Guest Post – Dave Kang: “International Relations Theory and East Asian History”


AHN_HOUSEIt’s always my pleasure to guest-post my good friend Dave Kang. Dave teaches at the University of Southern California, runs their Korean Studies Institute (the pic), and knows way more about the issues of this website than I ever will. So if you aren’t reading his work yet, you should be. Here are some previous guest posts he’s written (one, two, three).

Here is his encouragement that you actually apply international relations theory to East Asia. I can’t agree more. There is far too much superficial think-tank wonkery about East Asia (how many nukes does China have? will Pyongyang test another missile? and so on), and not nearly enough real theory. Dave does that and you should too. So instead of writing yet another essay about the South China Sea, the essays referenced below should be good encouragement to write something richer.

“Thanks to Bob for letting me borrow his website yet again. I have an article “International Relations Theory and East Asian History” that appears in the current issue of the Journal of East Asian Studies, edited by Stephan Haggard. In conjunction with this post, Lynne Rienner will make the article freely available to all for the next 30 days; you can download it here until October 1.

The entire issue is devoted to the international relations of historical East Asia. The special issue features essays by James Anderson, Kirk Larsen, Jiyoung Lee, Seohyun Park, Kenneth Robinson, and Yuan-kang Wang, all exploring different aspects of IR and East Asia in many disparate epochs and areas.

The special issue grew out of a larger conference held at the USC Korean Studies Institute a few years ago (Bob was a participant, with his really interesting work on the question of war and culture). Among the historians who participated in the USC conference were R. Bin Wong, Geoff Wade, John Duncan, Gari Ledyard, Kenneth Swope, Jack Wills, and Liam Kelley; IR scholars included David Lake, Amitav Acharya, Stephan Haggard, Miles Kahler, Saori Katada, Dave Leheny, and Pat James.

JEAS will also offer a 25% discount for online subscriptions if you use this code: JEAS14. I’d like to suggest that readers check out the Journal of East Asian Studies – Stephan Haggard has done a masterful job of providing a journal that consistently publishes interesting and important articles that combine rigorous social science scholarship with deep knowledge of East Asia. An ongoing discussion among us eggheads is whether it’s possible to combine the two, and JEAS shows quite convincingly that the answer is yes. I highly recommend checking it out.

Here’s the abstract from my piece – I hope it entices people to read the whole article, and in fact the entire issue, because there are some great essays there:

“Long understudied by mainstream IR scholars, the East Asian historical experience provides an enormous wealth of new and potentially different cases, patterns, and findings, which promise to enrich our IR theoretical literature largely derived from and knowledgeable about the Western experience. The intellectual contributions of this emerging scholarship have the potential to influence some of the most central questions in international relations: the nature of the state, the formation of state preferences, and the interplay between material and ideational factors. Researching historical East Asia provides an opportunity to seek out genuine comparisons of international system systems and their foundational components. This introduction surveys the field and sets out to frame debate and the intellectual terms of inquiry in order to assess progress and guide future research. Theoretically, the papers in this volume provide insights on the emerging literature on hierarchy in international relations, and are moving beyond simplistic assertions that power “matters” to explore the interplay of material and ideational causal factors. Methodologically, scholars are no longer treating all East Asian history as simply one case, while also becoming more careful to avoid selection bias by avoiding choosing selective evidence from the rich historical record. Collectively, the empirical cases discussed in this volume span centuries of history, include a wide variety of political actors across East Asia, and represent an exciting wave of new scholarship.”

One annoying copyedit that I missed: on page 185, the actual Brantly Womack citation should read “968-1885,” not “1968-1985.” Sorry about that.”

3 thoughts on “Guest Post – Dave Kang: “International Relations Theory and East Asian History”

  1. I am not entirely sure how understudied East Asian history is in the more US-Based IR-context, but for me (disclosure, my Major is in Theoretical Biophysics), East Asia offered a very rich historical field to investitgate, paticularly because of the considerable amount of available written sources. F.e. that quite different states like Sengoku Jidai Japan and the Holy Roman Empire did, for certain periods, had quite identical forms of gouvernance completly cured myself of any kind of “national exceptionalism”, for which I am fairly thankfull for.

  2. I have just viewed this page and reblogged this for reference as others may want to learn the points the article contain. Though I am starting to read it due to the present situation in east asia,

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