Influential Political Scientist, Professor Iver B. Neumann, Held a Series of Lectures and Seminars at Webster Vienna

The International Relations Department had the pleasure to welcome back and host Norwegian political scientist and social anthropologist, Professor Iver B. Neumann, for one week this Fall semester. 

While on campus, Professor Neumann taught two sessions of the undergraduate Introduction to International Relations course. Students attending the course had the opportunity to learn from one of the top academics in the field about The State: “The lecture is a first introduction to the concept of the state: where we find it in history and how it has been theorized What all the three founders of social sciences – Marx, Weber, Durkheim -- have in common, is to conceptualize the state as some kind of configuration of three different entities: a spatial one, delineated territory; an institutional one, central government; and a biological one, people. Each of these has its conceptual history.”

In addition to teaching in person, Prof. Neumann recorded 10 video sessions, which the students will view as part of the course throughout the rest of the semester. In the recordings, he touches upon various topics such as Challenges to Rationalism and Peace, Conflict and International Institutions.

As part of the IR and Politics Research Seminars Series, the political scientist spoke about his research on “What does a state see as a crisis and how does it turn one to its advantage?”

This talk, which builds on work done jointly with Ole Jacob Sending, applies the growing International Relations literature on state performance and performativity to the question of how practitioners categorize different kinds of crises. The aim is to add value to the crisis literature by paying more attention to how performances are staged for multiple audiences, how statehood is produced as a collective (as opposed to an individual) body, and how and why one and the same state actor performs statehood in different ways. Drawing on interviews and participant observation, we discuss how one state apparatus, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), performs statehood during different types of crisis. The MFA has institutionalized crisis management in three very different ways, depending on whether the MFA defines the crisis as a security crisis, a humanitarian crisis or a civilian crisis. Different crises have different audiences, are performed in different repertoires, and produce three different aspects of the state that we name, respectively, caretaking, do-gooding, and sovereign. Bringing the performativity literature to the study of crises gives us a better understanding of the statecraft that goes into using crises as opportunities to make visible and strengthen the state as a presence in national and global social life. Conversely, our focus on the specificity of various state performances highlights how the performance literature stands to gain from differentiating more clearly between the straightforward performing of practices, and the performing of state identity by means of same practices on the other.

Professor Neumann also graciously took part in interviews about himself and his research. IR graduate students Katherine Loscher and Laleh Ashrafi questioned him for the student-run World Dip Magazine and WVPU’s YouTube channel.

The International Relations Department would like to thank Professor Neumann once more for his time and we are looking forward to his return in the Spring semester, where he will return to teach a course for our graduate students.  

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