th century Southeast Asian city-state (port-polity) of Melaka simultaneously partook in and actively shaped two world orders: the so-called “tributary system” under the early Ming, and the trading world of the Indian Ocean where Perso-Islamicate ideas held sway. The Melaka example demonstrates that we need to think about open world orders and the agency of the small states in actively connecting the different world orders. Taken together, these ideas associated with decentered and open orders allow us to think of alternative futures that the traditional Eurocentric approaches to International Relations have overlooked. To put it differently, is Asia’s future pointing towards the two possibilities that emerge from the traditional approaches to International Relations – hegemony (whether Chinese or American) or power balances (between two or more contending coalitions of states) – or do we have an open and decentered Asia in the making where multiple world orders will simultaneously co-exist while overlapping partially and unevenly?

This talk will draw from the following two open-access pieces:

Manjeet S. Pardesi, “International Order in Ancient India,” in Amitav Acharya, Daniel A. Bell, Rajeev Bhargava, and Yan Xuetong, Bridging Two Worlds: Comparing Classical Political Thought and Statecraft in India and China (Oakland: University of California Press, 2023), 284-310, https://luminosoa.org/site/books/e/10.1525/luminos.135/.

Manjeet S. Pardesi, “Decentering Hegemony and “Open” Orders: Fifteenth-Century Melaka in a World of Orders,” Global Studies Quarterly 2:4 (2022), https://doi.org/10.1093/isagsq/ksac072.

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