Dr Cai Wilkinson – Deakin University Unsettling IR: Teaching as Making the Familiar Strange

School of International Relations Distinguished Teacher Lecture 2021

Each year the School of International Relations at St Andrews awards an IR scholar with a Distinguished Teaching Award. The awardee is invited to St Andrews to give a public lecture around the subject of teaching within IR as well as to give a Masterclass on teaching practices. This series was started by the in-house Teaching Forum. The forum, currently run by Dr Ryan Beasley and Dr Faye Donnelly, meets regularly during the semester and details are published in advance. Due to current restrictions this event will take place online.

The School is pleased to award this year’s honour to Dr Cai Wilkinson, Associate Professor in International Relations at Deakin University. Cai joined Deakin in February 2012 from the University of Birmingham, UK, where she was a Lecturer in the Centre for Russian and East European Studies and taught International Relations and Russian language.

Cai’s research focuses on societal security in the post-Soviet space, with a particular focus on LGBTQ human rights and “traditional values” in Kyrgyzstan and Russia, as well as on interrogating the role of genders and sexualities in international politics. Methodologically, she utilises interpretive ethnographic approaches that foreground lived experiences and situated knowledge production.

Cai’s work has been published in journals including Security Dialogue, Journal of Human Rights, Nationalities Papers and Critical Studies on Security, and she has contributed chapters to volumes on securitization theory, LGBT activism in Central Asia, and fieldwork-based research methods. Cai is currently working on projects about the politics of LGBT rights in the post-Soviet space and the protection of LGBTIQ rights in the Asia-Pacific.

Cai was Course Director of the Bachelor of International Studies between 2013 and 2018, and served as Associate Head of School (International and Partnerships) for the School of Humanities and Social Sciences between 2014 and 2019.

Unsettling IR: Teaching as Making the Familiar Strange

Despite ongoing attempts to reimagine International Relations (IR) by postcolonial, feminist, queer scholars and activists, too often in our syllabi and curricula a particular version of IR continues to dominate, retarding efforts to broaden the discipline’s focus from explaining how things are to understanding how they could be.

Building on critiques of IR as being “pale, male and stale” and wider debates about the ir/relevance of Political Science, Cai will argue in this lecture that a central task of our teaching is to unsettle IR as a discipline and proposes the notion of “making the familiar strange” as a way to achieve this. In doing so, as Cai will explore, we are able to not only reimagine what IR is but, just as importantly, how we study it.

The event will take place on MS Teams: to be added to the relevant Teams Group and to attend the online lecture please email Jenny Halley on irevents@st-andrews.ac.uk.

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