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Rethinking Emancipation in a Critical IR: Normativity, Cosmology, and Pluriversal Dialogue

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Hartmut Behr



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Sage Publications, 2021.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


This article seeks to reconceptualise emancipation in critically theorising International Relations (IR) by developing ‘thin’ and ‘thick’ versions of normativity and applying them as conditions for a pluriversal dialogue between different cosmologies. We start with the premise that ‘critical IR’ is both Eurocentric and a-normative, and argue that a normative engagement with critical discourses both inside and outside the West is necessary to recapture its emancipatory promise. Drawing on the work of Max Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse and Jacques Derrida, we develop ‘thin’ and ‘thick’ versions of normativity. The former, we argue, operates as a critical corrective of thick normative positions, reclaiming their openness to difference, while not making substantive moral or political claims itself. We then apply these version of normativity to examine the possibility of a global pluriversal dialogue between different cosmologies. Cosmologies, we argue, refer to sets of ontological and epistemological claims about the human condition that are inherently normative. ‘Thin’ normativity applied to the ‘thick’ claims of cosmologies prevents the essentialisation and hierarchisation of cosmological difference(s) by revealing and de-constructing the latter’s potentially discriminatory, exclusionary, and violent tendencies. In so doing, it facilitates a global inter-cosmological dialogue which we regard as the objective of a post-western, critical IR.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Behr H, Shani G

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Millennium: Journal of International Studies

Year: 2021

Volume: 49

Issue: 2

Pages: 368-391

Online publication date: 08/09/2021

Acceptance date: 26/08/2021

Date deposited: 27/01/2022

ISSN (print): 0305-8298

ISSN (electronic): 1477-9021

Publisher: Sage Publications


DOI: 10.1177/03058298211031983


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